The Mantiw are thirty foot spirits in Iloilo, Panay often spotted whistling while roaming the wide open fields, or leaning against coconut and buri palm trees. Witnesses describe them as having a fair complexion, broad shoulders, and hooked noses. Despite being commonly reserved and peaceful in nature, the Mantiw are easily offended when a human attempts to whistle along with them. As a result, it will grab the whistling human it finds a nuisance, carry them off to the tallest coconut tree and abandon them on the very top without means of climbing back down.
As far as I can find, there isn’t really anything like the Mantiw in the rest of Philippine folklore. There are plenty of tall forest spirits, but nothing concrete enough to solidify a connection to the Mantiw. There is however a very similar being in Malaysian folklore.
Hantu Tinggi are tall ghosts that reside deep within the forest. Formed much like a palm tree or a coconut tree, they are said to be so tall that their head touches the sky. At this height, humans are only able to see the Hantu Tinggi from the waist down. Sometimes,their feet are mistaken for a tree trunk.
The Hantu Tinggi grows taller as a person approaches it. Direct eye contact with the being may cause severe illness. If threatened by someone, the Hantu Tinggi grabs the person and immediately teleports them to some other nearby place where the person will land disoriented. Stories about Hantu Tinggi are often told to children, not only as cautionary tale,but also to prevent them from climbing tall trees at night.
Legend of the Ten Bornean Datus
I personally do not subscribe to the legend of the 10 datus of Borneo, but I do believe that there must have been a small migration that happened specifically from Borneo to Panay. While many areas of the Philippines has Indianized influences, Panay remains unique in its interpretation. Interestingly, Panay doesn’t share the same origin and creation myths as the rest of the Western Visayas. While they hold in their pantheon many similar creatures, they also have unique mythical beings that deviate in fantastic fashion from their ethnolinguistic neighbours – yet they are tightly knit to Malay folk beliefs and mythology.
The Ten Bornean Datus Epic refers to the ten chieftains who allegedly ventured to the Island of Panay boarding a boat called balangay (or barangay) to evade the tyrannical ruler of Borneo, Datu Makatunaw. The datus, believed to be the fathers of precolonial Philippines, were the following: Datu Puti (and wife, Piangpangan), Datu Sumakwel (and wife, Kapinangan), Datu Bangkaya (and wife, Katurong), Datu Paiborong (and wife, Pabilaan), Datu Paduhinogan (and wife, Tibongsapay), Datu Dumangsol, Datu Libay, Datu Dumangsil, Datu Domalogdog, and Datu Balensuela.
According to the legend, upon the arrival of the datus, the local inhabitants of the islands, the Aeta, grew terrified but the diplomatic Datu Puti said to Marikudo, the chief of the natives, that they had peaceful intentions. Later both parties entered into a trade alliance. Marikudo invited the datus to a feast, during which the ten chiefs negotiated the purchase of Panay Island for a golden salakot. Since the Aetas found the land overwhelmingly vast for them, they retreated to the forest, leaving the Datus with the land which they divided among themselves (namely Aklan, Irong Irong and Hamtik), leading to the birth of Philippine population and culture.
Recent studies have discovered many irregularities in this legend which has discounted it as a reliable source of facts on precolonial Philippines. As I said, I do not subscribe to the 10 Bornean Datus epic/ theory, but I do believe there must have been a unique migration to Panay from Borneo.
A Mantiw Tale
When there is a sick person at your home, especially when he is very ill, you will find that when you are alone, you can hear all the sounds that will make your hair stand.
Sometimes,you could hear sounds as “tik-tik” , of the so-called aswang, “wilik-wilik,” “tiw-tiw,,” etc., the howling of the dogs which according to old folks is the sign that there are devils (panulays) roaming around.
Have you ever heard from your grandmother about the so-called mantiw? This is a very tall person, as tall as a coconut tree.
The story of the mantiw runs like this. There was once a young man who was fond of serenading late at night. His parents advised him not to stay out late at night because the mantiw would take him away. But he did not heed his parents advise.
One night about eleven o’clock he sat on the steps of the house of his sweetheart strumming his guitar. A tall person passed by and raised him to the height of his shoulder. He felt so afraid that he wanted to scream. So he held his guitar fast and in order to calm his fears, he strummed his guitar louder and faster. The guitar was so near the ears of the very tall man that he became frightened of the noise. The young man ran as fast as he could and later set his prize on a tall buri palm.
The following morning, the parents searched for their son who was not able to go home that night. When he had recovered from his fright, he shouted for help from the top of the buri palm. Two ladders where placed one on top of the other in order that he could go down.
The man was taught a lesson and from that time on he did not go out at night especially to serenade.
I would welcome any additional information about this topic from our readers. Please feel free to contact us.
Source: Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends, Damiana Eugenio
The Creatures Of Philippine Lower Mythology, Maximo Ramos
2018 © The Aswang Project
Jordan is a Canadian documentary director/ producer. He made the 2011 feature length documentary THE ASWANG PHENOMENON - an exploration of the aswang myth and its effects on Philippine society. Currently he is in post production for "The Aswang Project" web-series, which will feature 6 myths from the Philippines. The TIKBALANG, KAPRE and BAKUNAWA episodes are available to watch on YouTube.
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