Friday, February 25, 2011

Trees with Ghosts Who Love Women

[5th of a series on folk beliefs associated with trees and forests]

If you get to see certain patches of forest with large trees that appear incongruous or out of place in their generally tree-less or desolate surrounding, chances are that they have been spared from the logger’s axe or saved from being converted into farms due to the belief in unfit or disfavored trees.
Mangoes are certainly magnetic and saliva-inducing fruits be they ripe or green. But did you know that in some communities, single ladies are warned not to go near a big mango tree because it is believed to be the home of a spirit who loves to waylay unescorted women? In Thailand, too, house builders are cautioned not to use the wood from mango trees because it is believed to bring illness and bad luck to the house-owners.

s a young forester in the 1970s, I happened to be part of the UP Los Baños College of Forestry team of resource persons sent out to public elementary schools to teach teachers certain concepts about trees and forests. One of the things I loved to share -- and which almost always became eureka moments among the Grades 1 to 3 science teachers I handled in Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Mindoro, Lubang, Antique, Iloilo, and Cotabato -- was that of a grotesque tree that usually starts as a tiny dropping of a bird on the branch of another tree. 

The Tree-Killing Tree

That grotesque tree is the balete. 

Indeed, as a plant, the balete starts out as a bird dropping that with the aid of rain and sun soon becomes an epiphyte or a virtual orchid. Available moisture and leaf litter in its perch high up on the host tree would next make the plant turn into a vine that sprouts forth several roots that seem to race though very slowly towards the ground. 

Once anchored on soil, the said roots would next become fast-growing stems whose branches and secondary roots, though not exactly sucking the host tree’s blood, as it were, would soon join one another to wrap themselves tightly around the host tree’s trunk. 

As the years go by, the trunk of the host tree gets strangled slowly but surely by the parasite plant’s fast-growing and intertwining stems. Not only that. Its branches that once served as cradle to the parasite, protecting it from wind and the scorching sun, soon become smothered by huge ingrate branches.
And finally, despite valiant efforts to survive, the poor host tree withers and dies -- and its place under the sun taken over by a multi-stemmed and dreadful-looking tree they call strangler fig or balete.

But that’s not the end of our story. 

The balete would later become a huge and wide-trunked tree especially if no one would dare prune or thin its prop roots or nip the “aerial” ones in the tip. When the tree bears flowers, a lot of insects would be attracted – bees, butterflies, ants. When the fruits start to become crimson then purple, several kinds of birds would come feed of the seemingly endless supply of luscious figs. 

At night, people who happen to pass by the tree would get startled by the flapping of wings, the swaying of branches, the shower of falling figs, and tiny squeaking screams as the fruit bats they call paniki would come once darkness has set in, sometimes in pairs, at times in droves, to chew the ripe figs and in the process often jostling one another for vantage among the tree’s fruit-laden twigs.

This activity of nocturnal mammals on fruiting balete trees, the tree’s propensity to grow in Spanish-era churches and brick-cum-lime towers, and the imaginative add-on stories about white ladies, smoking kapre, horse-headed tikbalang, and forest fairies dwelling on their boughs, all contribute to making the balete a tree to avoid and let live.
This old balete in Siquijor Island, Visayas, is believed to be enchanted. Note the hundreds of roots going down the ground, which in due time will become massive stems that strangle the host tree. Photo from

But certainly the balete is not the only dreaded tree we have in the Philippines.

Other Haunted Trees

For obvious reasons, in many areas of the Philippines the most avoided trees apart from balete are century-old members of the following trees:
  •  Acacia (a.k.a. Raintree) -- Scientific name: Albizzia saman
  • Achuete (Appatot in Ilocano) -- Bixa orellana
  • Kalumpang (Bangar in Ilocano) – Sterculia foetida
  • Binuang – Octomeles sumatrana
  • Bitaog (a.k.a. Palo Maria) – Calophyllum innophylum
  • Bulala – Nephelium phippinensis
  • Mabolo (a.k.a. Kamagong) – Diospyros philippinensis
  • Mango –Mangifera indica
  • Narra – Pterocarpus indicus
  • Tamarind – Tamarindus indicus
  • Tuai – Biscofia javanica
Interestingly, they are avoided not as trees per se but more because of their big trunks, gnarled bark, mossy or lichen-covered branches, and dark cavities – all said to be indicators that they harbor malevolent spirits that one in his right mind should not disturb.

If these old trees happen to be found on the grounds of Spanish-period churches, the more that people would become wary of them. No one would dare cut them down unless exorcized by a priest. 

For instance, as a boy, I heard that when a large bangar/kalumpang tree in a church property was being felled to give space for a Netherlands-assisted piggery project, the handle of the axe being used broke several times even as the tree had a relatively soft trunk. It was only when the Dutch priest was asked to sprinkle holy water on the tree that the cutting went on smoothly. 

Trees Belonging to the Dead

Whether geriatric or not, no one would normally lay the axe or the chainsaw on trees growing in old cemeteries as they are said to be the playground or favorite siesta area of the ghosts of people who have not yet left their burial area. 

The same holds true for trees where somebody died or committed suicide. Also avoided are trees underneath which certain bodies, say Japanese soldiers or Filipino guerillas, have been buried. 

Such trees would easily become the subject of betting among gin-emboldened drinking buddies who would dare the supposedly bravest among them all to spend the night alone under their boughs or even take a nap under their shade during high noon when ghosts are said to be roaming.

Trees with Women-Loving Beings

There are trees whose “resident beings” are said to have a special liking to women. In the coastal towns of Western Pangasinan, for example, unmarried women are cautioned not to get near big mango trees especially if they are unescorted and if the trees are laden with fruit. Dante N. Pecson (pers. comm., 1990) says that in his hometown Agno, such mango trees are believed to be the hideout of the pugot, a male supernatural being that is said to have a strong penchant for  courting women and waylaying them for several days. Similarly avoided in the area are mabolo trees believed to be favorite shelters of hideous beings called lampong.

Trees with Chicken-Loving Guards

In the remote upland villages of Mankayan, Benguet, men and women alike are wary of the tree they locally call tiwwi (scientific name: Biscofia javanica; tuai in Tagalog; kanarem in Ilocano). Villagers are cautioned not to cut the tree or even urinate under it lest its tumungaw (guardian spirit) will be offended and will bring harm to the intruder. There have been persistent accounts of locals who fell ill for not observing this belief and who got freed from the tumungaw’s punishment only after their relatives made offerings of chicken and blankets (Michael Dapdapig, pers. comm., 1995).

