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Portrait of the first man, Malakas, and woman, Maganda, who came out from a bamboo pecked by the bird form of the deity of peace, Amihan, in Tagalog mythology
The Maranao people believe that Lake Lanao is a gap that resulted in the transfer of Mantapoli into the center of the world.

Philippine mythology is rooted in the many indigenous Philippine folk religions. Philippine mythology exhibits influence from Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian traditions.

Philippine mythology includes concepts akin to those in other belief systems, such as the notions of heaven (kaluwalhatian, kalangitan, kamurawayan), hell (kasamaan, sulad), and the human soul (kaluluwa, kaulolan, makatu, ginoand kud,...).

The primary use of Philippine mythology is to explain the nature of the world , human existence, and life's mysteries. Myths include narratives of heroes, deities (anito, diwata), and mythological creatures. These myths were transmitted through oral tradition, handed down through generations guided by spiritual leaders or shamans, (babaylan, katalonan, mumbaki, baglan, machanitu, walian, mangubat, bahasa,...), and community elders.

The traditional belief systems and indigenous religions of the Philippines are termed Anito and Anitism.[1][2] Alternate designations include Anitismo, (Hispano-Filipino translation of the concept), and Anitería, a term with derogatory connotations frequently used by the Spanish clergy during the colonial era.[1]

Scholarly attention has been directed towards Anito. However, many of its stories and traditions have not yet been systematically documented.[1][3][4]


Main article: Philippine folk literature

The two significant sources of Philippine mythologies are oral and written literature.

Oral literature

Oral literature (also known as folk literature) consists of stories are passed down the generations by speech or song. All Philippine mythologies originated as oral literature. Stories naturally change and proliferate. Despite many recording projects, the majority have yet to be properly documented. These traditions were intentionally interfered with by the Spanish through the 16th century introduction of Christian mythology. Examples include the Biag ni Lam-ang and the Tale of Bernardo Carpio, where certain characters were given Spanish. Interest in oral literature grew in the 21st century due to interest among the youth, coupled with literary works, television, radio, and social media.[5]

Written literature

Juan de Plasencia wrote the Relacion de las Costumbres de Los Tagalos in 1589, documenting the traditions of the Tagalog people. Miguel de Loarca wrote Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas and Pedro Chirino added Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas (1604). Anitism books have been published by universities throughout the country, such as Mindanao State University, University of San Carlos, University of the Philippines, Ateneo Universities, Silliman University, and University of the Cordilleras, as well as other publishers such as Anvil Publishing. The publications spanned the 16th to the 21st centuries. Printed but unpublished sources include college and graduate school theses. Written literature does not provide definitive accounts of particular stories, which vary from town to town, even within the same ethnic group. Examples include Bakunawa and the Seven Moons and The Tambanokano, whose specifics depend on the locality, ethnicity, story origin, and cultural progression.[6][3][7][8]


Main article: Cultural achievements of pre-colonial Philippines

The Tagalog people's Obando Fertility Rites, before becoming a Catholic festival, was initially an animist ritual dedicated to the intersex deity, Lakapati, who presided over fertility, the goddess of love, Diyan Masalanta, and the supreme god, Bathala.[9]
The Virgin of Antipolo has animist connections. Many of the rituals and prayers connected to the Lady of the Breadfruit (Tipolo) Tree have similarities to the pre-colonial indigenous cult of Maguayen, the Visayan god to whom people made offerings before building a boat or embarking on a voyage. Similarly, the Virgin of Antipolo is also asked for protection and well-being, as well as for the blessing of new cars, the modern mode of transportation.[10]

The indigenous religions of the Philippines developed through a variety of migrations and trade routes. Scholars theorized that Austronesians arrived through the "Out-of-Taiwan model", crossing from mainland Asia to Taiwan, and later the Philippines, continuing to other islands. The Austronesians are believed to have brought animist beliefs incorporating shamanism, ancestor worship, totemism, and tattoos. Beliefs in benevolent and malevolent spirits was established by their arrival.[11]

By 200 to 300 CE, Hindu mythologies arrived in the Philippines through trade routes and migration. Hinduism brought Indianized traditions to the Philippines, including indigenous epics such as Ibalong, Siday, and Hinilawod, folk stories, and superstitions that blended with indigenous polytheisims. The concept of good and bad demons, prevalent in Indian societies, became widespread in the archipelago. These demons were viewed as both evil and good. Indigenous religions were not replaced by Hinduism, rather, the former absorbed traditions and beliefs from it. Gender-variant deities and shamans became widespread. Humanoid mythical creatures emerged alongside a variety of belief systems.[12] Around 900 CE, Chinese influence spread in some areas, adding Sinified and Buddhist belief systems. The most prominent was belief in ghosts.[13]

