Native Superstition Icon

January 26, 2022

Superstition is rife.


Every female native wears by a string round the neck with the image of the Virgin Mary. Many also have heathen amulets.

I saw an amulet taken from a daring criminal. It consisted of a small ounce flask, stuffed full of vegetable root fibres fried in oil. This is said to make its owner strong and courageous. The capture of this criminal was very difficult. But, as soon as the little flask was taken from him, he gave up all resistance.

Aswang Cannibals

In almost every large village, there are one or more aswang families who:

  • are dreaded and avoided and regarded as outlaws
  • marry only amongst themselves
  • have the reputation of being cannibals.

Perhaps they are descended from such tribes? This belief is very general and firmly rooted. Intelligent old natives tell me that they certainly did not believe that the aswangs ate men nowadays. But their forefathers had assuredly done so.

They do not have ancient legends, traditions, or ballads. Their songs are spiritless improvisations, and mostly in a high key. They have not preserved any memorials of former civilisation.

“The ancient Pintados possessed no temples, every one performing his anitos in his own house, without any special solemnity”—(Morga, f. 145 v).

Pigafetta certainly mentions that the King of Cebu, after his conversion to Christianity, destroyed many temples built on the seashore. But these might only have been structures of a very perishable kind.

On certain occasions the Bisayans celebrated a great festival, called Pandot, at which they worshipped their gods in huts, which were expressly built for the purpose, covered with foliage, and adorned with flowers and lamps.

They called these huts simba or simbahan (the churches are so called to the present day), “and this is the only thing which they have similar to a church or a temple"-(Informe, I. i., 17).

According to Gemelli Careri they prayed to some particular gods, derived from their forefathers, who are called by the Bisayans Divata, and by the Tagalese Anito. one anito being for the sea and another for the house, to watch over the children.*

In the number of these anitos they placed their grandfathers and great grandfathers, whom they invoked in all their necessities, and in whose honour they preserved little statues of stone, wood, gold, and ivory, which they called liche or laravan.

Amongst their gods they also reckoned all who perished by the sword, or were killed by lightning, or devoured by crocodiles, believing that their souls ascended to heaven on a bow which they called balangas. Pigafetta thus describes the idols which were seen by him :-“They are of wood, and concave, or hollow, without any hind quarters, with their arms extended, and their legs and feet bent upwards. They have very large faces, with four powerful teeth like boars’ tusks, and are painted all over.” †

*The Anito occurs amongst the tribes of the Malayan Archipelago as Antu. But the Anito of the Philippines is essentially a protecting spirit, while the Malayan Antu is rather of a demonical kind.

† These idol images have never come under my observation. Those figured in Bastian and Hartmann’s “Journal of Ethnology" (b. i. pl. viii. “Idols from the

Early Religion

The ancient religions of the Bisayans were noted by Fr. Gaspar:

The dæmon, or genius, to whom they sacrificed was called by them Diwata, which appears to denote an antithesis to the Deity, and a rebel against him.

Hell was called Solad.

Heaven (in their highly figurative language) Ologan

The souls of the departed go to a mountain in the province of Oton, called Medias, where they are well entertained and served.

The universe was created when a vulture hovering between heaven and earth could not find a place to settle.

The water rises towards heaven and so Heaven, in its wrath, creates islands.

The vulture then split a bamboo, out of which spring man and woman, who beget many children. When their number becomes too great, drive them out with blows.

  • Some conceal themselves in the chamber to become the Datos
  • Others in the kitchen who then become the slaves.
  • The rest go down the stairs and become the people.