Filipino Bangungot Myth


Informant: Next one is the Batibat or the Bangungot, which is… okay, so for a rough translation, Bangungot translates into, like, a, uh, nightmare or… death from nightmare. So, uh, so, basically this is an evil tree spirit that takes the form of a giant four hundred pound fat lady, and who, if anyone cuts down the coconut tree or, or actually, the tree its currently living in and builds a house with it, that spirit follows that person and hides in the creaks and corners of the house and waits for the, uh, the person to fall asleep. And when the person falls asleep, the giant spirit, it sits on the, on the, on its, on her prey and suffocating them to death. And basically this was kind of way for the Filipinos way of explaining death caused by nightmare since then they’ve kind of scientifically proven the reason why these people died wasn’t because of the evil spirit but rather just…

Interviewer: Shock?

Informant: Yeah, shock from the nightmare.


Context– The informant is a young man who immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. at a young age. Although he is Catholic, he grew up hearing about the native folklore and mythology of the Philippines from members of his family as a way to preserve their heritage.


Analysis– This legend is probably attributed to two causes. First is sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing as they sleep. The idea of a demon suffocating a person as they sleep and causing them to die could be an explanation created by people who did not fully understand the biological causes of sleep apnea. It could also be attributed to sleep paralysis. People waking up and being unable to move, and in some cases hallucinating, could lead to the idea of a demon attacking the person and crushing them. The difficulty of explaining both of these phenomena could lead to the creation of a single legend.