Tag Archives: filipino myth


The interlocutor (JP) is the mother of the interviewer (INT). She and her family grew up in Bacolod, Philippines, and lived there up until she moved in her 20s. Since then, she’s lived in Los Angeles.

Description: (told in person)
(JP): “Apparently ginger was a thing to ward off the spirits, especially for babies. So my family actually got something tailored to fit my body because that would be something that would make me be quiet because babies cry! So, they attract the attention of the spirits, so they would put a…I don’t know, a hex, or what we call hiwit in our language.

And then, it takes, like a, how do you call, like a, like some kind of shaman that has to take the baby or whoever is sick so that they can do whatever… spells? To ward off the spirits.”

(INT): “Because of the noise?”

(JP): “No. Because you-it catches the spirit’s attention! So like when you’re screaming and crying and you’re in the mountainous area or the farmlands, everyone’s gonna be like ‘be quiet!’ because you’re gonna catch their attention. And usually what happens is when someone says that, the person will either have a fever. start throwing up… that’s what they say. Becaus you caught the attention of the bad spirits.”

Interlocutor’s Opinion:
(JP): “I guess it’s true? I haven’t been subject to it, but your uncle has, when he was a kid. He had a fever, and stomach issues… he got really sick and we had to take him to the shaman and then he got better.”

Final Thoughts:
We had discussed how there was a whole genre of stories that were created for the purpose of scaring kids into behaving well. I think Hiwit is unique because it is centered around the idea of scaring kids into good behavior, but also shows that anyone around the hiwit-attractor can be affected. I think it’s interesting how stories such as this one are used to explain unexpected phenomena such as sudden illness, and how deep superstition and folk belief run in communities to try and define the uncertain.

Philippino Folklore: Pagtatawas, Mantanda sa Punso and Engkantos


The informant is a Filipino American woman in her late twenties. I asked her if she knew any stories or folklore from either friends or possibly any folklore from her family and her culture. She mentioned her mother knew many stories about spirits and creatures in the Philippines. The main piece is told in her own words:

Main Piece:

My mom said there was a point in her life when she always used to be sick with a fever, after she was newly married. Her aunt said she should go back to her hometown to have a Pagtatawas done. Which is a divination ritual in Filipino Psychology. You would allow heated alum or melted candle wax to drip into a bowl of water to make shapes. Those shapes are interpreted and used to diagnose the affliction or disorder. They thought she stepped on a Matanda sa Punso (they’re like little dwarves or gnomes) or something and was sort of being cursed by one. They called someone who performed these kinds of rituals to figure out what was causing her to get sick, and they started describing a place where my mom started getting sick, but not why. Later, she was at her aunt’s place, who sees a lot of these different creatures. She called my mom over and said she’s being followed by an Engkanto and it followed her there. My mom was told if she wanted it to go away to ask it to leave and stop scaring her. Apparently the Engkanto talked to her aunt and described the place where it started following my mom and it was the place the other person described before. It said it was entertained with my mom. Supposedly they’re male versions of what are fairies in the Philippines and are meant to be malevolent and attractive. Apparently, her aunt would sometimes appear to be randomly talking to seemingly no one. That same day my mom says her aunt was talking to someone and was surprised by what she was being told. She said something to the effect of, “Wow! Is that really true???” She said someone was pregnant, and my mom thought she was talking about her. But she was talking to another aunt who was had already gone through menopause. It turns out, that aunt really was pregnant. She had just thought she was putting on weight.


While visiting with some relatives in the Philippines, the informant was in the kitchen at the dinner table with her mother and cousins and the conversation about someone her cousin knew, experiencing fevers. The informant’s mother, then shared her story about having experienced fevers as well.


According to A Handbook on Filipino Folklore by Mellie Leandicho Lopez, Matanda sa Punso are earth spirits. Parents use them as a way to quiet their crying or whining child claiming that the spirits will be angry because they won’t be able to sleep due to the crying. This is similar to other cultures having some form of spirit that will come for the child if they don’t stop crying or misbehaving. It is interesting how in many cultures, parents will use these spirits to instill fear in their children to get them to behave. Engkantos are much like the Matanda sa Punso in that they are environmental spirits however, they take on a human form. They cause ailments in humans like depression or confusion. They are said to be rather attractive but usually have a flaw, for example, a handsome man but with pointy ears or unusual legs.


The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “I remember hearing about this when I was little… It’s one of the most common Filipino monsters. They’re shape-shifters who are human by day, and then at night, turn into a bat.

Collector: “What’s it called?”

I: “Aswang. A-s-w-a-n-g. Uhm, what I’ve heard about them is they like to go to pregnant womens’ homes, like right on top of where their room is, and just like, eat their child from there.”

C: “Do they turn into a bat when they do it?”

I: “Yeah they turn into a bat. It’s like half-woman, half-bat, and they go after babies.”


The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. (Hawaii) at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “So there’s this thing called a ‘duwende’– literally, dwarves. My parents had a concrete farm, and they had like, employees that lived there too. It was kind of a huge lot.

Collector: “Is this still in the Philippines?”

I: “Yeah still in the Philippines… And I guess they said like, they kinda live by trees or whatever, and then if you happen to just run by a tree, or like, kick a tree or whatever– just disturb where they live, they would follow you and like… what was the word for it…? You know like, exorcism? You know how you get like, taken over?”

C: “Oh like, they possess you.”

I: “Yeah! They possess you. There’s like a good kind, and then a bad one, and I remember one of the employees’ daughter that lived there apparently got possessed by it. I never met her ’cause I was little and my mom was just like, telling me about it, but she didn’t want me near her.”

C: “Wait, so there’s a good kind?”

I: “There’s a good kind and bad kind, and the bad kind possessed her apparently.”

C: “Oh so this was like, an actual thing?”

I: “An actual thing, yeah. Well so, my mom said that the dad said this, but she was like, ‘Maybe she’s just crazy’ haha.”