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GroupingLegendary creature
Sub groupingHybrid beast
FolklorePhilippine folklore

The Tikbalang (/ˈtikbaˌlaŋ/) (also Tigbalang, Tigbalan, Tikbalan, Tigbolan, or Werehorse) is a creature of Philippine folklore said to lurk in the mountains and rainforests of the Philippines. It is a tall, bony humanoid (half human half horse) creature with the head and hooves of a horse and disproportionately long limbs, to the point that its knees reach above its head when it squats down.[1] In some versions, it is a transformation of an aborted fetus sent to earth from limbo.[2]


As horses weren't native to the Philippines in the pre-Spanish era, the earliest written records about the tikbalang did not specify horse or animal morphology.

Documents from Spanish friars such as Juan de Plasencia's Customs of the Tagalogs (1589) describe the tikbalang as ghosts and spirits of the forests, associated with the terms multo and bibit.

Entries in early Spanish-Tagalog dictionaries defined tigbalang as "fantasma de montes"[3] (phantoms of the mountains/wilds), linking them strongly as nature spirits.

An offensive expression "tigbalang ca mandin!(You are a wild beast!)" was used by early Tagalogs to signify one as uncouth and uncivilized.

There were also ghosts, which they called vibit; and phantoms, which they called 'Tigbalaang'.

— Customs of the Tagalogs (1589), Juan de Plasencia

The tigbalang is another object of which they stand in great awe. It is described as a phantom, which assumes a variety of uncouth and monstrous shapes, and interposes its authority, to prevent their performing the duties, prescribed by our religion.

— Estadismo,[4] (1803), Martinez de Zuniga

In historical dictionaries (San Buenaventura's 1613 Vocabulario spelled as "tigbalang"), they were likened to the tiyanac, while in some entries they were given the definition as "satyrs" (satiro), "gnomes" (duendes) or "goblins" (trasgo).

Horse-like appearance[edit]

Later on, as horses were brought from China and Japan through the Spanish colonial government, accounts of the tikbalang appearing horse-like slowly became the norm.

Juan Francisco de San Antonio's Cronicas(1738-1744) describes the tikbalang as a malevolent entity living in the mountains, able to shapeshift into a variety of forms, including horses.

450. They greatly fear and reverence the tigbàlang or bibit. This is a ghost, goblin, or devil; and as it knows the cowardice of these Indians, it has been wont to appear to them in the mountains—now in the guise of an old man, telling them that he is their nono; now as a horse; and now as a monster. Consequently, the Indians in their terror make various pacts with it, and trade their rosaries for various articles of superstitious value, such as hairs, grass, stones, and other things, in order to obtain all their intents and free themselves from all the dangers. Thus do they live in delusion until God wills that the evangelical ministers undeceive them, which costs no little [effort], because of the very great fear with which they are filled.

Cronicas (1738–44), Juan Francisco de San Antonio

However, the very first document to actually describe the tikbalang as specifically having the appearance of a werehorse as it is more commonly known is Juan José Delgado's Biblioteca Histórica Filipina (orig. ca. 1750).

Delgado recounts an alleged incident wherein a young boy from the town of San Mateo, after having escaped an attempted abduction by the tikbalang, described the creature as follows:

"a very tall and skinny black man, with a long face like a horse, the shins of his legs reaching above his head when squatting down...(he had) very long ears and nose and somewhat short horns on his forehead, very large and frightening eyes, and the mouth of a horse."[5]

Delgado also mentions the name "unglo" being used by the Visayans to refer to the same creature as the tikbalang.[6]


Tikbalangs or Tigbolan scare travelers, lead them astray and play tricks on them such as making them return to an arbitrary path no matter how far they go or turn. This is counteracted by wearing one's shirt inside out. Another countermeasure is to ask permission out loud to pass by or, not to produce too much noise while in the woods in order not to offend or disturb the tikbalang. The "tigbolan" is a ghost which assumes a variety of forms, and sometimes confers a similar gift upon a certain favored individual. A superstition popular with the Tagalogs of Rizal Province is that Tikbalangs are benevolent guardians of elemental kingdoms. They are usually found standing at the foot of large trees looking around for anyone who dares to bestow malignancy on their kingdom's territory.

A common saying has it that rain from a clear sky means "may kinakasal na tikbalang."(Filipino, "a tikbalang is getting married".) This was potentially connected with a similar Spanish proverb that claimed a witch was getting married when there was rain on a sunny day,[7] [citation needed] although many cultures have such sayings in which a trickster figure gets married (cp. fox's wedding, bear's wedding, monkey's birthday/wedding).

In some versions, the tikbalang can also transform itself into human form or turn invisible to humans. They like to lead travelers astray.[1]

Individual tikbalangs, even today among superstitious Filipinos, are thought to inhabit trees as guardians (sometimes depicted as if the very soul of these trees). Specific trees (and nature in general) in pre-colonial Philippines were considered sacred (often used as shrines), esp. the large ficus trees (known locally as balete).

Tikbalang is generally associated with dark, sparsely populated, foliage-overgrown areas, with legends variously identifying their abode as being beneath bridges, in bamboo clumps or banana groves, and atop Kalumpang (Sterculia foetida)[8] or Balite (Ficus indica) trees.

