Biraddali, Angels from Above | Philippine Myth & Folklore

‘Biraddali’ is usually translated from Tausug or other Samal languages as ‘angel’ or ‘skymaiden’ They are female winged beings with the glowing beauty of the rainbow. In some legends each biraddali has a pair or silver wings that they can remove. In other myths, these maidens can change shape.

They use the rainbow as a bridge to visit earth. Whenever a rainbow is seen the biraddali are usually enjoying a pleasant bath in the mountains. There are some Samal myths wherein a mortal man steals a biraddali’s wings to make her his wife. The biraddali eventually finds her silver wings and escapes the clutches of the man, with some versions ending with the man learning his lesson and becoming worthy of the biraddali through a series of tasks.

The 7 Biraddali Sisters Illustration by Elise Mendoza

A Biraddali Tale

Tagalog Version

Maraming nag-iisip na kathang-isip lang kami sa daigdig na ito, ngunit nag-iingat lang kami upang ‘di makita ng iba. Puwera na lang noong isang pagkakataon, isang sandaling kami’y nagpabaya. Alam niyo kasi, kaming lahat na pitong magkakapatid na babae, pumapanaog kami mula sa langit tungo sa lupa gamit ang isang bahag-hari. Sa tuwing kami’y maliligo sa malalamig na batis sa bundok, hinuhubad namin ang aming mga makikislap naming pakpak upang guminhawa.
Isang araw, nakita ng isang tao ang aming pakpak na sa lupa, at saka kami binantaang gawing kaniyang mga asawa.

Marunong kaming mga mas nakatatandang kapatid na madaliang abutin ang aming mga papak upang agad na makalipad patungong langit. Ngunit ‘di ito napagtanto ng aming bunso, at inilapag niya ang kaniyang pakpak nang malayo sa kaniya. Ninakaw ito ng lalaki.

Hindi basta bastang susuko ang mga biraddali. Nagpalit anyo ang aming bunso, una’y bilang ahas upang makagapang ng mabilis papalayo. Ngunit mangangaso pala ang lalake, at nahuli niya sa isang hawla ang aming bunso. Sunod nama’y nag-hugis alakdan ang aming bunso, at nagtago sa mga nagsihulog na dahon sa gubat. Ngunit matalas ang mata ng lalaki, at nakita siyang tumatakas. Nagpalit anyo muli ang bunso namin upang maging alupihan, at madaling inakyat ang mga punong-kahoy nang ‘di mahuli. Ngunit matulin ang lalake’t naabutan siya sa isang sanga. Sa huli, walang nagawa ang aming bunso. Unti-unting humihina ang kaniyang kapangyarihan dahil ‘di niya suot ang kaniyang mga pakpak.

Bumigay ang aming bunso sa nais ng lalake na siya’y maging asawa. Nagsama sila, ngunit ang aming bunso’y tahimik lang na nag-aantay na makuha muli ang kaniyang mga makikislap na pakpak upang makalipad at umuwing muli sa langit. Hindi kami makapayag na mga ate niya na hayaang maiwan ang aming bunso sa lupa kasama ng taong iyon.

Ngunit nag-iingat kaming ‘di mahuli ng lalaking ito. Takot kaming makuhanan ng aming mga pakpak, kaya’t ipinahatid namin sa hangin ang aming mga bulong, nawa’y umabot sa aming nahuling bunso ang aming mensahe.

Binulungan namin ang gubat at ang lahat ng mga puno, upang ipaabot sa aming bunso na inilibing ng lalaki ang kaniyang mga pakpak sa ilalim ng isang puno, sa tabi ng ilog. Pag-asa’t paglaya ang laman ang aming mga bulong. Ibinulong din naming nangungulila kami para sa kaniya.

Sa wakas, narinig niya kami. Sa sandaling umalis ng bahay ang lalaki, tumakas ang aming bunso. Humangos siya tungo sa gubat. Walang briddali ang mas mabilis pa ang kaysa sa aming bunso, maging mga anghel, ‘di matatalos ang halaga ng nadama niyang paglaya.

Maraming mag-aakalang kathang-isip lang ang mga briddali. Pero ito’y dahil alam namin ang kalupitan na kayang iparanas ng tao. Hindi na maaring may kumupit muli ang aming mga pakpak. Hindi na muling mararanasan ng isa sa amin ang pagdurusa ng pagiging ‘di buo.

Mabubuhay na lamang kami sa kathang-isip ng tao, at sa likas ng kariktan ng bahag-hari, mula ngayon, at magpakailanman.

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English Version

Everyone thinks the biraddali are myths on earth, we’re just too careful to let ourselves be seen. Except for one occasion, one time when one of us let our guard down. You see, us seven sisters take the rainbow down to earth to remove our silver wings and relax and bathe in the fresh mountain springs.

One day, a human saw our wings on the ground and threatened to make us his wives. We eldest six sisters were wise enough to keep our wings close and when he got near, we put on our wings and flew back to the heavens. But the youngest sister kept her wings further away and the man stole them from her.

A biraddali will not back down. The youngest sister changed into a snake at first, slithering away, but the man was a hunter and trapped the snake in a cage. The youngest then changed into a scorpion and hid amongst the forest floor, but the man’s vision was great, so he saw her scuttling away. The youngest then changed into a centipede, going up the tree branches to escape his advances, but the man was quick, he stopped the centipede at a branch. Finally, the youngest had no choice, without her wings the biraddali’s power was fading.

The youngest acquiesced to being the man’s wife, and she stayed with him, waiting for the day she could get her silver wings and fly back on the rainbow towards the heavens. We elder sisters would not let the youngest remain on earth with the man.

We did not want to risk getting captured by the man ourselves, and each one of us was scared of getting our wings clipped, so we carried our whispers on the winds, hoping that one would reach our trapped sister.

We whispered of the forest and of the trees, telling her that the man buried her silver wings under a tree beside the river. We whispered of freedom and hope. We whispered that we missed her.

And one day, we were heard. The youngest sister escaped the man’s house while he was away and dashed towards the forest. Never had there been a swifter biraddali, and never had any angel knew what freedom had meant.

Everyone will think the biraddali are myths, for we know the cruelty that man can possess. Our wings will never be taken from us. Never again will one of us know the fear of being shackled to the earth. Never again will the rest know the misery of knowing that we are not complete.

We will remain alive in the myths of men and in the beauty of the rainbow. For now, and forever.

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Written by Karl Gaverza
Tagalog Translation by Ruiz Act
Copyright © Karl Gaverza
Translation Copyright © Ruiz Act

Inspired by “The Seven Angels.” in Sulu Studies 2. Rixhon ed. 1973.

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Karl Gaverza

Speculative fiction writer. Philippine folklore and heritage researcher.

Author of The Spirits of the Philippine Archipelago.

Currently in the middle of fixing up an encyclopedia of Philippine Mythical creatures.