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Entities from Filipino mythology; an anito, Tagalog-counterpart of the Visayan diwata, is depicted at the bottom

In Philippine mythology, a diwata (derived from Sanskrit devata देवता; [1] encantada in Spanish) is a type of deity or spirit. The term "diwata" has taken on levels of meaning since its assimilation into the mythology of the pre-colonial Filipinos. The term is traditionally used in the Visayas, Palawan, and Mindanao regions, while the term anito is used in Luzon regions. Both terms are used in Bicol, Marinduque, Romblon, and Mindoro, signifying a 'buffer zone' area for the two terms.

The term literally meant "deity", or the gods and goddesses of the natives of a particular ethnic group. When the Spanish conquered the Philippines, the commonly used meaning of the term was mockingly reduced from deity into dryad-like spirits which were considered benevolent or neutral. These spirits were invoked ritually for positive crop growth, health, and fortune; however, they were also considered to be able to incur illness or misfortune if not given proper respect. Despite the change in meaning, many ethnic groups that were not fuly subjugated by the Spanish retained the original meaning of the word diwata.[2]

Diwatas were said to reside in large trees, such as acacia and balete and were understood as the guardian spirits of nature: casting blessings or curses upon those who brought benefits or harm to the forests and mountains. Although they were literally everywhere in old beliefs, many are diwatas of communities, nature, the spiritual realms, and the celestial abodes and the underworld.

In modern times, the term "diwata" is sometimes loosely used to refer to a generic type of beings, much like "elf" or "fairy", or very specific types due to Spanish colonizatiob. The term "diwata" is synonymous to "anito" and the usage of the word "diwata" is more prevalent in the southern Philippines, while "anito" takes its place in the northern areas.[citation needed]


Although there are numerous and varied accounts as to what they should look like, a general trend may be observed in that they are normally human in appearance—beautiful and seemingly ageless at that—save for some distinct characteristics. This may take the form of not having a philtrum or having continuously smooth and supple skin that somehow resemble fingernails, without any wrinkled parts as in the elbows and knees. They tend to be fairer than average, as pale skin has been associated with the supernatural even during pre-colonial times (for example, the "white lady" belief is prevalent in the East and Southeast Asian regions).

Visayan epics such as Hinilawod described them as very beautiful, some having golden skin, other having luminous fair skin.


A male devata, flanked by a two apsaras, Vishnu temple, Prambanan.

The word Diwata has been used since during the pre-hispanic times, when Hinduism and Buddhism had been practice in the lowland areas on the archipelago. the term Diwata was derived form Sanskrit word Devata (Devanagari: देवता).[3][4] in Khmer it was called Tevoda (ទេវតា); in the Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, Malay and Indonesian: dewata; Batak languages: debata (Toba), dibata (Karo), naibata (Simalungun)) is a smaller, more focused deva. The term "devata" can also mean deva (pl: devatas, meaning the gods). There are male and female devatas. There are many kinds of devatas: vanadevatas (forest spirits, perhaps descendants of early nature-spirit cults), village gods, devatas of river crossings, caves, mountains, and so on. In Hinduism, the devatas that guard the eight, nine and ten cardinal points are called Lokapala (Guardians of the Directions) or, more specifically in ancient Java tradition, Dewata Nawa Sanga (Guardians of Nine Directions). Every human activity has its devata, its spiritual counterpart or aspect.


The inhabitants of precolonial Philippines worshiped diwatas and believed them to be deities created by the one true God to help administer his creation. The term "diwata" applies to both male and female deities (e.g., Diwata Barangaw, who is the male god of rainbows).

The diwata were worshiped and venerated in pre-colonial Philippines are depicted as superior in beauty, in knowledge, and in fighting skills. They are prayed to and given offerings to grant requests and to answer prayers.

In modern concept, due to the Spanish destruction of most of the pre-colonial Philippine culture, the rank and image of a diwata from goddess was turned into enchantress or nymph, being beautiful with preternatural allure that lives in the forest and trees.


A male diwata is coined as enkanto, thought they seem to be of a totally different race. They are believed to be malevolent with very pale skin to white skin that sparkles under direct sunlight, light colored hair, and fangs. It resides primarily near the sea or any body of water. It is customary for Filipino fishermen to offer meat and other delicacies to the enkanto by throwing them into the sea, after a day's bountiful catch.