This taboo imposed on the tuai tree probably explains why in many parts of the Cordilleras you get to see a number of several members of this broad-leaf species standing huge and tall among the needle-leaf pine trees. It certainly is more prudent to heed the warning of the elders rather than get sick and, equally bad, spend money for buying white chicken and a new blanket.

Trees Guarded by Fireflies

The presence of fireflies in trees has also proved useful in protecting their host trees from destruction. This is because fireflies (called kulalanti in Ilocano; i^irung in Isinay; aninipot in Cebuano; alitaptap in Tagalog) are often associated with a tree-dwelling diwata (fairy), engkantada (enchantress), or other such supernatural beings. Thus, trees that glow like Christmas trees with such tiny luminescent beetles at night are consciously avoided even during daytime.

Even the adjoining smaller trees and shrubs of such firefly-inhabited trees are often included as part of the taboo and are thefore off-limits to tree harmers. At times too, birds, lizards and other animals dwelling in them are secured from unnecessary disturbance.

Trees with Bad Character

There are of course certain trees that are spared by tree-cutters not because of the belief in the supernatural but more because of the so-called “bad” characteristics that such trees have. For example, in Agusan, newcomers used to wonder why there are giant trees (over 100 centimeters in diameter and taller than the tallest coconut palms) left standing like lone sentinels near the highway or in the middle of ricefields. 

These trees, called toog (Combretodendron quadrialatum), were unwittingly left there not so much because previous loggers adhered to some belief systems that warned against cutting the trees but more because such trees are considered “unfit” or “unwanted.” Indeed, mature toog trees contain huge amounts of sand like deposits in their wood that easily dull or bring rust axes and saws used on them. If by chance some foolhardy fellow is able to convert a toog log into lumber, the dried lumber is said to be super tough against nails and against ordinary carpentry tools.

Another example exists among firewood gatherers in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. In this case, trees belonging to the Leeaceae plant family are considered unsuitable for use as firewood, thus, who cut and bring them home to fuel the erathen stove are laughed. This is because the species – particularly the one we call ang-ang in Ilocano (mali-mali in Tagalog) brings nothing but ash and smoke. Worse, they are said to cause kettles and claypots to break.

In Kalinga and Apayao, firewood gatherers are also cautioned from hauling downhill wood of trees that, when used to cook rice, cause the rice to spoil easily and sometimes emit poisonous smoke (Henry Aliten, pers. comm., 1995).

Trees Struck by Lightning

Perhaps in defiance of the notion that lightning doesn’t strike twice, standing trees that had been struck by lightning are considered a symbol of bad luck and are therefore avoided or are not used as lumber especially for building houses no matter how good the quality of the tree’s wood would be. 

In some cases too, the place where the lightning-victim tree still stands is avoided because it is believed that the site is cursed and that lightning might strike it again.

Disfavored Trees in Thailand

Those of you who think that the beliefs I’m describing in this essay exist only in the Philippines would do well to know that people of one of our neighbor countries, Thailand, also share the same taboo as regards trees growing in burial grounds and trees hit by lightning. 

In addition, the Thais also believe in “unfit” or “disfavored” trees. An inventory of such trees was, in fact, done by Khon Kaen University researchers led by Dr. Pagarat Rathakette (1985) and their list included the following trees:
  • Po (Ficus religiosa) – Regarded as the most sacred tree in the eyes of Buddhists, it is considered sacrilegious to cut it.
  • Kabok (Irvingia malayana) – This tree’s local name means “not fulfilled” and, thus, its use is believed to cause poverty in the family.
  • Poey (Irvingia species) – A bitter-tasting tree, this is believed to bring bitterness in life to the family that uses it. The local Thai name means “naked” and so it may bring nothingness or emptiness to its users.
  • Ai (Ficus species) – Considered parasitic, this tree is said to lead its users to become dependent upon others for their living.
  • Loem (Canarium subulatum) – This tree is said to bring bad luck and illness to its users.
  • Ma Moung Paa (Mangifera indica) – This is the mango tree whose fruits are okay for eating; however, the use of its wood for housing is believed to bring bad luck and illness to the house-owner.

…[Next: What’s Next for Folk Beliefs?]...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ripening Like Carabao Mango

Even as this blog is not yet the mesmerizing path you wanted to follow to go somewhere, we will continue blazing the trail... we will keep pursuing our dream... we will go on remembering

"Two roads diverged in the woods... I took the one less trodden." [Sinagat, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya circa 2008]

I know it's par for the course if a blog, specially the those-were-the-days kind like isinay-bird, is not getting traffic. After all, it's not a starry, starry world, and certainly not made for people like you, Van Gogh.

Moreover, as a writer, I'm already immune to getting my pieces and publications ignored, no matter how I thought I poured all my "nagbabaga, nagdadamba, naghuhumiyaw, at walanghiyang damdamin" to their creation.

I can only take consolation from the fact that in the Philippines where this blog's poison emanates, we have this saying: “Pag may tiyaga, may nilaga.” Literally: if there’s patience, there will be boiled goodies (like corn, potato, plantain, meat, peanuts, or whatever).

And so, even as this is not yet one of the mesmerizing paths you wanted to follow to go somewhere, we will continue blazing the trail... we will keep pursuing our dream... we will go on remembering!

Mango as Metaphor

But just you wait till this little corner's case becomes like the famous Philippine carabao mango.

You know how it is with the mango: Its fruits, when young and green, appeal only to conceiving women. But give it some time and let the sour plums get bathed by the April showers and the tropical sun.

Pretty soon, the green and dangling fruits start to get streaks of yellow.

Then in May and June, the birds that months earlier used to ignore the tree, would come flying in. One by one, and tentatively at first, then in droves.

Before long, if the mango lover in you is not yet so seduced to go pick the now lusciously pink-golden plums,  pretty soon the gloriously fragrant and salivatingly delicious mango would be gone!

Of course, this blog can never surpass the allure of ripe mangoes that used to be part of the childhood of many of us who were born or had the chance to grow in rural Philippines (like Dupax and many more mango-rich towns of Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Tarlac, La Union, Zambales, Cagayan, Ifugao, and the Ilocos provinces).

