Folklores & Religion

18 11 2009

An artwork of an aswang showcased at the 1AM Gallery.

On Friday November 13, 2009, a couple of friends and I attended the art exhibit Tabi Tabi Po at the 1AM Gallery.  That night was a good turnout, there was a great mixture of people there: elders, teens, adults, and young adults.  Yet, I observed that the majority present were Filipinos.  Being that the art was centered on Filipino folklore, I felt that Filipinos could relate and connect to the artwork on a more intimate level compared to other ethnicities that were also at the gallery.  These artworks told stories of myths and legends that were passed down from Filipino grandmas and grandpas to their grandchildren, parents to their children, or amongst friends.  Verbal recollections illustrate the tales of mystical creatures that kill and feed on the innocent.  Many believe that folklores were made to stop people from doing things, whether it was a way for people to be home at a certain time or to keep children from being in any type of mischief; folklores thrived on the fears of individuals.  Although this may be one type of reason for folklores, there are many other means as to why verbal traditions were passed down from generations to generations. 

Nonetheless, Filipinos have weaved these folklores in their lives, especially in the religious aspect.  Religion and folklores worked hand in hand with one another.  Many of these folklores were told to explain the creation of man and the world.  Many Filipinos believed in these myths and folktales because it is oral traditions that were passed down within their families.  Religiously, people are told that there is good and evil in this world and in order to be saved one must seek in the good to obtain salvation.  Majority of the time, the mystical creatures that were cultivated in these folklores were seen as evil creatures.  Take the aswang for example, this creature is equivalent to a vampire.  The only difference is that the aswang is usually female and it could transform from a young beautiful lady to an elderly woman.  Also, an aswang’s upper torso has the ability to detach from the lower portion of its body.  The top portion would fly around looking for a feast, usually human blood.  It is told that the aswang also feeds on pregnant women, extending their tongues to the belly button of the pregnant women and consume the baby by sucking it through this elongated tongue.  I believe that these creatures were created to influence people to believe in the “good” in order to be saved.   

Dating from indigenous tribal Filipinos till the present day Filipinos, they have always believed in some type of divine power or being that created life.  Many have also believed that if they worship this being, they were protected from harms way.  That’s why many pregnant Filipino women living in the Philippines believe that they should always have a Bible next to their bed as well as a bowl filled with salt and garlic to warn off the aswang.  If they had a miscarriage or birth defect they were able to blame these mystical creatures for pregnancy failures because if they were responsible for their child’s death then they would not go to heaven, as seen in a Catholic perspective.  People blame these creatures for their problems, that way they are not responsible for anything “bad” that happened.  Yes, it is normal for human beings to fear these grotesque stories, but I feel that many of these stories were told during the Spanish colonization to persuade and sway the choices of the Filipino people, especially to accept a Catholic belief.  If they did not accept that faith, they would suffer the wrath of these evil creatures. Many believed that if their faith was centered on this “good” divine being or power, they could be forgiven of their sins and live a worthy and safe life.  Although some people still abide by this view, there are other individuals that did convert to new faiths.  We have Filipinos that still believe in these folklore/mystical creatures and we also have Filipinos that see them as a joke.  Regardless of what religious view a Filipino may have, they must have been influenced in some way or form, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was through folklores. 

-April T.

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