Account of Iluminado Cataytay (1959) from Barangay Sumilang, Quezon province, Philippines provides accurate information, as he witnessed from age of 4 up to his death in 1969.

Taming a tikbalang[edit]

By one account a tikbalang has a mane of sharp spines, with the three thickest of these being of particular importance. A person who obtains one of these spines can use them as an anting-anting (talisman) to keep the tikbalang as his servant. The tikbalang must first be subdued, however, by leaping onto it and tying it with a specially-prepared cord. The would-be-tamer must then hang on while the creature flies through the air, fighting madly to dislodge its unwelcome rider until it is exhausted and acknowledges its defeat.[2] Or you can look on his mane and you will see 3 golden hairs and if you pluck 3 of them before he/she eats you, they will serve you until you die.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Tikbalang: The Horse Demon was the first episode of the 2015 Creatures Of Philippine Mythology documentary web series produced by The Aswang Project and High Banks Entertainment Ltd. It traces back the origin of the Tikbalang's image to India, circa 2000BCE, and follows its evolution to the modern-day.[9]
  • A tikbalang named Lusyo features prominently in The Mythology Class, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Filipino comic creator Arnold Arre.[10]
  • Tikbalang Kung Kabilugan ng Buwan is a child-friendly telling of the Tikbalang mythos – written by Victoria Añonuevo, illustrated by Kora Dandan-Albano and released by Adarna House – intended to familiarize young Filipino audiences with Philippine Mythological creatures. In the story, a Tikbalang becomes lonely for lack of a playmate during the full moon, a time when Filipino children of generations past traditionally went out to play in the moonlight. In a search for a playmate, the Tikbalang leaves his home in the Kalumpang tree and encounters first a Kapre, then a Nuno, an Aswang, and a Tiyanak before he finally meets another Tikbalang as a suitable playmate.[8]
  • A Tikbalang features as a fae in series 3, episode 10 ("Delinquents") of the SyFy supernatural drama Lost Girl.
  • A Tikbalang was featured as the deity itself, another as a racecar driver, and more as the fighters in the fighting scene in the Netflix's Singaporean anime-influenced streaming television series based on the Filipino comic series, Trese, that was released the day before the Philippines' Independence Day.
  • Tikbalang is the name of a unit in the wargame Infinity, where many of the war machines are given mythological names.
  • Tikbalang, along with other creatures are also appeared in 1978 animated film, Tadhana (Destiny).[11]
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury features a flight system called 'Tickbalang' that the series' mecha use for aerial transport.[12]

See also[edit]


  • Blair, Emma Helen; Edward Gaylord Bourne, James Alexander Robertson, John Boyd Thacher (1905). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803. The A. H. Clark company. pp. 269–270. ASIN B000858BO4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)[13]
  • Bergaño, Diego (1860). Vocabulario de la lengua Pampangan en romance (in Spanish). Ramirez y Giruadier. p. 254.[14]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Eugenio, Damiana L. (2008). Philippine Folk Literature An Anthology. University of the Philippines Press. p. 247. ISBN 978-971-542-536-0. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  2. ^ a b de los Reyes, Isabelo (1890). El Folk-Lore Filipino (in Spanish). Imprenta de Santa Cruz. pp. 66–69. ISBN 978-971-542-038-9.
  3. ^ Noceda, Juan (1754). Vocabulario de la lengua Tagala. Imprenta de la Compañia de Iesus. p. 578.
  4. ^ Zuniga, Martinez (1814). Historical View of the Philippine Islands. T. Davison. p. 41.
  5. ^ Delgado, Juan José (1892). Biblioteca Histórica Filipina: Historia general sacro-profana, política y natural de las islas del poniente elamadas Filipinas. J. Atayde. p. 370.
  6. ^ Delgado, Juan José (1892). Biblioteca Histórica Filipina: Historia general sacro-profana, política y natural de las islas del poniente elamadas Filipinas. J. Atayde. p. 369.
  7. ^ "Uncharted Philippines | Three Fearsome Creatures of Philippine Legend". www.unchartedphilippines.com. December 9, 2017. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Añouevo, Victoria; Dandan-Albano, Kora (2004). Ang Tikbalang Kung Kabilugan ng Buwan. Quezon City: Adarna House, Inc. ISBN 978-971-508-250-1.
  9. ^ Clark, Jordan "Tikbalang: The Horse Demon" Episode 01, Creatures Of Philippine Mythology (2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRUSBSJ39KY Archived June 5, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Lourd de Veyra (1999). "Gen X Meets Tikbalang". FLY Magazine. Retrieved January 12, 2006.
  11. ^ Ortuoste, Jenny (July 6, 2022). "Nonoy Marcelo's 'Tadhana' now screening at National Gallery Singapore". Manila Standard.
  12. ^ "HG 1/144 Tickbalang - Release Info, Box art and Official Images". Gundam Kits Collection News and Reviews. January 20, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  13. ^ Blair, Emma Helen; Robertson, James Alexander (1905). the philippine islands 1493–1898. p. 269.
  14. ^ Bergaño, Diego (1860). Vocabulario de la lengua pampanga.

External links[edit]