Nor can it even approximate the appeal of the sweetish-sour version of the fruit when it is in the marasaba or manibalang stage.

But what this blog lacks in form and color, may be made up for by -- ahem -- the variety and range of the posts it offers to the ladies and gentlemen out there who pine for those plain and undiluted days when...

  • mango trees were literally exploding with their overload of fruits that one could get for a song
  • sun and rain and moon and stars were integral parts of the pure joys and wonders of rural life
  • fireflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, tadpoles, and beetles were normal toys for girls and boys
  • grassy hills and gentle meadows were child-friendly playgrounds for kite-flying and hide-and-seek
  • fields and farms didn't have "No Trespassing" signs or even barbed wires to discourage visitors
  • church bells were music, announced the time of day, and told the news about someone who died
  • the crowing of roosters at dawn and the roosting of chickens in the afternoon marked one day

Going Out Yonder

We're not yet complaining. Yet one little bird just whispered to us that maybe from time to time we need to give readers an inkling of the whys and wherefores of this blog site, and what keeps us going.

So now then, among the things that keep us surviving are inspiring snippets like this one from nature writer and former forest and parks worker Edward Abbey:

Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am -- a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. 

Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. 

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends... ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers....

Breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air....

Sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. 

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive. 

And I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. 

I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards. 

You will live to piss on their graves!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Elusive Bird Helped Shy Dupax Boys Get Circumcised

When I was growing up, we uncircumcised boys hated being teased by our elders when out of nowhere the sound “ku-ku-ku-kuk… supput… supput!” reverberated in the grassy thickets. And so, days before Holy Week, you would see adolescents contacting one another so they could go as a team to undergo the razor on Huebes Santo or Sabado de Gloria or any day within the Lenten season except Good Friday.

I chanced upon this tsakuk by the river in Langka-Mammayang, upstream of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, one cloudy day in September 2010

I don’t know about the rural Tagalogs, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, Boholanos, Ilongos, Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Cordillerans, Ifugaos, Kalingas, Ibanags, Muslims, Lumads, or even Ilocanos in Ilocos Republic. But we young and old male citizens of Dupax in southern Nueva Vizcaya are quite particular – or rather, used to be very sensitive – as to whether one is circumcised or not.

Being circumcised was such a badge of honor in our part of the woods. Conversely, not being circumcised would mean something to be ashamed of. Thus, when word gets out that a particular guy was seen bathing in the Abannatan stream or the Benay river with his “manhood” still in tact and not open like what a normal man’s should be, pretty soon the whole town would know about it.

If the "uncut" guy were an English-speaking European, the conclusion would be that the Caucasian husband of a local maiden would also be like him. If the subject happened to be a local, not long after the discovery, the word supput (Ilocano and Isinay term for “uncircumcised”) would be appended to his first name as if it were an integral part of the one he was baptized with. 

Not only that. The poor guy’s being “supput” would be a talk of the town or barrio for several generations or for as long as he lived.  And so, if he were still around or when somebody remembers, his case would be cited as an example of a billy-goat-smelling guy being able to get women pregnant even if the skin of his phallus has not undergone the razor’s cut. If he has gone to Kingdom come or migrated to less nosy villages but anyone of his boys would still be around, the stigma would remain like a monument and so the poor kid would still be called ana^ Anut Supput (Isinay for “child of Anut the Uncircumcised”).

In grade school, if your circumcised male classmates would know that you are like Anut, you better sharpen the way you stare or get ready to project a murderous don’t-test-my-patience look. For, more often than not, during recess or before the school bell rings for the afternoon classes, they would tease you with something like “give me salt” especially when a couple of guys came to class with their T-shirts bursting with marasaba (literally “banana-like” in ripeness) tamarind fruits they hauled down from a child-friendly tree on the way to school.

The reference to salt comes from the fact that uncircumcised “birds” are known to have whitish and salt-like particles technically called smegma. Oh well, that grainy material (called kaper in Ilocano) is indeed salty as it forms when the penis is left unwashed for long and part of the urine dries up and accumulates as salt on its way out of the prepuce.

The Conspiratorial Bird
Like most teasing events, however, the kantiaw (jeering)  didn’t end when the tamarind trees or, alternatively, the mango trees, have ran out of fruits. Thanks (but no thanks) to a bird that kept the song playing. This bird is the Philippine coucal (Centropus viridis), a species of cuckoo that is native to the Philippines and described by avid Philippine-bird photographer Romy Ocon in his blog ( as “more commonly heard than seen, as it prefers to skulk in the dense grasses or undergrowth.”

Called tsakuk, kakuk or sakuk in Ilocano, siggu^ in Isinay, and sabukot in Tagalog, the bird played a large part in sending boys of Dupax, be they Isinay or Ilocano or Tagalog, to the mangngugit or circumcision man. (Hey, don’t ask me about gays, particularly if they also underwent circumcision. As far as I recall, when I was a boy, there were not so many of such creatures in our part of Planet Earth then; if ever there were some, their closet must have been so tight shut as to get noticed.)

The love call of the tsakuk didn’t exactly say when it is season to undergo circumcision, much unlike the way the song at twilight of the pitpitaw (a type of cuckoo, I gave it that name by onomatopoea or by the sound it made) would mean no rain the following day. Nor was the presence of this often solitary bird in the bamboo clumps or the tall Miscanthus reeds (runo in Ilocano and Isinay) would mean the coming of a specific activity or weather phenomenon.

The tsakuk rather made us “unbaptized” boys hate it, hate our uncles, hate the older boys who had already undergone circumcision. For when out of no where the sound “ku-ku-ku-kuk… supput… supput!” reverberated in the thickets and made its way to the consciousness of our elders, almost always someone among them would stop planting rice and call out: “Nangngegmo, barok? Agpakugitka kanon!” (Did you hear that, son? It says it’s time for you to get circumcised!)

Preparing for the Cut
Naturally, no matter how afraid we were then of getting our “birds” kissed by the barber’s razor, we would murmur to ourselves something like “Never again!” And so, there and then we would resolve for the nth time to finally undergo the rite of kugit (circumcision) come Lenten Season. 

The foreplay, as it were, would take time.