Popular mythology states that diwata live inside tree trunks, in the form of spirits. In the Philippines, it is common to see trees with trunks larger than 5" or 6" in diameter left standing when trees have been cut. This is believed to prevent the spirit from being released, as it is not known if he is a "white" or "black" spirit. If he is a black spirit, it is believed he can cause serious misfortune to the one who stole his home.

Enkantos have many similarities to humans in that they age, appear to have male and female sexes, can suffer from illness, and die. They are an object mythology for many Filipinos as they are mostly pictured as non-muscular beautiful men having crystal blue eyes, fair complexion and golden hair. They may have unusual features such as high-bridged noses, fair skin, and no philtrum. They are also known to be taller than human beings. Some say they have leaf-shaped ears and that they sparkle under direct sunlight or grow sharp teeth when threatened.

Other variants exhibit sexual dimorphism such as Bagobo spirits which are separated into the female tahamaling and the male mahomanay. The female spirit is alleged to have red complexion while the male has a fair complexion. Their dwellings will normally appear as natural features, for example large rocks or trees, although to humans they have befriended they can appear as magnificent palaces.

These creatures prefer large trees such as the balete in which they place their belongings.

Term usage[edit]

The term, diwata, itself is extremely diverse in usage as noted by the research of Ferdinand Blumentritt and other notable scholars. According to their research, diwata' refers to different entities depending on the ethnic people. The research collected different meanings of diwata:[5]

  • Sebwano people: "deity"[6]
  • Batak people: "spirits, good and evil"[7]
  • Tagbanwa people: "invisible spirits"[8]
  • Mandaya people: "one spirit"[9]
  • Manobo people: "spirit"[10]
  • Subanen people: "a name of one of the Subenen gods"[11]
  • Tiruray people: "great eight-headed fish"[12]
  • Maguindanaon people: "images of a deity, not the deity itself"[13]
  • Magahat people: "thanksgiving feast with the offerings that are offered to Diwa, a forest god, and spirits who own the land"[14]
  • Bukidnon people: "men of heaven"[15]
  • Blaan people: "god of goodness more known as Dwata"[16]
  • Cuyonon people: "name of the most powerful of the Cuyonon deities"[17]

In addition to the research, scholars noted that the term diwata is used in the southern islands of the Philippines, while anito is used in the northern islands, although other terms are known as well depending on the ethnicity of the people in an area.[18]

Popular culture[edit]


In the television sitcom Okay ka, Fairy Ko created by MZET productions, diwatas live in a mythical world named Enkantasya where Ina Magenta is the Queen of the diwatas. Ina Magenta's daughter, Faye, is married to Enteng Kabisote, a human.[citation needed]

Diwata have been featured on GMA Network fantasy series Encantadia and Mulawin whereby diwatas are a race of supernatural being living in Encantadia, a dimension beyond the human world.[19] However, the depiction of a diwata on both series have European influences as pure diwatas were shown to have pointed ears like elves, one of them is Cassiopeia and some resemble fairies, like Muyak, human-like diwatas are born from a diwata and another encantado. All diwatas and encantados reside in the 'Kingdom of Lireo'. A diwata or an encantado that has royal blood is called Sang'gre, which can be distinguished by their markings on their back, the nga character from the Baybayin script. The Queen of the diwata in Lireo carries the title of Ynang Reyna. Lirean society is matriarchal and only a Sang'gre in the matriarch line may ascend the throne.

Another television series from GMA Network, Amaya, depicts diwata as goddesses who may be called upon through a ritual. The diwatas here areoriginate from ancient Visayan foklore. The series revolves around the life of Amaya, a binukot (kept maiden) and her fate to become the most powerful woman of her time. It is set during the pre-colonial times of the Philippines.[citation needed] The diwata shown were

  • Maguayen, who ferries the souls of the dead to Sulad (Purgatory).
  • Pandaki, who can change a fate of a dungan (soul). She brings good dungan from Sulad to Saad (Heaven) to be an umalagad.
  • Malandok, god of war.
  • Bakunawa (a dragon), guardian of Sulad.

