Bagobo myths describe the Tigbanua as having one eye, with tall, lean bodies and long necks that they can twist to see what’s behind them. Their hair is disheveled and their one eye is either red or yellow. They have flat noses and pointed teeth, their feet are oversized and usually their skin is covered in muck and grime. They prefer to stay in jungles, caves or rocky areas. They are some stories where they hunt in groups and attack a victim, dismembering the poor soul and tearing them with their claws. These creatures are afraid of dogs, despite their large and fearsome demeanor.
Maximo Ramos describes these creatures as ‘ogre like’ which gives room for interpretation.
A Tigbanua Tale
Gonzalo surveyed his domain with the quiet dignity that was unique to his breed. He was a bulldog, born to be resolute and courageous. He took one more lap around the house to make sure everything was in order for the morning.
“Watch out!” Lila almost tripped over herself. Gonzalo deftly dodged the slight frame of the kindergartener and positioned himself and her bag just within reach.
“Good boy!” She grabbed her rose-colored backpack and headed to the kitchen. Gonzalo trailed behind her to make sure she didn’t fall again.
Breakfast passed without incident. Lila enjoyed her champorado with the kind of gusto a child gets when they realize that they’re having chocolate for a meal. Gonzalo noshed on his kibble and was surprised to find hotdogs mixed in with his food. “The lady must still be in a good mood,” he thought.
Today was different and Gonzalo put himself on guard for anything suspicious. Lila didn’t wait for the big yellow house like she did yesterday. Instead, she hugged Gonzalo and shouted “We’re going to the park!”
Outside; Gonzalo always hated going outside, sure there was the daily walk and the occasional chase around the nearby streets, but there was a sense of danger that surrounded the outside. He looked at Lila and whimpered.
“Silly doggie! Let’s go to the park!” Lila tried clumsily to attach the walking harness onto Gonzalo but it was no use. The lady stepped in and fixed it up and she, Gonzalo and Lila were all set to go to the park.
It was only a short distance from the house and Gonzalo grew increasingly more cautious. There was a strange smell that he could not place. “Stop barking doggie, don’t be scary!”
Gonzalo’s warnings were dismissed, but he was on high alert.
Something was out there, if he could only figure it out.
The lady set Lila and Gonzalo next to a bench. “Don’t go too far, always be somewhere I can see you.” Lila nodded and smiled like she was supposed to and Gonzalo knew that this was going to be a long day. The lady had already took out her small light-box and started playing with it. Gonzalo didn’t know what the appeal was, he had once gotten scolded for chewing it up. If he couldn’t play with it what was the point?
Lila ran towards the slide, laughing along the way. The strange smell was still in the air, almost mocking Gonzalo with its mystery. He kept a keen eye on Lila, and waited.
He waited as Lila went down the slide. He waited as she played hide and seek with the other neighbor children. He waited as they all had some snacks.
There were many dogs in the park that day and Gonzalo knew that they smelled it too. The humans would sit and wonder why their dogs were so well behaved, completely unaware of the looming danger.
“Where are you?” His mind raced through the possibilities.
Suddenly the Lady shouted “Lila! Time to go home!” the sun was already setting, thick beams of orange light were peeking through the clouds.
If Gonzalo thought that going home would ease his worries, he was mistaken. The smell had followed them from the park.
The lady and Lila were getting ready for dinner now, the scent of adobo failing to mask what kept the bulldog’s hair on end. He stationed himself by the kitchen, he knew what his duty was and he would not shy away from it.
They were his pack and he was their protector.
“Lila, I’m just going to step out for a few minutes. Be a good girl and eat your dinner.” The lady takes her light-box and her fingers race. Gonzalo had seen this before, it meant that the lady would be out for a while.
“There’s something here! Can’t you smell it?!” His barks fell on deaf ears. The lady thought he was hungry so she gave him some food and left the kitchen.
Gonzalo didn’t have any appetite, he was too focused on the smell. His nose had picked up the scent coming from Lila’s room. There was no hesitation as the dog bolted out of the kitchen and raced towards the smell.
It was bigger than Gonzalo expected, it was so tall that it had to crouch to fit in the room. Its long neck twisted around and a large, yellow eye greeted him with a menacing glare. The mouth opened to reveal rows of pointed fangs.
Brave was the bulldog as he lunged to the monstrous creature before him. The creature recoiled in terror as the hound bit it right in the neck. It spotted the window and ran. As big as it was, it had a coward’s heart.
That night the neighbors discussed the strange sound they heard around dinnertime. Most say it was a wild animal that somehow got into the village, others think it was a burst pipe.
Whatever the answer, the night yielded to a tired Gonzalo sleeping at the foot of Lila’s bed, dreaming the dreams of a very good dog.
Written by Karl Gaverza
Copyright © Karl Gaverza
Inspired by the Tigbanua entry in Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology. Ramos. 1971.
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.
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