You are walking home late at night. You are on the block where you live. The night is warm and humid. In the darkness you can hear a slight “tick”, “tick”, “tick” and wonder what sort of insect is making that sound. And strangely enough, although you are on your own block, you can’t seem to find your house. It seems to you odd. It was there when you left it. Where the hell did it go? You walk around the block and you still can’t find it. Come on, you think, a house doesn’t just get up and walk away–does it? No matter how hard you keep looking, you just can’t find your home. It doesn’t make any sense. And it wouldn’t, unless you lived in Luzon, or Manila, or Batan, or some other place in the Philippine Islands.
And while you might think your inability to find your house stems from the seven or eight beers you consumed earlier, it is more likely that you are yet another victim of the Tikbalang. Don’t believe it? Well many people of the Philippines do. I’ve talked to several, very educated people, and they believe in the Tikbalang.
The Tikbalang is a half-horse half-man creature with the head of a horse and the arms and legs of a human, with hooves instead of hands and feet. They are playful with humans and like to trick them by playing pranks upon them (such as making it impossible to find your own house). One of their favorite “pranks” is raping Philippine women, mischievous devils. That’s how they make more Tikbalangs. It is said that when the rain falls while the sun is shining that two Tikbalangs are being wed. The Tikbalang is one of the many strange and amazing creatures of Philippine folklore. These people obviously have better drugs than anything we have.
The most feared supernatural creature in the Philippines is the Aswang, also called the Manananggal (a creature suffering from an overabundance of “n”s and “a”s). It is a sort of vampire like creature that appears to be a normal person by day, usually a beautiful girl; but by night, it unscrews the upper part of its body from the lower part of its body and flies off into the night propelled by oils from its armpits. Once she overpowers her victim, she will take a bundle of sticks, talahib grass, and rice or banana stalks, and transform these into a replica of her victim. This replica is sent home while she takes the real person back with her. Upon reaching its home, the replica will become sick and die. The victim will then be killed and eaten. She is said to be particularly fond of the liver (no doubt with fava beans and a nice Chianti). Like vultures, they flock in trees near graveyards. They come down at night and dig out the freshly buried corpses. I once interviewed two women, pharmacists, who were from the Philippines, and they devoutly believed in these creatures.
And when you walk past an ant hole, be nice. Be sure to say, “excuse me” to the “nuno”, or owner of the “punso”, the home of a Duende. Duendes live underground. They resemble old men who stopped growing in their infancy. They wear basket hats and are bearded, big jointed, and barefoot. Their sight is poor, but their hearing is sharp, and they don’t take kindly to insults. They are fond of beautiful women, but then, who isn’t? Be careful with them because they will avenge any wrong they feel they have suffered. On the other hand, they can be quite helpful to you if you’re nice to them. They will loan you china and glassware. Why you might want to borrow glassware that comes from an ant hole, I don’t know, but there you go.
It is interesting to note that people living in México and in the southwestern United States, as well as Spain, also believe in Duendes. So we might guess that particular folktale traveled from Spain to the Philippines. The belief in some type of faerie type person seems to worldwide. The Irish have their leprechauns and faeries as well. This always leads one to wonder if the fact that most people in the world believe in something means there is some core of truth to it, or if the belief has merely traveled around the world as people migrated.
Be very careful when trees move without wind. This means that a Kapre is present at the very top of the tree. The Kapre sits quietly smoking a leg-sized cigar that never burns out. It terrifies passerby with its size, glowing eyes and cigar (because there is nothing scarier than little people smoking cigars), but it is otherwise harmless. It is said to live in trees, abandoned houses and ruined buildings. They are believed to appear only at night. Many audacious youth has been known to creep up to a Kapre, tie a rope around its neck, secure the rope to the tree, and return in the morning to find the noose sunk to its turf. With a spade he digs out the spot and discovers a jar of gold. It is his if he can take it home secretly, as long as he eats his Lucky Charms Cereal. The Kapre may not be that scary, but the False Beast is.
False Beasts are those that can transform themselves to different shapes such as a woman, man, dog, cat, depending on which one they meet first on coming out for a nightly prowl. It kills victims and sometimes eats them after smothering them with its shaggy hair and tearing them with its fangs, tucks or horns. They have the special craving for human fetuses and attack pregnant women by getting in their houses (they obviously have pass keys) or setting upon them while out walking at night without letting their hair loose. So if you’re pregnant and decide to go walking in the jungle at night, be sure to let your hair loose.
Men, on the other hand, need to worry about the Blood Suckers. These look like pretty women during the day. They kill by sucking the blood of their victims, mostly their victimized husbands. (I’ve known some women like this) Their tongues are hollow like a reed, but the bloodsuckers are shorter than normal. The creature’s tongue tapers to a needlepoint to stab the neck while in a seeming embrace. She then sucks her lover’s blood every night until he dies.
Living in a world like this, I have to imagine that people in the Philippines are frightened out of their skulls most of the time. This seems like a very scary world, filled with vampires and blood suckers and little cigar smoking freaks! At the same time, it seems like a world filled with a rich and interesting folklore. And I’ve only really just scratched the surface. There are also countless stories about a boy named Juan Tamad, the world’s laziest person. And there are the stories of hexers and witches.
What a colorful culture. I don’t mean to make fun of it. We’re all pretty weird if you look at our beliefs. That’s why I love learning about other people. Oh, and if you’re still trying to find your way home, take your clothes off and put them back on inside out. That should do the trick, according to most people. I’m sure the police will understand.