In addition to going after the tsakuk with a pocketful of river pebbles and our ever-present slingshots when our extrasensory perceptions said there was one about to sound off its irritating call in the ledda (bittuh in Isinay; talahib in Tagalog; scientific name Saccharum spontaneum) reeds nearby, we would be doing a number of preparations for when the big day comes.

Not exactly in any order of priority, one activity would be to scout around the barrio for cousins or playmates or newly arrived migrants from Central Luzon, the Ilocos or the Cordillera provinces who are also ready and willing to undergo the rite. It seemed the fear let alone the pain of undergoing the razor would be greatly lessened when it is shared with other kids.

We would also be asking from those who have recently undergone the cut who was the best mangngugit in the village – plus how much he would accept as “doctor’s fee” or, alternatively, if it was okay to give him a handful of fermented then dried betel nut plus a bottle of gin or Siok Tong.

Depending on how far the skin of your manhood could be retracted backward from its tip, we would also spend more time than ever getting rid of its salt deposits when we bathed by the river. As was normal for us river-loving boys then, we would compare notes as to how much could our respective skins be pulled back. (Note: There would always be hair-like green algae in the more placid parts of the river and we would put some of them around our birds, imagining how the real appearance would be when we would grow up and have genuine hair where there was none before.)

Help from a Wild Plant
If our skin was not yet ready, we would be looking for the shrub with milky sap we called kuribetbet (Tagalog kampupot or pandakaki; scientific name Tabernaemontana pandacaqui). The plant grew by itself by the river bank or on the roadside and we used its sap to shrink our boils or to stop our skin itches, particularly ringworm (Ilocano kurad; Isinay aksep; Tagalog buni), from spreading to other parts of our body.

I don’t remember now who advised us to use the plant’s milk to make our “birds” ready for the cut but I do recall experimenting with it a couple of times and, indeed, the magic worked and gave me a half centimeter mileage each time (but not before I felt stinging pain at first followed by a burning itch that quickly went off once I jumped back to the soothing coolness of the ever friendly river).
Kuribetbet (pandakaki) leaves and fruits from

Lent is Circumcision Time
Lent (often referred to as Cuaresma or Holy Week) mercifully always coincided with summer vacation from school. It was also that brief time of the year when we hyperactive kids hang our slingshots and took a break from our bird-sniping, grasshopper-snatching, cicada-catching, and dragonfly-torturing pursuits. 

In place of going outdoors, we farm kids would be asked to help our old folks husk corn, shell peanuts, roll tobacco leaves, baby sit younger cousins or sisters, help squeeze out spiny amaranth or bamboo thorns lodged on an elder's soles, etc.

In many parts of Philippine Christendom, Lent also meant undergoing certain forms of physical sacrifice as form of penitence and “sympathy” with the crucified Son of God.

Like circumcision.

There is a happy confluence to all this, as I see it now. It is as if Holy Week was purposely designed to allow boys the opportunity to go through the rites of manhood that the Man on the Cross was said to have similarly undergone as a boy. Consider, for example, the following:

  • First, the school break meant freedom from  school assignments, rough schoolmates, and daily classes that would otherwise stay on the way of getting one’s phallic wound heal quickly. 
  • Second, the good behavior enforced by the Lenten “curfew” meant one’s elders would not say no to a few coins to buy a bottle of gin or to ask one from grandmother’s mini store to use as “thank you” to the circumcision expert.
  • Third, since the past few days of Lent saw one being able to do many chores as well as favors, the days after the cut would mean well deserved exemption from such chores as splitting wood, fetching water, taking the carabao to the hills, and riding one’s bike to town for some errands. 
  • And fourth, the bloodletting plus the throbbing pain days after the cut would pass for a cleansing of sorts and a penitencia that befits the season.

Goodbye to Boyhood
I’ll soon post a more detailed or rather a blow-by-blow account of how I underwent the passage from boyhood to manhood. 

For now, let me park by saying something close to blasphemy. Since the circumcision was made on or earlier than Huebes Santo (Maundy Thursday) and the Sunday after would be Easter, hallelujah – the church bells that went silent since Good Friday would sound like thunder again, saying the Lord has risen… but also seemingly proclaiming to no one in particular: there’s a newly born man in town! 

A new man who no longer gives a damn even if a million tsakuk birds would sing “ku-ku-ku-kuk… supput… supput” all day long! –CHARLZ CASTRO

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Step on the Anthill!

(4th of a Series on Folk Beliefs Related to Trees and Forests)


One can easily dismiss the age-old belief in ghosts, spirits, and supernatural beings as figments of imagination made tenable and palatable by generation after generation of telling and retelling as bedtime stories for children.

As it is, however, rural communities still harbor tales of groves and fields and other spots that are best avoided because of the ugly and sinister deities believed to dwell in them. Many geriatric trees and patches of wilderness areas are shoo-in items in this category -- and, because of such belief systems, they have been spared until recently from the logger's ax or from land speculators.

In his book Boyhood in Monsoon Country, the late essayist Maximo D. Ramos (1975) gave a list of the more popular creatures said to dwell in trees in the rural areas of Zambales. One is the kai-baan who is said to look "like a three-year-old child, has a fair skin, and a treasure of long hair flowing like corn silk," and chooses the bagbagutot shrub (Phyllanthus reticulatus) as its favorite abode. This fellow, according to Ramos, is said to be a generous friend but is quite vindictive when harmed by careless folk. "It is believed to be capable of causing sore eyes, a wry mouth, and black and blue spots on the skin."

Also mentioned by Ramos are the agbarbarangay who "sail in fleets at night, and anchor their boats to the top of large trees." These night creatures are said to invite whoever is brave enough to go for a ride on their barangay (boat), in exchange for becoming a medium who would be told specific wild roots or herbs to cure the village's common diseases, after which he would be left up in the tree where his folks would find him peacefully asleep the next day.

Other creatures Ramos described are the pugot (also called lanib or kapre), the santilmo (St. Elmo), the agkarkarison (ghost that rides on a cart), and a headless black creature that could assume a variety of sizes, from an infant to a giant the size of a big tree. Ramos writes: "These beings are said to do nothing but evil. The moment a man trespassed their haunts, they would try to frighten him out of his wits, or sometimes they would carry him up to the crotch of the tree they lived in and kill or leave him there."

