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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Story of Bungisngis The Filipino Cyclops

Filipinos’ sleepover stories mostly consist of little anecdotes about their day, their love interests, or when they are feeling a little bit adventurous and up for some scares, stories of scary and creepy urban legends. Urban legends have always been part of Filipino folklore. Stories about mythical creatures lurking in the dark have been passed around from generation to generation especially by word of mouth.

Bungisngis, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Aswang Project

One of the many mythical creatures that haunted our childhood is the Bungingis. If you are one of the many fans of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is likely that you are also deeply aware and acquainted with the comic character Cyclops. You might also be aware that Marvel’s Cyclops is inspired by Greek mythology’s very own Cyclops.

Similarly, Bungisngis, also known as the Filipino Cyclops, are gigantic creatures with only one eye. They are built like humans, having large teeth and two long tusks located on each side of their mouths. While the Bungisngis only has one eye located in the middle of its forehead, its ultra-sharp hearing makes up for its impaired vision. Curiously, Bungisngis is always seen smiling. In fact, “bungisngis” came from the root word “ngisi” which means to giggle. Nevertheless, the upper lip of Bungisngis is so huge that it covers half of their face when stretched. Creepy!

Bungisngis, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Cebu Pacific Inflight Magazine

The creature came from the folktale “The Three Friends: The Monkey, the Dog, and the Carabao”. The tale is about three friends who are sick of living in the city and eventually decided to live in the country to hunt. Bungisngis made its first appearance in the folktale when it talked to the Carabao, who was left alone to cook food while the other two friends were hunting. The Carabao was furious with Bungisngis’ appearance prompting it to attack the creature. To retaliate, Bungisngis threw the carabao knee-deep into the earth and ate all of the food they had. The story continued with the Dog. Bungisngis the was able to outpower the Dog but the Monkey’s wits stopped the Bungisngis from gobbling all the food they had left.

Accordingly, when it was the monkey’s turn to cook, he made a trap and succeeded in catching Bungisngis. The creature fell into the pit and the Monkey was able to bury it. When the Monkey’s companions came back, they asked about Bungisngis and learned that it was in the pit. Surprisingly, the creature was still alive. It found the opportunity to jump out and kill the Carabao and the Dog. In another stroke of luck, the Monkey was able to escape. Bungisngis then made the killing of the monkey as its goal. Fortunately, the monkey was very clever. After two attempts of killing the Monkey and the Monkey successfully fooling Bungisngis, the monkey was able to end Bungisngis’ life.

Bungisngis, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: ArtStation
Some Filipino folktales portray Bungisngis as a big, dumb creature. A total contrast to the Greek’s Cyclops. Since folktales are passed through by word of mouth, there are a lot of versions of Bungisngis’ story but in every version, Bungisngis always ends up losing. The story of the Filipino Cyclops Bungisngis is just one of the many urban legends that prove the Filipino people’s rich culture and imagination.

Written by Mic Villamayor, IFY Books

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