5 Filipino Mythical Creatures You Don’t Hear About Enough

Article by Katherine Liu
I absolutely love the idea of magic. I love the idea that there could be more to our world than we realize. Magical creatures— the fae especially— are my favorite source of inspiration for stories and poems.

A while back, I read Holly Black’s The Night Market, which I was happily surprised to find was based on Filipino myths – something I hadn’t seen by authors not actually from the Philippines. Of course, this got me curious. I didn’t actually know too much about our own lore, and that was kind of sad. I mean, come on. It was my own culture – shouldn’t I have known it? 

Anyway, in the end, I read up all I could find about our myths, and came up with this list of interesting creatures that you might want to incorporate into a story (or two).

5 Filipino Mythical Creatures You Don’t Hear About Enough

5. Engkanto

These are pretty similar to dryads, actually. They appear as beautiful young men and women, and dwell in forests, rivers, or the trees themselves. Although said to bless those that they favor, others believe accepting any gift or form of affection from them will cost you your soul, which is why most believe it better to ignore or reject them.

Engkanto are also said to be rather spiteful, cursing those who anger them. This begs the question: how much do you save yourself from by turning them down?

What I wonder most about the engkanto is: how do they feel about that? Is the soul-stealing something they really do or just a myth they find offensive? If it is real… I mean, it has to hurt, to love someone and know staying with them will only bring them pain. And for those who persist in courting their mortal loves despite that: do they truly love? Are they as benevolent as they believe? What sort of rationale could they have for continuing if they know the risks, and supposedly care?

4. Pasatsat

These are ghosts said to be the tortured souls of those who were killed during the Japanese occupation. The name comes from the Filipino word “satsat“, meaning stab, which is how one is meant to get rid of them. They show themselves to random passersby, and the only way to keep them from haunting you is to stab either the coffin or reed mat the corpse was buried in.

It might sound easy to do, but you have to remember that back then, aside from coffins being too expensive for most to afford (resulting in the usage of reed mats instead), graves were desecrated and raided for treasures and such by the desperate. This forced many families to bury their loved ones in places other than the cemetery. What kind of adventure could someone be led on as they tried to find the spirit’s body? What kind of stories might they uncover?

3. Sarangay

The Filipino counterpart of the minotaur, it is said to have jewels dangling from its ears. The jewels are supposed to contain immense magical powers; but if anyone tries to steal them, the beast guarantees them a gory death.

What sort of power do they hold anyway? Is there anyone brave or foolhardy enough to attempt the theft? What would happen if the jewels were successfully stolen, and the creature could not find the thief? Would he rampage? Resign himself to the loss? Use some other magic to search for his prey?

2. Kumakatok

Not one, but three. The kumakatok take the form of three hooded figures, one a beautiful young woman and two old men. They knock on the doors of homes at night, and then leave soon after. They are omens of death, and whether you answer the door or not will make no difference to them. The death will still happen.

There doesn’t seem to be any origin story, and that I found rather curious. Where did they come from? Who were they before they were the kumakatok? How do they know? They can’t possibly visit every home with a death. Why do they visit the homes that they do?

1. Manlalayog

A woman whose hair grows extraordinarily long and wire-like. As night falls, she uses her hair to strangle her victims and suck the life from them in order to remain young and strong.

Reading about this creature reminded me of Mother Gothel from Disney’s Tangled. She wants to remain beautiful, doesn’t she? Or is that not the case? Is normal food and water no longer enough to sustain her? Does she simply enjoy the pain she causes? Or is she like Dexter, using her power as if she were a vigilante, ridding her community of scum and criminals?

There were many more creatures, but these were my favorites so far. Interested to know more? Click here.






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