Monster Research: The Tikbalang


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The Tikbalang

In the Philippine forest is said to lurk a creature, part man, part horse known for its speed and mischievous nature. Some say it is a mythical spirit that guards the gateway to the Skyworld. Others believe it is a demon who is determined to cause trouble for those who cross its path.

One of the most popular and enduring mythical creatures in Filipino lore. The tikbalang is said to be a half human, half horse creature in the mold of the Greek Pan, that is, having an upper body of a human and lower limbs of a horse

There are two known versions of the creature’s appearance: the more popular and oft portrayed version has the tikbalang with the head of a horse while the lesser known version has it sporting a human visage. Both versions however agree that the tikbalang has unusually long, powerful legs that resemble the rear quarter of a horse, hooves and all.

Legend has it that whoever can ride the tikbalang and pluck the golden hair from its nape can tame the beast and make it a willing slave. In its element however, the tikbalang, powerful as it is ,does not hurt or kill people. At worst, it leads people astray and plays mischievous tricks on their senses.

As far as I know, the word tikbalang is universally understood throughout the Philippines although there might be other regional variations of its name that I don’t know of. As for the etymology of the word, I’m not that sure, really. In tagalog, a balang is a locust. Of course, we all know that locusts have relatively long hind legs so I’m wondering if this has got something to do with the portrayal of the tikbalang as hunched over with legs folded, knees taller than its shoulders. It would sure look like an oversized locust somehow.

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Documentary on the Tikbalang

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” For decades, stories of the Tikbalang have been viewed as ignorant superstitions, invented and demonized by the Spanish, but it’s animist roots go back to the earliest Filipinos, and the image dates back more than 4000 years.  It’s arrival in the Philippines pre-dates the Spanish by as much as 4 centuries, holding a  historical relevance that  transcended colonialism and  threads it directly to ancestral Filipinos.  It’s a testament to their creativity and  adaptive preservation of identity through story telling.”


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