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Friday, February 4, 2022

The Terrifying Alan Spirits of Northern Philippines

Filipinos are spiritual. Having spine-chilling stories about encounters of the ethereal kind seemed like the rite of passage for grasping Filipino customs and tradition. That said, spirits are followed religiously and celebrated in revelry since spirits have been known to manifest otherworldly abilities and benefit Filipinos from time-to-time (as far as the legends are concerned).

Alan Spirit, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Aswang Project

Conversely, some stories admonished encounters with the spirits since some are lethal and are bereft of purpose. Although this is not the case for the Alan spirits (spirits that live in the wood), they were rebuked by the Tinguian tribe (People near Tineg river) for their deformities alone.

 There have been two stories that expressed the injustice to the Alan spirits, and these were compiled in the Philippine Folklore Stories (1916) by Mabel Cook Cole.

Tinguian Tribe, Alan Spirit, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Project Guternberg

In the first story, two Tinguian men were out to hunt pigs in the mountains of Abra. The merriment of their capture was derailed by the absence of fire to singe the flesh of the captured pig. Their epiphany was to look for a fire, so they did. At the first sign of smoke in a distance, they made their way to a house. As they creep in the house, they discovered, it was owned by an Alan and her baby.

The Alan was awoken by their steps. At this point, it is easy to presume that the Alan would strike down the men searching for the fire but that is not the case. Instead, the Alan asked them for the reason for their visit. "Epogow, what do you want?" said the Alan, to which one of the Tinguian men replied: “I should like to get some fire for our killed pig”. The Alan gave them what they came for and she generously cut it with her long nail. She asked one of the Tinguian men to deliver and feed the liver of the pig to her baby.

Yet, the man opted to eat the liver on his way. In the moment of confusion, he saw a large caldron of boiling water in the Alan’s house to which he threw the baby in! The Alan eventually realized this. Anger filled her; she was out to get revenge on the men. However, the men were up a large tree surrounded by water. She saw and tried to grapple the reflection. She saw the men and asked them, “how did they get there?”. The men answered that they did so with their feet first. She climbed a vine with her feet first but quickly the men cut the vine down. The Alan was killed. Along with the Alan’s riches, the men went back to the village and recounted the story. They were celebrated.

Alan Spirit, Philippine Mythical Creature
Image: Aswang Project

The next story, although short, gave us a better description of the Alan. The Alan was said to be a horrible sight with their hanging limbs and heads down like bats. They have long fingers placed in wrists that pointed backward and toes placed behind their feet. This was realized by our Tinguian protagonist who was walking in the woods which frightened him.

He ran back to which he fell facedown. The Alan wailed when they saw the man fell and assumed, he was dead. They went to him and laid down some gold and beads, to which he took harshly and shooed the Alan. The Alan was initially stunned but flinched when they asked for one of the peculiar beads with a double effect called nagaba back and the rest is his. The man refused, so the Alan were hurt and angry. They warned the man that they would burn his house. The man ran, so they kept their word.

How easy it is for us to judge others based on their appearance? And the moment we realized what is justly coming for us, how easy it is to cry wolf?


Written by Joshua Rodriguez, IFY Books

 Greetings fellow book and pop-culture enthusiast! I am your average young adult that loves to read science fiction (SF), general fiction and occasionally, young adult novels and children’s literature. At my spare time you may find me watching Star Trek and Doctor Who or updating my library with the latest shows from streaming giants such as Netflix and Hulu. I devote most of my time in learning, critiquing, and researching. If you want to know more, go check out my reviews!

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