By 1300 CE, Muslim traders arrived in the southern Philippines, bringing with them Islamic myth and belief systems. Many in the southern and western Philippines converted to Islam.[14] In the middle of the 16th century, the Spanish arrived from Latin America and brought with them Ibero-American Christian myth (for example, veneration to Our Lady of Guadalupe). Some inhabitants were receptive to these myths, but most were not as the Spanish wanted to conquer the islands, instead of just injecting traditions. The Spanish began a three-century purge against indigenous religions, suppressing and mocking indigenous cultures. Monotheism generally replaced indigenous polytheistic beliefs. Existing myth and folklore were retrofitted accordingly. However, indigenous belief systems survived–despite Spanish threats and killings.[15][16] The Philippine revolution was accompanied by attempts to revitalize the indigenous Philippine folk religions and establish them as the state religion. However, the proposals were sidelined over conflicts with the Americans, which led to war.[17] In the late 19th century, the US occupied the country leading more people to convert to Christianity.[18]

Regional mythology

Filipino mythologies from different ethnic groups have similarities such as:

The deities, heroes, and creatures are different from each other, and do not form a unified narrative. Each story has multiple versions. In many cases, stories vary from place to place even within a single ethnic group.[30][31][32][33]

A Bontoc shaman performing a sacred wake ritual with a death chair.

The 7,000 Philippines islands divide into three main regions:[34] Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (which is subdivided into North and South). The difference in mythologies and belief systems is by ethnic group rather than geography. Some ethnic groups have influence in only a few towns, while others span provinces. Buddhism and Hinduism in the Philippines is influential.


Pre-colonial Luzon was split among Hindu-Buddhist, Muslim, and animist worshippers.


Pre-colonial Visayas were influenced by Hindu-Buddhist and Animism. The Spaniards described some of the people who lived there as pintados,

The Agusan image statue (900–950 CE) discovered in 1917 on the banks of the Wawa River near Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, Mindanao in the Philippines.


Pre-colonial Mindanao (around 900AD) was influenced by Hindu-Buddhist, Indonesian, and Malaysian beliefs and culture. By the 14th century, Islam was well established in most northern islands of Mindanao.

Cosmogony or creation myths

Angalo, a creation giant, is said to be the first man and the son of the god of building in Ilokano mythology.[40]
Lingling-o are jewelries that are believed to aid in fertility, and also represent a person's social standing through the material used as medium

Cosmogony or creation myths tell how the world was created, and how people came into existence. Each ethnic group has its own creation myth. In some cases, a single ethnic group has multiple versions of its creation myth, depending on locality and sub-culture. Examples:


Like most myths (or religions) in the world, the concept of realms focuses on Earth, heaven, and hell. These concepts are present in Philippine myth. The Philippine concept of heaven may locate it in the underworld, while hell may be located in the skyworld. These differences stem from cultural diffusion and cultural parallelism. Examples:[59]


For a list of major and minor deities of Philippine mythology, see Deities of Philippine Mythology

A symbol of Bathala, supreme god of the Tagalog people. The symbol also depicts a loyal anito at the bottom area and a tigmamanukan bird, which is sometimes wrongfully portrayed as a sarimanok.
Mayon volcano, within the Albay UNESCO biosphere reserve, is believed to have sprouted from the burial ground of lovers Magayon and Pangaronon. Later, the supreme god of the Bicolano people, Gugurang, chose Mayon as his abode and repository for the sacred fire of Ibalon.
The deity Namtogan, who has paraplegia, is said to have taught the Ifugao how to craft Bulul statues, which would serve as avatars of rice deities. The statues are bathed in animal blood and sometimes given rice wine in rituals performed by a mumbaki (Ifugao shaman).

Each ethnic group has its own pantheon of deities. Some ethnic groups have a supreme deity, while others revere ancestor spirits and/or spirits of the natural world. The usage of the term "diwata" is mostly found in the central and southern Philippines while the usage of "anito" is found in the northern Philippines. In a buffer zone area both terms are used. Diwata may originate from the Sanskrit word devata (deity), anito may have derived from the proto-Malayo-Polynesian word qanitu and the proto-Austronesian qanicu, both meaning ancestral spirits. Both diwata and anito are gender-neutral terms. They translate into deities, ancestral spirits, and/or guardians, depending on the ethnic group. The concept of diwata and anito are similar to the Japanese kami. However, during the colonial era, the Spanish intentionally modified the meaning of both words because they were not in line with Christian monotheism. This modification was supported by the Americans in the early 20th century.[66][67] The meaning of diwata was transformed to "fairy" or "enchantress", while the meaning of anito was transformed to "ancestors and spirits". In areas not colonized by Spain, the meanings were not changed. [68][69][70][71]

The Sambal and Dumagat peoples believe that the foul odor of takang demonyo or kalumpang (Sterculia foetida) attracts two horse-like races, namely the tulung, monstrous tikbalang-like beings, and the binangunan, fire horses.[72]
A kolago/kagwang, Cynocephalus volans. The Waray and Bisaya peoples believe that when such a creature cries loudly during dawn, there will be no rain for the whole day.[72]


Main article: Philippine epic poetry

Manang, wooden idols of household deities of the Mandaya people.

