|Here is a modern concept of an "armored" tikbalang |
(after he lost his left arm) by Ian Sta. Maria
from Skyworld Volume Two
|And now there are two of them warrior tikbalangs|
(Art by Ian Sta. Maria) from Skyworld Volume Two
One of the common characters in these stories is tikbalang. And I’m not surprised to find him in the three graphic novels I just read. He is very prominent in the Skyworld series as a warrior-hero. As a matter of fact, he is a prominent character in Filipino mythology, such that anyone in my generation and those before me knows about him. Tikbalang is like a centaur in Greek mythology, only he is able to stand, walk, and act like the next human being, but most of his body (head and feet) is that of an animal, often portrayed as a horse, and a very tall demon horse with limbs disproportionately long.
No matter what genetic transformation or physical mutation tikbalangs encounter along the way when passed down, the important thing is they come from our ancestors, and therefore, they are part of the past; hence, they are part of the Filipino heritage. And besides, how will the tikbalangs be able to live on if not for us?
Many different stories revolve around the tikbalangs, although I would not be surprised if they were some designed to frighten off people. Horses are not endemic to the Philippines so when they started coming in during the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards allegedly spread negative stories about the tikbalang to frighten the natives at night (and perhaps to keep their hands away from these horses?). Where the tikbalang come from or where his kind originated is not clear; however, others say he is a transformation of an aborted fetus sent to earth from limbo (most likely from the Limbo of the Infants). For the life of me, I could not understand why they are sent to earth...to seek revenge for the life deprived of them? And why come in a form of a demon horse in the first place? I guess this calls for further research on my part.
The tikbalang is among the many creatures in Philippine folklore who are mean at one time, raping female victims at night to give birth to more tikbalangs, driving men mentally crazy, and stomping to death those who dare disturb his sleep, then playful the next, causing travelers to lose their way and puffing off giant cigars while sitting or leaning relaxedly on tree branches. In a Tagalog short story titled “Tikbalang” by an unnamed author, the demon horse transforms himself into a mother recently buried in order to kidnap her living child.
Other times, if a human wins him over, the tikbalang can be the most loyal guardian and protector, such as the case in the three graphics novels I’ve read. How to win him over is the tricky part. In “Teofilo and the Tikbalang” (2008) by Juan SP Hidalgo Jr., Teofilo earned the loyalty of the demon horse by riding him (much like taming an ordinary horse or a bull), causing anger to the tikbalang. But no matter the effort the tikbalang do to throw off the boy, he could not, and so in the end, he gives up and offers his loyalty.
|Here's the tikbalang from They Mythology Class|
by Arnold Arre... Really amazing art!
In another account by Isabelo de los Reyes in the old Spanish version of El Folk-Lore Filipino (1890), the person who can obtain the three thickest sharp spines from his mane can use them as anting-anting or talisman to make the tikbalang his servant. But this can only happen after the person tamed the demon horse with a specially-prepared cord, rode on his back until he is exhausted and acknowledges defeat.
You know, I could go on and on about tikbalangs. Perhaps I can talk more about him in another post, more on whether or not there are also female tikbalangs. I’m curious myself and I’m excited to ask some people or visit the library to see what information they hold about these strange creatures.
Truth be told, I was somehow bothered by the story of a Filipino artist, Budjette Tan, who lectured a seminar to a group of young students. At one point, while showing a slide of a tikbalang onscreen, one of the students asked what the creature is, prompting the artist to demand the teachers what they have been teaching the kids. Sad, really. We seem to know more about Greek mythology than Filipino legends and folklore. Tikbalangs are part of old stories handed down from generation to the next, often verbally. No matter what genetic transformation or physical mutation they encounter along the way when passed down, the important thing is they come from our ancestors, and therefore, they are part of the past; hence, they are part of the Filipino heritage. And besides, how will the tikbalangs be able to live on if not for us?
- Nancy -