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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Part 2: The Gods of Philippine Mythology


Many stories say that the popular Filipino concept of “bahala na” (“whatever happens, let it be”) came from Bathala’s spoiling of humanity, giving them everything they needed. A manifestation of this supposed benevolence is in his tigmamanukan omens. These omens come in the form of birds, lizards, or snakes and when they move a certain way (right to left), it is seen as a sign of good-will from Bathala, signalling them to go on with their journey. Alternatively, when the tigmamanukan passes from left to right, it is interpreted as a warning. Although seen by many as a benevolent figure, there are many examples of him exercising divine punishment over his mortal subjects, such as striking down any transgressors with lightning. It is said that after a bout of sickness, he went into a deep slumber, placing the reins of power on his grand-son Apolaki and daughter Mayari.

Philippine Mythology
Image: Scout Magazine
This action gave the Tagalogs the belief that the youth could also rule, although only at the behest of their elders. Bathala’s “deep slumber” has been framed by some, especially the Spaniards, as the demise of the once-ascendant god, giving way to Christian propaganda espousing that the Christian god was superior to the Tagalogs’. Whilst the friars were quite successful in their conversion of the local populace, there were still those in the fringes who refused to let their god die, and used his name as a stand-in for the Christian one, and so to this day one can still here references to Bathala in popular culture.


In some later legends, Aman Sinaya is said to have delved into the depths of the ocean, leaving her post as the magistrate of the seas. The replacement, as these stories say, was Amanikable, the patron god of hunters. He was very irritable, as seen by the fact that he sent typhoons to ravage humanity after he discovered that his love, Maganda, was already betrothed to Malakas. Before this, however, he was quite nice, bestowing titles to hunters of great prowess. A notable acquaintance of his is Haik, who, in contrast to his destructive nature, is a sea god who brings serenity to the turbulent waters.


Philippine Mythology
Image: Wazzup Pilipinas
In a society dependent on the back-breaking work of its many peasants, a deity who rewards them for their work is seen as especially important. This brings us to Idianali (also known as “Idiyanale” or “Idianale”), the goddess of labour and good deeds. She is of fluid gender, seen by some cultures as a female deity of animal husbandry, or a male patron of agriculture and crafts. She was also a friend of Bibit, a mischievous “phallic god”, and Lingga, a god of medicine. Her husband - who will be the next one covered, was Dimangan, whose “line of work” was quite close to that of hers - it being good harvests. They had two off-spring, the histrionic Anitum Tabu, and the industrious Dumakulem.


Dimangan, as earlier discussed, is the god of bountiful harvests. To appease him, the natives often sang songs before an important harvest - a tradition that continues to this day in many rural areas. He was often compared to Ikapati, who, like China’s Yellow Emperor Huang-ti, taught humanity agriculture. Notable relations include his three brothers, who were recorded to have equal strength (or at least importance) to him, These are Kalasakas, who hastened the ripening of rice stalks, Damulag, the defender of rice crops from the winds, and Kalasokus, who turned the grains from green to a more yellowish hue.

The native Tagalogs, living in an area much-frequented by monsoons and storms, eventually attributed the natural phenomena to a supernatural source, in the form of one Anitun Tabu. It was said that when there was light rain - “ambon” - she was in a good mood, and when there was a storm, the opposite would be true. Due to this belief, light showers accompanied by the sun became the ideal time for marriage. The practice ended after colonisation when it became associated with heretical beliefs. In many stories which appeared later, she is portrayed as a mediator between hostile spirits. To appease her, the people offered pinipig, pounded rice grains.

A particularly important god to the Tagalogs (as well as many modern-day Filipinos, methinks) was Anagolay, the goddess of lost thing, whose aura was thought to be inherently intertwined with the very fibres of all Creation. This “heavenly aura” is what allowed her to find things with ease. Although she possessed power of an unimaginable scale, she was just and fair, so strong were her convictions that she even refused Anitun Tabu’s offer to marry Dumakulem (without his consent), her one true love. She eventually married him, though, as it was revealed that the deity also secretly loved her.


The concept of a god of war is a familiar concept to many cultures, and the Tagalogs weren’t an exception. Apolaki, the grand-son (or perhaps son) of Bathala, is the god of the sun, wisdom, and war. He is also the patron deity of warriors, but, in stark contrast to his title, was rather amicable in his actions, even apologising to the goddess Mayari after striking one of the latter’s eyes, and agreeing to joint-dominion over the world (this was after Bathala’s sleep). An interesting tidbit of information regarding Apolaki was that he apparently scolded the Tagalogs for “welcoming the devils with the white teeth”. The “white teeth” bit was because of the Tagalogs’ love for black teeth, much like the Japanese of the Heian period.

Philippine Mythology
Image: Pinterest
After reading this brief introduction of the Tagalog deities of old, one hopes that the reader would become more interested in the Philippine mythos, and mythology as a whole, as the primer is by no means a complete analysis of aforementioned subject. Such is the nature of the primer, in that it is not a work of the academe, but of an amateur scholar more well-versed in history than mythology. Do note, however, that there shall be another part, adding on more major gods in the Tagalog pantheon and touching on the more complex themes of the mythos.

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About the Author:

An amateur historian with an interest in East Asian and European histories, and a knack for cartography.

Twitter: @Horatio87179500

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