K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is Filipino. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent lots of time with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines.
Context of this piece was in a Filipino restaurant where K started talking about her Filipino heritage. We asked her more questions about her Lolo and what he would tell her as a child.
K: “Well my Lolo would tell me about Tiyanaks all the time as a kid. He said they were somewhat of an evil spirit. The way they would trick people into coming close to them was to hide their true form and look like a baby. So they would transform into a baby, my Lolo said it was usually a newborn baby not really like a toddler or anything, and that they would cry. They used their cries as a trap to get people to hold and comfort them.
Me: “What would they do once they were held?”
K: “It would go back to looking like it did before and then they would attack the person holding them. That’s why my Lolo always reminded me about them whenever I’d go back to the Philippines to see family. He was always so scared I’d be too nice and pick up a baby like that, even though I always told him I wouldn’t. I was too much of a scaredy cat to ever pick up something like that after all my Lolo had warned me about.”
There are various stories and tales about the origins of tiyanaks. The Mandaya people of Mindanao claim that the tiyanak is the spirit of a child whose mother died before giving birth. It is said that this is why it was “born in the ground”, and now takes the form of a helpless baby seeking comfort. Due to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century, the tiyanak myth was integrated into Catholicism. The tiyanak from the Catholic version were made up supposedly of the souls of infants that died before being baptized. In the modern-day Philippines, the way a tiyanak is thought to be created from aborted fetuses that returned from death to seek revenge on those who deprived them from living a long lasting life. It is also told by people in the Philippines that the reason a Tiyanak becomes an evil spirit is because it cannot go to the afterlife because of not having a name. This is why it is assumed that it takes the form of others as it never had a true sense of identity. This supposedly causes them to be Earth-bound creatures which wander around searching for someone to give them names before attacking them.