Articles Special Article 9 Famous Folklores of the Philippines

9 Famous Folklores of the Philippines

Filipinos love to use stories and folktales to teach lessons about local culture, belief systems, and society. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Filipino folklore?

A culturally diverse country, the Philippines is home to local stories, folktales, and legends that previous generations have used to describe what happens in society and the environment. Filipino folklore - mga kuwentong-bayan - form part of the country's oral tradition, and continue to be shared among people as a sign of our culture.

Philippine native stories can be (a) myths that narrate the origin of man and the universe, (b) alamats - legends that explain why things came to be, (c) fables - stories that teach valuable lessons, or (d) fantastic stories that talk about the unseen world, among other types.

Here are 9 of the most popular stories and tales of the Philippines, some even referenced still in recent pop culture:

The Turtle and the Monkey

Considered the first children's story in the Philippines, Si Pagong at si Matsing was popularized in recorded history thanks to no other than the National Hero Jose Rizal, who penned the tale back in July 1889 in an English publication. While the story's author remains unknown, Rizal did note that the tale has been shared around the locals in Ilocos region for centuries prior his post.

The story involves once-friends monkey and tortoise who eventually fought and outwitted each other over a banana tree and its fruit. The tale served to teach children about morality, and the classic fight between the weak and powerful.

The Girl Who Turned into a Fish

The classic fable, retold by epic and myth narrator Maria Elena Paterno, is another story that was told to Filipino children to teach them about goodness and proper behavior. The story begins with a farmer and his wife, who were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Growing up, the girl was pampered and was never allowed to do any hard labor. As she was simply focused on her own beauty, the girl grew up to be vain and spent many of her days by clear streams just staring at herself.

One day, while exclaiming how beautiful she was, the king of crabs startled her when it spoke of her beauty. The girl said mean things about the crab and shooed it away. In consequence, the crab jumped on her face and made many scratches, cursing the girl to look "scale-y." The wounds turned into scales, and to this day, scaly fish in streams tend to scare off and startle easy.

The Legend of Maria Makiling

Maria Makiling is known to be a fairy or anito living in Mount Makiling in Laguna. Considered the most popular diwata in Philippine mythology, Maria Makiling protects the bounty and resources of the mountain for the Laguna townspeople.

View of the Mt. Makiling.

There are many superstitions surrounding Maria Makiling, but one of the more widely known ones talk about how men would disappear into the forests of the mountain because the fairy would fall in love with them and take them to her house to become her husband. Another popular tale is about people who leave their trash in their trails, and are lost in the mountains until they clean up when they'll suddenly find the way out of the forest.

Why the Piña Has a Hundred Eyes

The famed tale talks about a girl named Pinang, who was considered lazy and unhelpful to her mother. When her mother got sick and needed help around the house, Pinang refused to cook food. Eventually, Pinang relented but could not find the ladle to cook. Her mother grew frustrated and wished that Pinang grow a hundred eyes so she can find what she was looking for. Unfortunately, her wish came true and Pinang turned into a strange yellow fruit with a hundred eyes growing in their backyard.

If you grew up in the Philippines surrounded by many elder relatives, chances are they've shared this story to you and scared you by saying you'll turn into a prickly pineapple if you don't get up and do your chores. It's definitely a parent favorite for when kids are lazing around.

The Legend of Kanlaon

The Kanlaon Mountain is located in Negros, an island in the Visayan region, and is considered the region's highest point. According to legend, the mountain was named after Laon, the brave hero who successfully fought and won over the seven-headed snake living and wrecking havoc in the mountains. Laon was also given permission to wed the King's daughter, Prinsesa Talisay, for beheading the snake.

The Battle of the Crabs

This Visayan folktale talks about how land crabs waged war on the waves for disrupting their sleep. In their journey, they met some shrimp who they forced to join them to fight the waves. The crabs and shrimp head to the shore where the crabs noticed that the shrimp were looking the "wrong" way. Unfortunately, it was the crabs who were looking toward the shore and missed a big wave that covered them and drowned them.

2 crabs facing each other.

As days went on the wives of these crabs looked for their missing husbands and suffered the same fate. Some time after, the shrimp will often visit the crabs on the shore to share the sad fate of their ancestors, which explains why crabs will often attempt to "fight" the waves but end up walking back to dry land as soon as the waves hit.

The Aswang Myth

The aswang is considered the most feared creature in Philippine mythology, and has ruled local horror stories across many tribes and communities in the country. The vampire-type monster is known to shape-shift, living amongst regular people in the day and hunting for prey at night.

The term aswang is used as a collective term to refer to monsters and ghouls that terrorize barangays and households. Possibly the most popular kind (thanks to film series Shake, Rattle, and Roll) is the manananggal - a woman who grows wings at night and separates her torso from her lower half to search for a meal. The manananggal loves feasting on fetuses inside heavily-pregnant women.

The Mansaka and Their Golden Guitar

The Mansaka - an indigenous tribe in Davao Del Norte and Compostela Valley - once possessed a golden guitar which the people used to play songs of sadness, victory, and hope. As time went by, less and less people appreciated the music and the stories of the Mansaka and the tribe ended up hurling the golden guitar into the deepest pits of the sea.

The Mansaka's golden guitar is just one of many epics and legends of the indigenous people in Mindanao - also called Lumads as a collective - that refer to gold. According to anthropologists, this depicts the Mindanao region's once abundant gold supply.

The Legends of Sarimanok

Mindanao is home to the Maranao people, whose culture makes many references to the sarimanok. The legendary bird is considered a symbol of good fortune, and is used in many emblems of the tribe.

A wooden Sarimanok statue.

While many legends exist to tell the tale of the sarimanok, presumably the most well-known one tells of Sari, the daughter of Lanao's sultan or leader. Sari was known to be beautiful and kind, and the townspeople loved to celebrate her. On her 18th birthday, a colorful chicken with glowing feathers flew into the middle of the feast and transformed into a handsome prince.  The prince stated that he's to be wed to Sari, and took her with him into the sun never to be seen again. Experiencing grief, the sultan of Lanao had his finest craftsman carve an image of the chicken that took his Sari.