For precautions against these tree-dwelling evil beings, Ramos says "the best thing to do is never to get near, much less touch, big trees with oblong leaves." He cited the feared strangler fig (more popularly called balete [Ficus balete]), the bangar (Sterculia foetida; kalumpang in Tagalog), and the bulala, and said these trees are the domicile of the kapre and pugot.

Huge rocks, anthills, and spots "where grass never grows" are believed to be haunted, except probably this one by the roaring sea in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, where the UP-shirted "napugot ken lumakay" author recently went to.
The same prohibition holds for any termite mound, Ramos says, "where a blade of grass never grows and a fallen leaf never lingers." Such a mound (called bunton in Ilocano; dalimahon in Isinay; punso in Tagalog) is believed to be the footstool of the pugot or the lanib. "It is also the favorite entrance and egress of the dwarfs into and out of their underground world."

Ramos also pictured the sinanlakay and sinanbaket -- semblances of an old man and an old woman, respectively. He said they are demons garbed in black clothes and haunted trees near cemeteries or deserted lots grown over with shrubs and trees.

The sinanlakay is said to sometimes wear a sutana (priest's clothing) and is thus alternatively called sinampade (semblance of a priest). In my childhood barrio, I recall my grandfather's farm help Manong Ilding came home trembling one very early morning and stammering with words that sounded like he saw a sinampadi leaning on a coconut trunk when he was sent to go fetch the carabao under a jackfruit grove. No matter how my Apong Lakay kept nudging him after that, the guy could not be made to go out alone in the dark anymore, more so in the vicinity of that old grove where he said he saw a priest.

Don't get the impression though that tree-dwelling spirits are the monopoly of Ilocano-speaking communities. A more recent book by the same author, The Creatures of Midnight (Ramos, 1990), lists about 85 such creatures scattered throughout the Philippine archipelago. Which means that aside from their Ilocano and Tagalog nomenclature, the creatures also have Zambal, Pangasinan, Ibanag, Bikol, Tausug, Visayan, and Zamboangan names. Interestingly, except for those believed to dwell in rivers, ponds, lagoons, and other aquatic ecosystems, majority of the creatures inventoried by Ramos either lived in or have something to do with trees or forests.

The belief in benevolent and maleficent spirits dwelling in Nature -- in trees, rocks, streams, forests, caves, and mountains -- is also said to be strong among the Manobo people of Central Mindanao. In an essay, the anthropologist E. Arsenio Manuel (1977) wrote that the Manuvu (or Manobo) have this belief due to their pervasive faith in the "duality of existence" -- that is, that the physical body has a spiritual double.

Manuel added that the Manuvu also believe in "superior gods and lesser deities who dwell in the skyworld and whose favors are sought for success in agricultural work, fishing, hunting, recovery from illness, or protection and victory in war."

Another case in point exists in the remote upland villages of Mankayan, Benguet. People there take precautions when they get near certain big rocks and deep portions of mountain streams (Michael Dapdapig, pers. com., 1995). Huge rocks are believed to be guarded by a tumungaw (unseen dweller) and deep parts of streams are said to harbor a pinten (a ghost that drowns unlucky bathers). Thus you must refrain from roughly stepping on or even touching big rocks. For the deep ban-aw, you must first warn the resident pinten by gently throwing pebbles on the water before you dip or swim.

Curiously, among today's relatively urbanized Filipinos, the belief in haunted areas still exists -- yes, even in what Sylvia Mayuga (1995) has termed "the stunted, monoxide-coated trees of Manila." A durable example is Balete Drive in Quezon City which, in addition to its actual line of balete trees, is said to be occasionally avoided by motorists on moonlit nights because of a white lady who becomes one's surprise passenger but later disappears when confronted.

In Jalajala, Rizal (across the Laguna Lake from Los Banos), the old folks of Barangay Pagkalinawan talk of their avoiding a mountain spring in the upper reaches of the village. According to my Forest Anthropology professor Daylinda Banzon-Cabanilla (pers. com., 1988), this is because the place is believed to be haunted by spirits "who have the power to increase or decrease the volume of water flowing out of the spring when provoked."

Somewhere in the northern edge of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, is a hill called Bantay Tirad. Franklin Cabaluna (1977) writes that on the hill's slopes are luxuriant grasslands where deer and other game abound and where deep and perpetually gushing springs attract animals seeking watering holes. Townsfolk, especially hunters, are wary of the place, Cabaluna says, because it is believed to be "inhabited by nymphs and other enchanted creatures." Thus, for a time the folklore resulted in the area's pristine and wildlife-rich state.

To those who live in the Quezon-Laguna area, accounts of "mysterious coincidences" in the Dolores, Quezon part of the mythical Mount Banahaw must still be fresh. Of particular interest were the ones related to the electrification plans for Kinabuhayan, a famous pilgrimage site kept serene, tree-covered, and tourist-attractive by members of the Samahan Tres Persona Solo Dios. The mysteries include the "effective intercession of the DENR in the environmentalist people's protest against the cutting of trees by Meralco to pave way for posts and power cables -- after going to court and other such legal means of seeking redress proved futile" (Mayuga, 1995).

That was not the first time, however, that such "coincidence" occurred. Mayuga cited an account recorded in Fr. Vicente Marasigan's Banahaw Guru: Symbolic Deeds of Agapito Illustrisimo:

"In 1940... an increasing number of pilgrims and excursionists to Kinabuhayan spring had begun to show commercial possibilities that tempted a business syndicate well connected with the municipal and provincial governments to plan a swimming pool resort around the spring of Resurrection. Tres Persona, technically squatters on national park land, would have to go. Suddenly the spring dried up and returned after the plan was abandoned, flowing until 28 years later when the old plan was resurrected. Again, the same thing happened. That last time was 1968...."

"Since then, government and big business have left Kinabuhayan pretty much alone, even when 7,283 hectares of Banahaw watershed were handed over to NAPOCOR management by Marcos' P.D. 1111, creating the Makiling-Banahaw Geothermal Reservation in the energy crisis of the mid-70s."

[Coming up next: "Beware of Trees with Fireflies!"]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

“Sshhh… Keep Quiet and Don’t Go Under the Trees!”