Each ethnic group has stories depicting mythical heroes, notably through oral traditions such as epic poems. Spanish and American colonisation led some stories to be retrofitted with minor changes, notably to heroes' names. For the native people, many of these heroes are understood to be actual humans who lived centuries ago[73][74] rather than mythical beings, analogous to Christian and Muslim beliefs that their prophets/saints were people from the past. Among these heroes:

Other human figures

In Anitism numerous human figures, either full humans or demigods that may be mortal or immortal, have been attributed as actors or helpers in various events, and their actions supplement explanations of how things came to be. A few of these figures are:

Other monster figures and familiars

The rotation of Bakunawa in a calendar year, as explained in Mansueto Porras' Signosan (1919)
Summit caldera of Mount Pinatubo (1991). In Sambal beliefs, the volcano is said to erupt whenever the flaming "sea turle", Bacobaco, comes out of the crater. The volcano is notable as the home of the Kapampangan god, Apûng Malyari, and the Sambal supreme deity, Malayari.
Mount Matutum is known for the many monsters that used it as a lair, such as Tarabusar,[8] Omaka-an, and Maka-ogis.[107]
A Visayan tenegre horn hilt, depicting the sea serpent deity, Bakunawa. Outside the Visayas and Bicol regions, horn hilt depictions often change into other designs as Bakunawa only exists in Visayan and Bicolano mythologies.

Main article: List of Philippine mythological creatures

Some figures in Anitism are not human. Many are monsters, while others are deities, demigods, or humans that took non-human forms or were originally non-human in form. Some beings are essentially non-human messengers, divine familiars, or animal humanoids.

Mythical races

The upper part of a manananggal, hunting for food. The monster can be killed by putting salt or garlic on the wound of its lower portion left on the ground. This way, the upper part will fail to re-connect with its lower section, thus killing it once daylight comes.
A unique sculpture of a buraq crafted by Mindanao Muslims. The belief on buraqs was inputted by Arab traders and missionaries
Hanging coffins is a traditional practice in Sagada. The northern Kankanaey people believe that by doing so, the spirits will be closer to heaven while joining the community as protectors of the villages.
The Hinatuan Enchanted River is believed to be protected by supernatural beings. The local Surigaonon people believe that certain fishes in the river cannot be caught due to enchanted protection.
The critically endangered Philippine eagle is regarded by numerous ethnic groups in the Philippines as sacred. In Bagobo Tagabawa mythology, a hero chieftain named Banog, who founded four domains, was said to have been named after the local name for the raptor.

Among the mythical creatures of Philippine mythology are:

Mythological items

A variety of known mythical objects appear in oral literature, notably in epics and stories concerning the deities, heroes, and mythical creatures. Examples:

Status, recognition, protection, and promotion

Aklanon participants at the vibrant Ati-Atihan festival, which honors the Ati people and the Aklanon since around 1200 AD. Spanish colonization used Catholic figures to replace the festival's original roster of honorees.
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Main article: Cultural achievements of pre-colonial Philippines

At least two oral literatures, the Hudhud and the Darangen, and one indigenous game, Punnuk, appear in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.[124] Additionally, four Philippine paleographs (still used by the Hanunoo Mangyan, Buhid Mangyan, Tagbanwa, and Palaw'an peoples), with the inclusion of Ambahan poetry, are in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, in a single entry.[125] The José Maceda Collection in the Memory of the World Register contains an array of traditional music from the Philippines containing stories from ethnic mythologies.[126]

Asteroid 1982 XB was named 3757 Anagolay, after the Tagalog goddess of lost things, Anagolay.[127]

The Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PReCUP) is the national registry that consolidates in one record all cultural property deemed important to the nation's cultural heritage, tangible and intangible. The registry safeguards Philippine heritage elements, including oral literature, music, dances, ethnographic materials, and sacred grounds.[128] The National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law protects certain Anitist sacred grounds.[129]

Philippine mythology is seldom taught in school.[citation needed] Most mythologies currently taught and approved by the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education are Western mythologies, such as Greek, Roman, and Norse.[citation needed] Most entities that promote Philippine mythology for education are artists, scholars, television networks, publishers, and non-profit organizations. Certain stories from Anitism, notably the mythical creatures, are promoted globally in book bazaars, films, art galleries, online games, and educational courses. Both the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) support the promotion of Philippine mythology.[130][131][132]

See also


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