The golden era of the 80’s was always remembered with the coming of the age of monsters. Thanks to the keen and creative thinkers from Japan,out of this world colossal creatures known as Kaiju that spread awe and terror in TV screen gain a huge following (nearly a cult like following) and become a growing part of pop culture.
Notable of this are all seen in Sentai series like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Chodenshi Bioman while others like the notoriously famous Godzilla made it’s way into the silver screen and acquired iconic status across the globe.
Yet as far as the early age of mankind, titanic monsters are already playing the same role as Kaiju’s do today: spreading terror and fear to the primitive people who are still far from the horizon of civilization.
In the Philippines, such creatures like Kaiju’s are all prevalent in every folk stories and myths; adding more color to the already rich culture that we possessed.
Dragon from the Pearl of the Orient Sea
Solar and lunar eclipse phenomena virtually shares the same connotation in every mythology of every country or nation: an impending catastrophe and disaster is about to happen. However, the cause of this natural event greatly differs from culture to culture.
To the ethnic groups of Western Visayas, a dragon like deity called Bakunawa or Bakonaua is the primary envoy of ill omens each time it tries to devour the moon; making it to bleed thus the reddish color it manifest during lunar eclipse.
In Dr. Maximo Ramos’ book Creatures of the Midnight, Bakunawa is under the classification of fish like dragons, making him more akin to the Leviathan of the Jewish folklore. Gifted with a serpentine like body and features of a fish, Bakunawa is a sight to behold: mouth as large as a lake with red tongues and huge whiskers, this hybrid monster sow seeds of dread despite it’s fantastic appearance.
The Bakunawa is so immensely embedded in the ethnic people that there is children song inspired from it. It is usually sang by children from Hiligaynon during lunar eclipse like a hymn of plea for the Bakunawa to return the moon which they regard as “the crown of their King”.
And perhaps as a commemoration or an act of remembering the awful ‘devouring the moon’, a game called “Bulan Bulan” is played by some children in the Philippines which is based from the story of Bakunawa.
In this game, one player will represent the moon and another one will be the Bakunawa. The objective of the game is similar to the game of “tag” but with a twist where the other players will try to prevent the Bakunawa from “eating” the moon.
Winged Terror, Sun and Moon Devourer
If the people from Visayas have their fish like dragon monster, the Bagobo’s from Mindanao are fleeting in sheer horror when a grotesque humongous bird being known as Minokawa grace the sky. Like Bakunawa, Minokawa consist of distinct feature which is unseen and unobserved to ordinary creatures.
This winged terror has a mouth the size of the island of Negros or Bohol and its beak and talons are all made of steel. Adding more to the already strange yet fantastic physique, Minokawa is also gifted with eyes like mirrors and feathers that might cut everything its path for it is as sharp as swords.
Unlike its moon eating counter part, Minokawa’s taste for celestial object didn’t end in the moon for it also pursue the sun too and as the folk story continues, once the Minokawa devoured both the sun and moon, it’s feeding frenzy will continue as it will descend on earth and start eating men too.
In the TV series The Adventures of Pedro Penduko, the Minokawa is depicted as a benevolent creature who is the only one that can carry the protagonist of the said series to the island which is the gateway to the realm of sea dwelling engkanto known as Kataw.
Serpentine/dragonic appearance are widely common among the roster of myth monsters in the Philippines. Among them is Nanreben, a sea serpent creature said to dwell in Negros Island. Though not blessed with unmatched size like the Bakunawa and Minokawa, this creature compensate it with eyes like blazing torches and horns similar to Water Buffalo or Carabao.
It’s predatory look become more fearsome with its long tusk and teeth and highly resistant scales.
The Marcupo, allegedly live in a mountain located at the province known as Bulgas between the area of Marapa and Canlaon holds more in its sleeves (or scales) than the red crest on its head, long tongue, thorny hairs, forked tail and sharp tusk.
Staying true to the nature of the snake, Marcupo is equipped with highly potent poison which can kill vegetation and animals upon contact with. Although Marcupo is a pure spawn of nightmare, there is a strangely eerie yet beautiful side that it portrays during calm and clear days for it is known to sing a sonorous tune during this period.
Monsters all over the Archipelago
The roster of big monsters in our mythology are commonly associated with lunar and eclipse, making them an easy symbol for archetype for evil and darkness and primary enemy of light and good ( it should be noted that due to the highly animistic belief of ancient Filipinos, both the Sun and the Moon are worshipped as the benevolent deity).
Although the story of Minokawa came from the Bagobo group, there is another creature that some of them believe to be the cause of eclipse in a form of an over sized Crab which they called as Tambanokawa.
To the Maranoas which majority are all Muslims, a big lion name Arimaonga is the one who is responsible for swallowing the sun and the moon during eclipse. Other ethnic tribes like the Manobos claimed that a large Tarantula eats the moon and sun thus, preventing the light to came upon the world and instead spread darkness that results to other malevolent forces to reign.
But perhaps the most strangest among these monsters is no other than the lethargic looking but dangerous Buwaya or Buaya (Crocodile) of the Tagalog myths. As common and ordinary may it seems, the ancient Tagalogs believe long ago that Buwaya is a sacred being and killing it is punishable by death.
Naturally a monster on its own way, the Buwaya has a quiet reputation of a psycopoomp for according to old tales, it was said that it carries a coffin like object on its back and when it captures an unsuspecting victim, it will carry it using the said coffin and swim into the sea that leads to the world of the spirits and the dead.
Surviving the Attack
So you want to survive the onslaught of this big monsters and yet you found out that there is no Fighting Robots or even a Cosmic Warriors to protect you from their ugly maws. Well, that’s too bad but worry not! Our ancestors have their own alternative way of dealing with this gigantic creatures.
All you need is something that can produce loud noises like pots, drums, gongs and other musical instrument or better yet use your own voice and scream and shout at these beings.You can accompany all this noises with dances in order for them to be disturbed and hopefully spit out the sun or moon.
If you are quiet lucky to find a bow and arrows lying around the corner, you can use this to shoot and slay these monsters (just like the early Manobos did when the big Tarantula is munching on the sun or the moon).
If all else fail, just remember to use the ultimate weapon: pray for God’s intervention. In the alternative story of Bakunawa, before the serpentine monster devour the last of the seven moon, our ancestors prayed for Bathala’s help and lo and behold! He banished the beast from it’s home which is the sea and saved his beloved people.
Once again, just like any other good stories whether seen in TV or heard in old folk tales of our Lolo and Lola, in the end light triumphs against the forces of darkness no matter how big or monstrous they are.