NOTE: This is the third installment of my 1995 essay on folk beliefs associated with trees and forests that I sharpened a bit and retitled  “Of Fireflies and Forest Fairies” in the hope that its form and content, let alone its call for appreciating  indigenous knowledge systems and practices, would make for pleasant reading and not turn off visitors of Oh yes, if you have queries, complaints, suggestions, or whatever, you’re welcome anytime to prick my balloon via the comments section of this site or, if you are shy (like me), you can pour out some lines and send them to or

any rural communities in the Philippines consider certain times of the day – usually high noon and twilight – as sacred and/or critical. During such hours, it is taboo to go outdoors, climb a tree, build a fire in the fields, throw rocks in the thickets, or engage in vigorous activities like chopping wood. 

The belief is that spirits are active and prone to doing harm to human beings, especially gallivanting kids, during those particular hours.

I recall how in my boyhood days in an upstream barrio of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, the womenfolk often warned us hyper-kinetic boys from straying too far from the village lest the kumaw (called sipay or manunupot in Tagalog) would get us, put us inside the langgotse (rice sack), bring us to a rangtay (bridge) being constructed in the towns of Bambang or Bayombong downstream, and use our blood as atang (food offering) to the spirits guarding the area, so that the bridge won’t easily be washed out when the Me-et or the Magat River went berserk during heavy rains. 

For some time that scare-tactic worked. And so at least, many a bayyek (tadpole) in the carabao pond, many a tuwwato (dragonfly) along the mountain trail, many a bambannagaw (chameleon) by the riverside, and many a pirruka (bulbul) in the bignay or the samak tree have been spared from some naughty kids’ itchy hands and from their slingshots’ raring-for-action mode. The deep parts of the river that we called lipnok similarly became quiet for a while as no right-minded fellow would go take a dip there without the company of big uncles.

Pretty soon, however, we noticed that the rusty trucks that we suspected to be those of the kumaw were hauling gigantic lawaan and bagtikan logs – not naughty kids – from the blue forests further upstream of the barrio. And pretty soon it was open season again for us mango-munching, bird-hunting and river-loving lads.

But then someone revived stories of the marmarna (roving spirits) or the di makitkita (unseen beings) who roamed aplenty at high noon.  Some of my Isinay relatives talked of seeing tiny footprints  –  believed to be that of the dwarf and long-haired lampong   – on carabao trails in hilly areas where not so many kids go. As if on cue, a couple of mysterious deaths of people we knew – one under a bitnong tree, another in his kaingin – also started to go around. It didn’t take long, indeed, before we kids  avoided engaging in raucous outdoor play again or using our ubiquitous slingshots during the hours that Ilocanos call agmatuon (namalintur in Isinay; literally “time when the sun is directly overhead”). 

I’m not sure if such a belief was intentionally nurtured to ensure peaceful and worry-free noontime siesta for the Hispanized farm folk. I suspect however that the warnings about diurnally active ghosts were also meant to give mango-owning neighbors – when the fruits are in season -- time out in guarding their heavily laden trees from slingshot-happy kids on perpetual search for ripe fruits to target. 

In retrospect, I tend to believe now that in my childhood the belief has somehow helped extend the expiry dates of certain birds, reptiles, and other wilderness creatures. 

Holy Week Blues

Photo from
I don’t know how it is in other rural communities in the Philippine archipelago, but at least in southern Nueva Vizcaya, the enforcement of  the “noontime curfew” was  at its strictest during cuaresma or Lenten season.  For, indeed, it would not be only us malleable adolescents who would observe the ngilin (literally “fasting and abstinence”) but also our basi-loving uncles. If at all they would go out, it would only be to bring the carabao to the river, not to the kaingin.

Thus, no matter how the gurgling song of the clear and cool river was luring us... no matter how sweet it would be to run after the grasshoppers sunning by the side of the carabao grazing field... no matter how seductive were the love calls of the alimuken (bleeding-heart pigeon) or the “come and get me if you can” shrieks of the kilyawan (oriole), it was “stay where you are” command for us. 

For a couple of hours or so, even our enemy tsakuk (Philippine coucal) would have peace taunting us uncircumcized boys with its “kukukukuk… supput… supput” song as the good boys among us would hang our slingshots by the post and do our share in husking the corn, shelling the peanuts, drying the tobacco leaves, baby-sitting kid sisters, squashing the fleas of the dog, or shooing away the neighbor’s hen and her dozen chicks from ruining the newly sown tomato seeds.

If we happened to be in the uma or in the taltalon, we would be expected to have taken the carabaos to their favorite mudhole or bamboo-shaded “parking lot” by then. Then we would join our old folks in the kalapaw (farm hut) to while away the witching hour often by nursing one’s leech bites or squeezing out the thorn of the kwantung (spiny amaranth) lodged in somebody else’s foot. 

More often than not, while doing our “foot surgery” or corn-husking chores , we would get a generous dose or litany of reminders (almost always in reference to our Olympian slingshot skills) the likes of but not limited to: 

Why don’t you go after the uwak that raided the ripe papaya and banana, instead of the meatless, harmless and sweet-singing sitsitik? Why not pull the barsanga (a weed) or bain-bain (makahiya) off the upland rice patch in the uma instead of combing the hills all day for pugo nests? And why not learn how to make rama (fish aggregating bamboo-cum-river stone contraption) or weave pasiking (rattan backpack) instead of challenging the kids in the ballasiw (other side of the river) to a fight?”

The same curfew would be imposed at dusk when the night cicadas start to sing and it is time to inventory the chickens up in the tamarind or caimito trees and to kindle the dalikan (earthen stove) for supper. In case we needed to go out to urinate or to dump rubbish in the abandoned tupig pit, we would caution the spirits by saying “bari-bari…,” “kayu-kayu….” or “tabi-tabi…”

And when we would eat outdoors whether noon or dark, we would remember to invite the unseen beings who are guarding the place – river, big tree, mountain, farm – by saying “Mangantayo, apo…” (come, let’s eat)  or like what my grandfather himself had been mumbling, “Ne, bagiyo….” (hey, here’s your share). Failing to do such would invite the wrath of the guardian spirit and it would give you stomach ache or some such trouble.

In the Cordilleras

Prill-Brett (1986) relates a similar belief in critical hours among the Bontok Igorot: “There are designated times of the day, from 11 AM to noon and from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM, that are believed to be dangerous for walking mountain trails. These designated times are dusk and the hottest part of the day, times when malevolent spirits that push people over the mountainsides are believed to be roaming around.”

