Now, we'll talk about the not-so-famous Philippine mythological creatures that are no less fascinating than their more well-known counterparts. If you'd like to surprise your friends with your knowledge about Filipino culture, tell them about the:
In Ilocano folklore, the batibat takes the shape of a large, old woman who lives in trees. When the tree she lives in is cut down and turned into a support post, she crawls into any holes in the post and stays there.
If you sleep near the post where she lives, it is said, she will transform into her true self, and sit on your chest until you suffocate. For that reason, the batibat is also known as bangungot, which roughly translates to "nightmare" or "sudden unexpected death syndrome." To fight off a batibat attack, you have to either bite your thumb or wiggle your toes (presumably because this will help you wake up ASAP).
Like many ancient peoples, pre-colonial Filipinos came up with supernatural explanations for strange occurrences. For example, eclipses supposedly happen because the sun/moon is being eaten by the bakunawa, a creature often described as an enormous sea serpent.
Many legends are told about the bakunawa. One of the most well-known is that the bakunawa used to be a beautiful naga, a half-woman, half-snake sea creature similar to the mermaid. When she looked at the seven moons in the sky (because there were seven, long ago), she was so captivated by their beauty that she transformed herself into a dragonlike creature to reach them. However, her apparent greed angered the god Bathala, who cursed her to remain in her serpentine state for all eternity.
Another fearsome water monster is the berberoka, which resides in the swamps of Abra, Apayao and Ilocos Norte. No one really knows what they look like, but that's probably because few people survive to tell the tale.
According to local legend, the berberoka ensnares its victims by draining enough water from a lake to force schools of fish to come to the surface. When unsuspecting fishermen approach those fishes, the berberoka suddenly hoses the fishermen with water until they drown. The creature is particularly dangerous at night, because it has the ability to see in the dark.
If the Greeks have the cyclops, the Filipinos have the bungisngis. Named after the Tagalog word that means "to giggle," the bungisngis is believed to be always laughing, and resides in Meluz, Bataan.
Similar to the cyclops, the bungisngis is a giant with a single large eye in the middle of its forehead. It also has large, prominent teeth and tusks protruding from the side of its mouth like an elephant's. Although the bungisngis is strong and has a good sense of hearing, it's also quite dimwitted, as shown in tales like "The Monkey, the Dog and the Carabao."
Unlike most of the creatures on this list, the pasatsat is a fairly recent invention. They're the vengeful ghosts of people who died during World War II, and have a nasty habit of blocking travelers on lonely roads. It's said that they came about because their living relatives — who naturally suffered from poverty due to the war — had to bury them hastily in reed mats, instead of giving them a proper burial.
To keep these ghosts away, you have to stab and unravel the reed mat they're wrapped in. But be warned: Instead of a corpse, you'll find an extremely unpleasant odor emanating from the mat, like rotting human flesh.
As their name suggests, the pugot usually appear as headless, gigantic black beings, but can also take the form of animals and humans. They prefer to live in trees like the duhat, santol and sampaloc (tamarind), though you can also find them in abandoned houses and other dark places.
Despite its scary appearance, the pugot isn't harmful to humans, unless you count "stealing women's underwear" as harmful. They also like to eat snakes and insects, and can move at incredible speeds that belie their size.
Not much is known about this creature. With the head of a bull, and the body of a muscular man, the sarangay is basically the Filipino equivalent of the Greek minotaur. It's said that they have a gemstone hidden in their ears, and if you try to take the gem without permission, they will kill you without mercy.
If you grew up in the Philippines in the 90s, you might have seen the sarimanok on the ABS-CBN channels. Represented as a rooster-like bird with long, colorful feathers, the sarimanok was derived from Maranao legend, and it's believed that the creature brings good luck. Today, you can still see the bird featured on logos, artwork and even school seals like that of the Far Eastern University.
There's no denying that these creatures are an indelible part of Filipino culture. As long as stories about them continue to be told, they will always remain in the people's consciousness for the years to come. So if you know of other extraordinary Filipino monsters, let's get to know them in the comments!