When thinking of spine-tingling monsters, many might think of Japanese horror stories or Korean urban legends. You may be surprised to find that the Philippines has its fair share of mythic creatures that are as bizarre as they are mortifying. Pranksters, witches, and deathbed stalkers have a place in the line-up of scary creatures prowling around the Southeast Asian country.
In general, many myths have some kernel of truth to them, like unusual creation stories that explain documented tragedies or natural disasters. However, that’s not the case with the urban myths of the Philippines – these tales are woven with the sole intent of striking fear into people. Compiled in this list are legends of mythical Philippine creatures that will have you checking over your shoulder as you read.
Photo: H.M.Bec / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
The Aswang is a monster from Philippine folklore that can shape-shift from a human form into various animals. It has a combination of traits similar to ghouls and vampires, such as feeding on corpses and on the blood of the living. Aswangs are active in both the day and night, typically taking the shape of everyday humans during the day and of Aswang forms at night.
Aswangs are feared for breaking into houses to feed on people who are sick, small children and unborn fetuses. Some have an elongated organ that protrudes from their mouths to suck fetuses out of the womb while the mother sleeps. Red-and black-beaded bracelets can be placed on the wrists of newborns as a protective measure against Aswangs. Traditional lore suggests that Aswangs can be repelled and slain with items such as garlic, rotten eggs, pineapple plants, dogs, prayer, holy objects, and fire.
• • Sigbin
The Sigbin, a type of Aswang, varies by region. It can resemble a reptilian crow or a goat. Its front legs are significantly shorter than its hind legs and it moves in a backward crab walk with its head drooping down.
It has the ability to become invisible and drinks the blood of humans.
• • The Matruculan
This particular breed of monster impregnates virgins undetected and unseen in the night as they sleep, then returns to slay the woman and consume the fetus.
Another version of the lore says the Matruculan eats both the mother and unborn child. It’s believed that a husband can protect his wife and child by swinging a butterfly knife or a balisong over her belly during labor.
• • Manananggal
Photo: Gian Bernal / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0
The Manananggal is a type of Aswang that is accompanied by a small bird called a “tik-tik” because of the sound it makes while in flight, although the sound actually gets fainter as it nears. The “tik-tik” accompanies the Manananggal to confuse people. After midnight, this creature takes on the form of a scary monster with a wrinkled face, sharp teeth and claws, and giant wings. It detaches its upper body from its lower body, flying off with only the upper half when hunting.
To slay one, you must find the monster’s lower body and spread salt or ash over the open wound to prevent the two halves of the Manananggal from being whole again. Salt and garlic can be used to ward it off while sunlight will kill it.
• • Tiyanak
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In the Philippines, it’s believed that the souls of unbaptized babies go into a state of limbo after death and return as evil spirits. These hypnotic, mythological creatures are known as Tiyanak. These monsters have sharp teeth and the power to shape-shift.
According to lore, Tiyanak lure their prey deep into the woods by making the pitiful sounds of a crying baby. Some victims claim that they actually found a baby, but when they picked it up, it transformed into a monster that tried to eat them whole.
• • Bangungot
The Bangungot takes the form of an old woman who lives up in the trees. She sits on the chest of her targets and suffocates them. She becomes enraged when someone cuts down her trees or possesses something made from the wood of her trees.
People who have built homes using posts made from the wood of her forest may suffer the consequences of the Bangungot in the form of nightmares as they sleep.
• • Engkanto
The environmental spirits called Engkanto have often been compared to common creatures of lore like elves, fairy-folk, or sirens. Their behavior can be unpredictable – Engkanto can either bestow you with good fortune or cause horrible things to happen.
Shaman used to try to communicate with the Engkanto on holy days, appealing to their generous side to gain healing powers and knowledge. However, anyone who gets on the bad side of an Engkanto is plagued with depression, disease, madness, and sometimes, even possession. It’s believed that they live in the Skyworld, a layer of the universe above the middle world, where humans live.
• • Tikbalang
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The Tikbalang have the head and hooves of a stallion but the body of a human. Legends differ from throughout the regions. According to those in the North, this odd creature is harmless, in that it doesn’t eat babies. Tikbalang find it hilarious to make travelers hallucinate. The only way to make them stop is by flipping your shirt inside out and telling the Tikbalang to stop.
The stories of Tikbalang from the South speak of an evil, red-eyed demon horse, continuously puffing a cigar. Tikbalang are prone to fits of rage that can end with stomping people to death.
According to the myth, if you pluck three hairs from its mane, a Tikbalang will be your slave forever.
• • Mambabarang
A Mambabarang is an evil witch who conjures spirits and uses insects to enter the body of any person they choose. After performing the necessary ritual, the witch directs the insects to enter every orifice of the intended target.
The infestation will plague the person with conditions like earaches and hemorrhoids. The target will only be free from the torment once the bugs leave the body.
• • Anduduno
The Anduduno are drawn to those who are bedridden, often hiding under the house. These creatures sneak in through windows and lick the ill with snake-like tongues to make them die faster.
After the human passes, the Anduduno wait for the perfect moment to dig up and consume the remains.
The Kumakatok are the Philippine version of the Irish Banshee. It’s believed that if these three hooded creatures – one young woman and two elderly men – knock on your door at night, they bring a warning of impending death in the family.
The Kumakatok only bring the omen and do not take lives. There are no wards against them, and ignoring the knocking won’t stop the loss of life.
• • Alan
The Alan are small, disfigured, humanoid, avian-like beasts with long, backward feet and fingers that can be found hanging from trees in the jungles of the Philippines. They are relatively harmless and are even said to adopt children lost in the forest.
They procreate by collecting menstrual blood, afterbirth, and aborted fetuses, from which they create Alan children.
• • Amalanhig
The Amalanhig (also called Amamanhig or Amaranhit) is the Philippine version of the undead. Not having transferred their power to a relative, they rise from their grave and lurk in the woods, feeding on the blood and life essence of nearby villagers. When getting revenge against someone, they will tickle the person to death while absorbing their life-force.
If chased by an Amalanhig, it’s advised that you climb a crooked tree or jump into a body of water because they cannot climb and water turns them into a pile of worms.