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Friday, August 28, 2020

Batibat: The Nightmare Demon of the Philippines


Sleep is associated to rest. A phase in a day where one can peacefully lay himself in the comfort of a soft mattress, dim lights, and a defeaning silence. Sleep is a state where a person enters the world of dreams and fantasy. But in reality is never all about rainbows and unicorns. Heavy rains accompanied by lightning and thunder comes just like how nightmares visit us in our dreams.

Batibat, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Dribbble

Bangungot is not just having a bad dream. In some serious cases, people who experience it might lead them to their death. Bangungot is a combination of two tagalog words; 'bangon' and 'ungol' which literally means 'to rise and to moan'. People who encountered and successfully overcome the bangungot share what they feel while under their bad sleep. A difficulty in breathing caused by a heavy feeling in their chest. They describe it as if someone very strong and heavy pinning and choking them to death.


The occurrence of bangungot is explained and recorded under the Ilocano's myth. They believed that a fat, old, and vengeful female demon, called 'Batibat', is the one responsible for people's struggle on their sleep. Batibat is an ugly tree nymph that seeks for vengeance on people who cut down the tree in which she is residing. Once the tree is used as a house foundation she will mask herself in a spirit-form and hide in the tree's holes. When a person sleeps near the tree post, she will then attack the person sleeping by sitting on his or her chest and casting a horrifying dream. The only thing to ward off and get out of the batibat's spell is forcing yourself to move your toes or by biting your thumb.


Batibat, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Mythology Wiki

Due to the popularity of the Ilocano's folklore featuring the Batibat, several top movies and series create a tribute wherein the scripts and plots included a batibat character. One of those series is entitled, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" in which the Batibat appears in the fifth episode, Dreams in a Witch House. In the series, Batibat is depicted as a demon who can manipulate and travel through the dreams of different people. Telekinesis is also one of her abilities. Batibat was also featured in the series Lost Girl's Season Two and in the movie, EVIL TAKE ROOT: The Curse of the Batibat.


As a contradiction to this folklore, the science of medicine linked possible causes and named some medical terminologies that analyze the occurrence of bangungot. Medical experts reiterated that going to sleep right after eating too much and consuming alcoholic beverages will result to a serious medical complications. Acute pancreatitis is the closest possible cause of why a person experiences difficulty in sleeping. Due to huge alcohol intake, the pancreas will start to a complication that may lead to sudden death.

Sleep apnea is also similar to the conditions experienced by a person under bangungot. Delaying of sleep apnea's treatment may cause lack of oxygen circulating in the body making a person feel heavy in his or her chest. Another medical condition linked to bangungot is cardiac arrest. Possibly, due to a bad and horrifying dream a person may not adapt easily to the situation that makes him or her overly frightened and could lead to heart failure. Often times, this happens to people with an unhealthy heart.

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Submitted by: Yna Marie Barcia

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