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Title Engkanto
Description Forest spirit/Elf
Gender Male/female
Region Philippines

Engkanto are environmental spirits that have the ability to appear in human form.[1] They are often associated with the spirits of ancestors in the Philippines.[2][3][4] They are also characterized as forest spirits or elves.[5] Belief in their existence has likely existed for centuries,[4] and continues to this day.[6]


Engkanto have many similarities to humans in that they age, appear to have male and female sexes, can suffer from illness and indeed even die. They are an object mythology for many Filipinos they normally appear to be beautiful having blue eyes, fair complexion and golden hair.[4] They may however have unusual features such as high-bridged noses, fair skin, blond hair and lack of philtrum. They are also known to be taller than human beings.[5] 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 have a fair complexion.[5] 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.[4] These creatures prefer large trees such as the balete in which they also place their belongings.[5]


Engkanto are most commonly known for their malignant effects, those the Engkanto favour have become depressed, suffered from madness or even disappeared for days or months, possibly as a result of the human being possessed.[4][7] They are also said to be capable of causing fevers and skin diseases such as boils. These spirits also sometimes lead travelers astray in the forest or even kidnap them this however is said be avoided by bringing an "Anting-anting" or "Agimat" a piece of a magical charm or amulet that keeps away evil spirits & prevents them from doing any harm.[3] However if they do favour someone they are generous and capable of bringing power and riches to that person. Shaman often try to commune with Engkanto on holy days to obtain better healing powers from them as well as learning how to better deal with evil spirits.[4]


Francisco Demetrio made a study of 87 folk stories from Visayas and Mindanao relating to Engkanto. He contended the Engkanto were based on early European friars.[2][4]


  1. ^ Silliman University, James W. Chapman Research Foundation (1977). "Silliman Journal". Silliman Journal (Silliman University): 354. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  2. ^ a b Aguilar, Filomeno V. (1998). Clash of Spirits. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2082-7. 
  3. ^ a b Gailyn Van Rheenen, Gailyn Van Rheenan (2006). Contextualization And Syncretism: Navigating Cultural Currents. William Carey Library. ISBN 0-87808-387-1. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g *Demetrio, Francisco (1969). "The Engkanto Belief: An Essay in Interpretation". Asian Folklore Studies 28 (1): 77–90. doi:10.2307/1177781. JSTOR 1177781. 
  5. ^ a b c d Ramos, Maximo D. (1971). Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology. Philippines: University of the Philippines Press. pp. 55–56. OCLC 804797.  ISBN 971-06-0691-3 (Quezon City Press, 1990)
  6. ^ *Borchgrevink, Axel (2003). "Ideas of Power in the Philippines". Cultural Dynamics 15 (1): 41–69. doi:10.1177/0921374003015001108. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  7. ^ Tremlett, Paul-François (2007). "The Ethics of Suspicion in the Study of Religions". DISKUS 8. Retrieved 2008-06-20.