Popular Filipino Legends, Folktales and Mythical Creatures

Filipino legends are intriguing stories that have been passed on from one generation to another. Some are folktalkes, myths and fables. Because the Philippines is comprised of so many different ethnic groups and is spread over thousands of islands it is no wonder that Filipino Legends and Filipino Folklore are just as diverse. The same legend may be told differently depending on what region you are from.

The story of creation has more than 5 different versions. This version of the Filipino legend -Malakas and Maganda- is widely told in the Visayas region where my family is from. The picture Malakas and Maganda statue is on the campus of Visayan State University.

Malakas and Maganda, Si Malakas and Si Maganda

Photo courtesy of dbgg1979/flickr.com

Malakas and Maganda

In the beginning, there was only the sea, the sky and the air. The Goddess of the Sea and the God of the Sky were enemies and fought for centuries. The Sky God hurled thunder bolts, lightning and colossal boulders at the sea while the Sea Goddess fashioned pounding waves and swirling hurricanes that touched the sky.

The usually patient God of Air grew tired of the incessant fighting. He took the form of a beautiful bird and tried to get the Sea Goddess and the Sky God to reconcile with one another. Finally, the Gods made peace at the horizon- the place where the sea and the sky come together. Later they fell in love.

A tiny seed born out of their love was planted on one of the magnificent boulders the Sky God had once thrown into the sea. From this seed a bamboo began to grow.

The bird who brought peace perched to rest on one of the thousands of boulders and saw the growing bamboo. Out of curiosity the bird pecked at it and the bamboo was split in two. A man and a woman sprang from the two pieces!

The man was named Malakas (meaning strong) and the woman was Maganda (meaning beautiful). Malakas and Maganda went on to have many children, grand children, great grandchildren and so on. The generations spread across the thousands of boulders that came to be known as the Philippines.

The legends still continue to amaze the younger generation of Filipinos who yearn to know how men and women came to life. Filipino Folktales have spanned generations and no Filipino childhood is ever complete without having been told some of these tales. Perhaps, one that stands out from the rest is the story of The Monkey and The Turtle.

The Monkey and The Turtle

Two friends, the Monkey and the Turtle, found an uprooted banana tree along the side of the road. They decided to split the tree in half and replant the halves thinking that the trees would grow and bear fruit. They could enjoy an abundance of bananas whenever they liked!

The monkey quickly selected the top half of tree- he would get the ripe bananas already growing and it would grow quickly since it already had big green leaves growing. The turtle was left with the bottom part of the tree- an ugly brown stump with all the roots sticking out. The two friends planted their halves of the uprooted tree and waited for them to grow.

Naturally, the monkey’s tree died. It had shriveled up and the green leaves had since turned brown and fallen off. The turtle’s tree had grown and flourished. Not only did the turtle’s tree grown big green leaves it also grew bananas!

Of course, the turtle couldn’t climb his tree so he asked his monkey friend to climb the tree. It the monkey would bring down the bananas they could eat them together. The monkey climbed the tree and began eating all the bananas. He was so greedy he did not give a single banana to the turtle.

When the monkey climbed down from the tree he couldn’t find the turtle anywhere. His belly was so full from eating the bananas that he sat down to rest on half a coconut shell. When the monkey’s tail slipped into the hole of the coconut the turtle who was hiding in the shell bit the monkey’s tail with all his might!

The monkey caught the turtle and threatened to roast him and to cut him into many pieces. The turtle just laughed at these suggestions. Finally the monkey threatened to throw him into the river. The turtle adamantly begged the monkey not to saying that of all things in life drowning was what he feared the most.

The monkey immediately dragged the turtle to the river’s edge and pushed him in. The turtle disappeared into the deep dark water. The monkey was so proud of himself! Just as he turned to walk away the turtle appeared on the surface of the water. He was leisurely swimming along laughing at the greedy monkey.

Filipino Mythological Creatures

Filipino myths are a powerhouse of creatures. Some of the popular Filipino legends include stories about creatures like the Aswang, Kapre, Tikbalang and Sirena.

Aswang are probably the most recognized or most well known of the filipino mythical creatures. Aswang are something like witches. They are typically considered to be female and are often the reason behind unfortunate occurances like sickness, death or things as simple as strange noises. My parents would tell me that the aswang would find me if I didn't go to bed or if I didn't do my chores around the house. I think an American equivalent to Aswang is the Boogeyman.

Next up is the Kapre which according to folklore is a tree demon that resembles a hairy giant smoking a big tobacco pipe. Kapres are not harmful creatures but they are fond of playing pranks on people.

A Tikbalang is the Filipino version of a centaur - a giant creature that is part horse and part man. They usually live in remote areas or under bridges and on top of trees. The Tikbalang like to scare travelers and get them lost. It is also capable of turning into a human being or becoming invisible.

The mermaid, an almost universally recognized creature, is called Sirena in Filipino legend. The Sirena has the head and torso of a human but the lower body of a fish. Sirenas hypnotize men, usually fisherman, with their beautiful voices, and cause them to cause accidents at sea or drown.

Filipino Legends and Folktales are just as interesting as the popular stories told in the United States. My parents never told me and my brother these stories when we were growing up in Chicago. As an adult, it is delightful to learn these stories and to share them with my American born Filipino friends. I hope you share these age old Filipino Legends and folktales with your friends, too!

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