Beliefs like that, Prill-Brett says, are based on the “assumption  that for activities there is a proper time and place to be observed and respected in order to be in harmony with the supernatural beings in the area.” The said belief is the Bontok’s way of structuring their relationships with the environment, since they perceive themselves to be sharing the land with these supernatural beings who hold them responsible for the stewardship of the land.

Looking back, it would appear now that many forest areas -- especially the Benguet pine (Pinus kesiya) remnants that go tinder-dry and fire-attractive in the sweltering months of March-May -- have been spared from despoliation as a positive result of the reprieve brought about by such belief in sacred and critical hours. 

If summed up over the years, those seemingly insignificant “idle times” or times spent doing nothing would have otherwise been used to engage in forms of spirit-harming activity like chopping down saleng trees for use in the fireplaces of Baguio and La Trinidad, or clearing runo-covered hillsides for growing cabbage, strawberry and snap beans.

(NEXT: Belief in Haunted Places. FORTHCOMING: Belief in Unfit or Disfavored Trees; What’s Next for Folk Beliefs?; Appendix: Isnegs Declare Lapat to Conserve Natural Resources)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Of Fireflies and Forest Fairies (Part 2)


Folk beliefs, like fireflies, are not only getting rare and elusive; the few that by dint of luck have weathered the ravages of time and the corrosive effects of ridicule by nonbelievers are also not “researcher friendly” now.

Let me take you down memory lane, nevertheless, as regards the  types of tree-associated or forest-related folk beliefs that used to be with us or at least within our reach when many of us were still small.

A few words of caution: 

Depending on which side of the forest you stand, some of them may be outright funny. Some ridiculous. Some are naïve, some even seemingly stupid.

And yet, some are also ingenious. Some are products of common sense. Some are very useful.

Some are wise and wonderful.

Such descriptions are, of course, not a helpful way to put a handle to belief systems. So I came up with five categories by which we could get to know them better.

First is belief in the Divine presence. Second is belief in sacred sites. Third is belief in critical hours. Fourth is belief in haunted places. And fifth is belief in unfit or disfavored trees.

Charlz Castro behind two tamarind trees believed to be haunted by residents in Sinagat (near Carolotan), Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. [Photo taken in 2008 by Delia F. Castro]


In many forest communities, the Divine is often seen as a pervasive, diffuse spirit present through the cosmos, the earth, and natural phenomena. This belief is common throughout Southeast Asia, particularly among tribal societies that have not yet been significantly “contaminated” by the intrusive teachings of the religious sects. The belief has led many people to view or perceive nature not as a raw material for human consumption to be manipulated in whatever way people choose but as an entity filled with spirit presence and, as such, must be respected.

For example, among the T’boli of Mindanao, McDonagh (1986) reports that “each river, tree or mountain has its own spirit.” Just like the American Indians of yesteryears, much of the T’boli religious ritual is thus geared to pleasing or appeasing such spirits. The people are intent on attracting the blessings of the good spirits and warding off destruction from the evil ones. “Cosmic phenomena like eclipses, and natural destructive phenomena like earthquakes and typhoons, are seen as punishment for encroaching on the domain of the spirits by altering the natural world significantly.” In such cases, even the simple matter of cutting down a tree demands the appropriate rituals to recognize the rights of the spirit world.

In a similar vein, June Prill-Brett (1986) tells that Bontok villagers view their Cordillera land as a gift from the entutong-cho (“the one in the highest”). To them land is the source of all life: “It belongs to no one or to everyone.” Thus they have reverence for it. “The luta (soil) is invoked during oath-swearing rituals (sapata) whenever a person is accused of a crime where there are no witnesses and the spirits of the dead are invoked to witness and punish the wrongdoer.”

Some years back, I happened to join a hiking trip to the second highest mountain of the Philippines, Mount Pulog in Kabayan, Benguet. In one tiny village on the way up, our group of Manila- and Baguio-based mountain enthusiasts (or ecotourists, if you may) was admonished by an elderly Kalanguya who spoke in Ilocano: “Mapankayu ngem pangngaasiyu ta dikayu aglalaaw.” (Go but please don’t make noise.) The mountain, the senior uplander explained, is home to the Igorot god Kabunian and desecrating it may bring untoward incidents to the climbers as well as to the adjoining upland villages.

In her book, Peasants in the Hills, Violeta Lopez-Gonzaga (1983) described why, unlike most migrant damuong (lowlanders) whose land-speculation and cattle ranching have pushed the indigenous people of Mindoro to take refuge in the remote in the remote uplands of the island, Buhid-Mangyan swidden cultivators have not been so keen on exploiting vast areas of Mindoro’s forest lands for their subsistence. According to her, the Buhid consider land as “mostly a free and unlimited good to be extracted from the forest, but they use it with restraint and deference to the complex of spiritual powers that traditionally dominate the Buhid’s universe.”

Among such spiritual forces is one that has human attributes, the afu-daga. This spirit is thought to have direct control of the Buhid world and his acts are manifest in physically observable phenomena such as soil erosion (believed to be the result of the spirit’s own swiddening activities) and earthquakes or floods (believed to be afu-daga’s expression of wrath over man’s failure to uphold the moral order). Though the afu-daga may be infuriated, the Buhid still conceive of him as their turok (literally “support post”), believed to be capable of dispensing good to people and withholding duwat, that is, anything that is bad, wicked, destructive, or upsetting the balance of the Buhid’s physical universe such as starvation, war, sickness, or death.

[NOTE: To align this essay’s inclusion in this Isinay Blogsite, we may add here that we Isinays in Dupax also had our share of belief in divine or spirit presence. For instance, we were wary of climbing old tamarind and starapple trees  if at night we would see them aglow with hundreds of fireflies (kulalanti in Ilocano; i^irung in Isinay) – we believed the trees were home to a banij (ghost) and the fireflies were its playmates.]


This category is similar to the belief in Divine presence except that it refers more to places considered as taboo or considered off-limits to ordinary mortals and casual uses. Which means that the areas in question are utilized for special purposes or occasions only and unwarranted intrusions may invite the ire of lesser but still quite powerful spirits or deities dwelling in them.

