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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Tales of Biangonan: Backward Footed Creatures


The Philippines is known for its rich culture, traditions, and beliefs and has an array of mythology and folklore stories from different tribes. Horrifying tales are passed from one generation to another; it was not intended only to frighten the people who listen or read through it and show the country’s strong preservation of culture. 


Tales of Aswang (shapeshifting evil spirits), Manananggal (a vampire-like mythical creature), Tikbalang (Half-human, half-horse creature), Tiyanak (a vampiric form of a creature that takes a form of a baby), and more, are some of the commonly known stories to most Filipinos. Grandparents once told these stories to their grandchildren or friends who were playing at night during a full moon.

Biangonan, Urban Legend
Image: Aswang Project

But there is one story that may be unfamiliar even to Filipinos, the tale of Biangonan.


Believed to be the oldest indigenous tribe in the Philippines, Batak is an old Cuyunon term, which means “mountain people” who were once nomadic. The most threatened among ethnic groups found their haven in the province of Palawan’s northeastern portion. Batak has also inhibited series of river valleys along the coastline of today’s Puerto Princesa City since ancient times.



Although it is a small tribe, it has an amusing culture and a unique way of living, along with its religious creeds and beliefs, in which Biangonan is one of those.


Batak Tribe described Biangonan as a small human-like with black skin, kinky dark hair, and feet pointing backward. Biangonans are believed to be seen climbing through the tallest trees. It was said that it could transform into a human or pig, its way to sneak into a village and hunt for its victim. Biangonans are believed to eat pigs or even human meat. They devour on every part of their prey but leave the jaw bone and hang in on a tree.

Biangonan, Urban Legend
Image: Aswang Project


According to the Batak people, they know if a Biangonan is near the area if they smell a rotting foul odor. Like any other mythological creature, Biangonan can be driven away by fire.


Batak Tribe in Kalakwasan, Sitio Tanabag, Palawan, with less than 300 people claimed that their Babaylan (pre-colonial Philippine tradition of female mystical healers whose spiritual connectedness was a source of political and social power), went missing for weeks. Until there was a jaw bone found hanging on a tree, it was then believed that Biangonan was the one who took and killed their Babaylan. They then made large fires for days that served as their security to drive away from the Biangonan and not kill anyone.



Jose A. Samson wrote an article entitled “The Bataks of Sumurod and Kalakuasan” which stated that Batak believed that Biangonans are small people possessed of talons who hide in rocks and trees. Before they attack their victims, they utter long deafening screeches that weakens and paralyzes them, and then they will tear and claw the throat of their helpless victim.


Did Biangonan exist? Do they still exist? Or they were just stories made by Filipino ancestors to summon their children to have their afternoon nap?


Long as these stories exist and passed through written or word of mouth, it will remind us about the chilling stories and hark back the story and the Batak Tribe’s culture. That one exists.


Written by Kris De Vera Estrella, IFY Books

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