November 2, 2018

A 1922 “Tiyanak” Story set at the foot of Mount Makulot in Cuenca, Batangas

The tianak. Image credit:  Iaaaaaaaaaan on Deviant Art.
[In this article: Philippine myths, Philippine folklore, Cuenca Batangas, Mt. Makulot, tiyanak, supernatural creatures]
From the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines, we extract another otherwise forgotten story about the Filipino folkloric creature “tiyanak” written in 1922 by one Ananias L. Chavez1. The word “tiyanak” (or tianac/tianak as it was spelled before) was supposed to be a derivation of the Tagalog words “patay anak” or dead child. Hence, even in the present day, there are still localities in Batangas which say “patiyanac” or “patianak” instead of just “tiyanak.”

A Wikipedia item describes the “tiyanak” as “a vampiric creature in Philippine mythology that imitates the form of a child. It usually takes the form of a newborn baby and cries like one in the jungle to attract unwary travelers.” The “tiyanak” is also thought of as a creature known for leading its victims astray2.
READ: “Documented General Characteristics of the Batangueño in 1915.” This article contains a section on mythical creatures people of Batangas believed early in the 20th century.
However, an alternative description which is more in sync with how the creature is thought of in Batangas to this day was provided by one Leon Bibiano Meer in another paper written in 1915. In the paper, Meer described the “tiyanak” as ““the soul of a dead unchristened child which lingers around hunting for young and newly-born babies with the intention of stealing them from their parents3.”

At any rate, Chavez’s story, which we feature below in toto below, is more about victims getting lost, something many Batangueños will associate with another mythical creature, the “tikbalang.” It is just one section of the paper and has been edited for grammar and broken down into paragraphs for the reader’s convenience. Annotations are provided where necessary.
AN INCIDENT ABOUT THE TIANAK
by Ananias L. Chavez

One day, a woman with her sister and two other persons went to the foot of the Makolot [The contemporary Tagalog spelling is Makulot. However, in historical documents, the mountain’s name has been spelled anything from Maculot to Macolod.] Mountain to pick some guava fruits to feed their hogs. It was in the early afternoon when they left the village with their baskets which the natives called “takuyan4,” and went to seek the guava groves.

When they reached the foot of the mountain, there was a field of guava trees with numerous fruits. They began to pick the ripe ones and not long after they were separated by a small grove of bamboo. While they were picking the ripe fruits, the sister and the other two persons were enjoying chatting. After some time, the sisters could not hear the voices of their mates anymore but, instead, they heard the voices of small children.

The strange thing about it was they could not see them [the small children]. The voices asked the two sisters to follow the way in front of them. The two sisters followed the road [Presumably, the voices made the sisters hallucinate that there was a road in front of them.] until at last they could not leave that place.



They tried to cry for help but they could not shout. They heard nothing but the voices of the small children. Their other companions did not find them but thought that they were just enjoying picking fruits. When afternoon came, their minds [the sisters’] resumed in good order [Presumably, what Chavez meant was that the sisters regained their wits and the spell the voices had over them was broken.]

They found that they were just walking around and around that place. When they met each other [i.e. when the sisters found their companions], the two sisters related what happened to them. They were convinced that the “tianak” roamed in that area as some people said.

Since that time, the area began to be regarded as a dangerous place. People since then did not go there because they were afraid of becoming lost.
Notes and references:
1The Makolot Mountain and the Stories Relating to it, as Told by the Old People of Cuenca,” online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2Tiyanak,” Wikipedia.
3Social Culture of the People of Batangas Province,” by Leon Bibiano Meer, published 1915, online at the H. Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
4 The “takuyan” is a hip basket used during harvest. TagalogTranslate.com

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