June Prill-Brett (1986) says that among the Bontok, specific localities within the village territory are considered sacred. One is the papatayan (“where sacrifices are offered”). This is usually a group of pine trees above the village where rice cultivation rituals are performed on village rest days. The Bontoc elders believe the guardian spirits of the village who live in the papatayan communicate a prognosis on village welfare through the butchering of sacrificial animals and the attendant reading of their bile sacs and gall bladders. Cutting trees or even branches from this site, Prill-Brett says, is punishable by fines and supernatural sanction, the latter usually invoked.

Also located above the village, according to Prill-Brett, is a sacred grove called peray specifically intended for weather ceremonies. “Whenever storms hit the village with winds strong enough to damage rice crops, a ceremony is performed at this site by the village hereditary priest (pumapatay). This ceremony is believed to stop the strong winds and calm the storm.”

Prill-Brett adds that a third sacred grove is located above the entrance of the village, and this is for feast of merit and fertility (chuno), provided to the village by upper-ranking Bontoc families.

A similar belief in village guardian spirits exists in certain parts of Northeastern Thailand. Rathakette et al. (1985) wrote of the Thais’ belief in the existence of the phi pu ta, spirits that dwell in certain wooded areas. “It is considered taboo,” they say, “to exploit, modify, or remove anything from such sacred groves.”

Not even a leaf litter could be taken away and neither grazing nor hunting is permitted in forest areas with phi pu ta, Rathakette et al. say. “Ignoring the taboo invites supernatural punishment by ghosts and other nefarious deities, and disaster is believed to ensue. Unintentional breaking of the prohibition requires the guilty to expiate the moral crime by requesting a diviner to conduct special prayers and offerings to the spirit ancestors.”

Rathakette’s group says that prohibiting the exploitation of spirit-owned areas resulted in the preservation and protection of many undisturbed  patches  of forest vegetation in various parts of Northeastern Thailand.

In Mindoro, not only certain forest groves but also unusual tree formations and burial sites, frequently in the densest part of the forest, are rigorously  avoided both for swiddening and settlement by the Buhid Mangyan (Lopez-Gonzaga, 1983). Members of this indigenous cultural community believe that human encroachment on these areas would unleash the maleficent forces.

I once had the privilege in 1995 of conversing with Yaom Sumbad, one of the key actors in Violeta Lopez-Gonzaga’s book Peasants in the Hills. He confirmed that such practice of leaving burial sites and certain groves untouched  indeed exists not only among the Buhid but also among the other Mangyan groups in Mindoro.

Ang libingang Mangyan ay sari-sari,” Yaom said in perfect Tagalog. “Merong ilalagay sa puno na di abot ng hayop at hinahayaang maagnas. Meron ding binabakuran. Sa mga Hanunoo, ililibing at pagkatapos ng anim na buwan ay huhukayin at dadalhin sa kuweba.” (Mangyan burial sites vary. There are those placed on trees that could not be reached by animals, and allowed to rot. Some are fenced. The Hanunoo bury their dead then dig them up after six months then transfer them in caves.)

The Buhid leader also revealed that sacred sites are not confined to forests. Forest spirits also dwell in springs, he said. “Ang paniniwala namin na taong-gubat, yung mga di nakikita nandun din sa bukal. Ang sabi ay huwag umihi o tumae sa bukal. At magpasintabi ka sa kanila. Tabi-tabi! Makikiraan….” (We forest dwellers believe that unseen beings also dwell in springs. They prohibit us from urinating or defecating on springs. If you go near, you have to ask their permission.  Say excuse me! Ask permission to pass.)

And what would happen if you show disrespect to such sacred sites? Yaom said: “Kung iihian o taehan mo ang mga ito, babalikan ka nila. Magkakasakit ang ari mo.” (If you pee or defecate on springs, the spirit guards will retaliate. Your sexual organ will get sick.) (Yaom Sumbad, personal communication, 1995)
Apart from wooded areas and springs, other sites are considered by indigenous people to have sacred or ethnically vital associations and are therefore left unmolested. These include mountain peaks, tribal hunting grounds,  places of worship, tribal land boundaries, and sites where sacrificial food and drink are offered to ancestor spirits.

In Barlig, Mountain Province, terrace farmers consider it bad practice to convert kaka-iw (ancestral woodlot) and family hunting grounds into payyu (terraced ricefields) no matter how fertile and suitable these areas are for growing rice (Delia Fiadchongan-Castro, pers. comm., 1995). This respect is the same as that accorded to family burial sites which are often located in steep slopes. This tradition of forest upkeep probably explains why until today this town on the slopes of Mount Amuyao is still the most forest-rich among all the towns of Mountain Province.

In Abra, the Banao, Gubang, and Mabaka tribal people practice an off-season for hunting, fishing and tree cutting in areas they call lapat. I was able to interview two Abrenian natives about this in 1995, Bernard Balansi and Jeremias Tiggangay. The lapat, they say, is part of the grieving ceremonies of the bereaved family of a village leader. During the burial, the family of the deceased will declare a portion of a forest or creek or river or hunting ground off-limits to users and  nobody would be allowed to cut timber, catch fish, gather food items, hunt wildlife.

Balansi and Tiggangay (pers. comm., 1995) said the lapat is an age-old tradition in Abra as well as in the adjoining province of Apayao meant to limit irresponsible use of forests and other natural resources. I failed to verify this, but I had the inkling that the more influential or popular the dead person is, the bigger the area to be declared as lapat would be, and the longer the prohibition would stay. (A more detailed description of this practice is found in Appendix 1.)

[NOTE: For this post, I hasten to add that when I was growing up, we outdoor-loving kids avoided certain patches of forest remnants, no matter how irresistible the calls of the birds in their branches were, and no matter how inviting were the ripe fruits of their anonas trees and sapang groves, if stories went around that tiny footprints – believed to be that of the malevolent lampong (dwarf) --  were seen in the area, or that a guy once became sick and crazy (nambilaw) when he didn’t listen to the warnings and went to gather firewood in the sacred site.]

(NEXT: Belief in Critical Hours; Belief in Haunted Places. FORTHCOMING: Belief in Unfit or Disfavored Trees; What’s Next for Folk Beliefs?; Appendix: Isnegs Declare Lapat to Conserve Natural Resources)