In another GMA Network TV series, Indio, diwata are gods or goddesses that can be called or prayed upon. Indio is about a man with a diwata mother and a human father. During the Spanish colonial period, he protects the Filipinos from the Spaniards.[citation needed] Similar to Amaya, these diwatas originate from ancient Visayan foklore. Some of them are:

  • Makaptan, the supreme god
  • Ynaguiginid, war and earth goddess (successor of Malandok)
  • Magayon, goddess of flying animals, also a wood goddess
  • Lalahon, goddess of fire and volcanoes
  • Lidagat, water goddess
  • Libulan, moon goddess
  • Lihangin, wind goddess
  • Dalikmata, goddess of eye diseases and visions, also an ice goddess.
  • Adlaw, sun god
  • Barangaw, rainbow god
  • Ribung Linti, thunderstorm god
  • Lisantonillo, god of blessngs
  • Burigadang Pada Sinaklang Bulawan, goddess of greed and riches
  • Paiburong, god of the middle world. He is the brother of Burigadang Pada.
  • Makabosog, god of gluttony
  • Sidapa, god of death
  • Pandaki, goddess who saves souls for a better fate
  • Magwayen, sea goddess who ferries the souls to the land of the dead
  • Alunsina, goddess of eastern skies

The term lambana is an old Tagalog word for a drawing symbol or picture that represents a deity of the ancient pagan religion of the Tagalog people was recently used in fantasy-themed television shows such as ABS-CBN's Pedro Penduko as a term for "small fairies".[citation needed] It can be argued that the term was first used in Encantadia as a reference to Muyak and later on in Luna Mystika where it was used to identify the characters played by Pauleen Luna and Michelle Madrigal.


Diwata is a Filipino singer-comedian who made a mark with the Tagalog remake of the English song "Sincerely" and became well known with "Sisirin Mo," a naughty song with double meaning that titillated the masses' imagination from her self-titled album Diwata. This album launched a whole new genre of songs that shocked the sensibilities of the predominantly Catholic Philippines in 2001.

In 2014, rapper Abra released a song titled "Diwata", which features Parokya Ni Edgar vocalist Chito Miranda, from his self-titled debut album.

There is a Filipino Rock Band named "Diwata" that consists of 5 individuals namely, Lem Andrade on vocals, Rai Peralta on lead guitar, Paul Medina on drums, Ryan Mascardo on rhythm guitar and Jaycee Alipio on bass. They started the band late 2008 and still rocking the stage of Manila and near provinces until today.


One of the characters in the play Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam is named "Diwata," and claims to have some Filipino ancestry.


In the comics, the character created by Gener Pedrina for the Sanduguan Universe, Diwata is a half-human and half-encantada whose real name is Maria Klarissa Valiente.

Marvel Comics has introduced the "Diwatas" as a pantheon of gods similar to the Asgardians and Olympians. These Diwatas include Aman Sinaya, Amihan, Anitun, Apo Laki, Aswang, Bathala, Mayari and Tala.[20]


In 1987, the movie entitled Diwata, directed by Tata Esteban and written by Rei Nicandro showed the mythical life of the deities. Actress Olga Miranda played the main role, together with the other cast Lala Montelibano, Dick Israel and George Estregan.[21]

The independent film Faraway focuses on a woman and her quest to find the Diwata tribe.[22]


In 2017, A Filipino Tabletop Role Playing Game that beautifully encapsulates local myths called Project Tadhana was released. It features Diwata as one of its playable races (or lahi) together with Engkanto, Tikbalang, Aswang, and Tao. [23]

On August 19th 2016, the game Warframe added a new Warframe called Titania, a playable character based around faries. One of her ability's grants her a sword called "Diwata"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.filipiknow.net/the-ancient-visayan-deities-of-philippine-mythology/
  2. ^ William Henry Scott's Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, 1994 ISBN 9789715501354
  3. ^ https://www.filipiknow.net/the-ancient-visayan-deities-of-philippine-mythology/
  4. ^ https://www.aswangproject.com/diwata/
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-07. Retrieved 2018-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "'I Juander': Naniniwala pa ba sa diwata si Juan?". GMA News. July 15, 2013.
  20. ^ Anthony Flamini, Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Paul Cornell (w), Kevin Sharpe (p), Kevin Sharpe (i). Thor & Hercules: Encyclopaedia Mythologica 1 (July 2009), Marvel Comics
  21. ^ "Diwata 1987". IMDb.
  22. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2447338/
  23. ^ "'Tadhana' is a Filipino tabletop RPG that beautifully encapsulates local myths". gmanetwork.