Filipino Eclipse Myth


Informant: This one is one of the horror folklore. Like, the majority of what I chose was the horror folklore cause that was basically what I was taught. So this is Bakunawa. It’s basically a giant moon eating serpant.

Interviewer: Oh… okay.

Informant: He was basically the duwata of the underworld, and duwata’s basically… a rough translation to English is basically deity. He was the deity of the underworld and he kind of admired the seven moons and… I don’t know why we had seven moons, but the seven moons in the Philippines were basically, like, gods, I guess. So Bakunawa was kind of, like, enthralled by the beauty of the moon, so uh, he transformed into this giant serpant with one wing of a dragon and one smaller wing in the background. He had, like, catfish tendrils coming out of his face. He had a mouth the size of a lake to swallow up the moon.

Interviewer: Oh, wow.

Informant: Buit, and, so, in the Phillipines, when we have eclipses, we believe it was Bakunawa, that’s, like, eating up the moon. That’s why we have eclipses.

Interviewer: Really?

Informant: Yeah, but, Bathala, the… like, basically, our Jesus, um, prevented him from doing it, and any time Bakunawa attempts to try to eat the moon again, um, the Filipino’s would drive him off by… by smacking cans and other metal things to create sound to scare him off, or they would play music and kind of like, making him fall into some kind of eternal sleep. And for Bathala, he took offence to Bakanawa for eating the moon… well, attempting to eat the moon, so he cursed Bakanawa into maintaining that form for the rest of eternity.


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– Like the informant said, this myth was most likely created to explain solar eclipses. When the moon begins blocking the sun, the gradual covering could make it seem as though something is swallowing the sun. The banging of the metal can probably be attributed to the temporary nature of eclipses. Because the people had to explain why the eclipse ended, they attributed it to noise they made. Due to the celestial nature of a giant creature swallowing the sun, the occurrence of Bathala, a Philippines creation God, in this myth could be attributed to the combination of the stories in order to create a singular mythology.