Dragon stories in Indigenous communities in the Philippines
Happy Lunar year of the dragon!
In many East Asian cultures, the dragon is seen as a symbol of authority, honor and dignity. It is said to manifest intelligence, leadership and creative pursuit. The symbolism of dragons are visible in some Indigenous communities in the Philippines including the “unta '' from the Maguindanaoan culture inspired by a mythological dragon/snake like creature Kedu who is known to swallow the moon, causing an eclipse. Unta is usually a complement with Sagayan dance that is part of Maguindanaon street festivals.
In other cultures in the Philippines, there are several mythological dragons, most of which are sun or moon eating creatures. The most famous one is Bakunawa from the Visayan mythology known to have caused the eclipse by swallowing 6 out of 7 moons, last of which the people decided to distract the dragon to save the world from darkness. Bakunawa was also known to be the cause of earthquakes and typhoons in the Philippines due to the movement of the dragon’s tail.
Another is the Minokawa from the Bagobo Tagabawa mythology. The Minokawa is known to be a bird dragon who had swallowed the moon that caused the eclipse. The Bagobo Tagabawa community were known to make loud noises through their gongs to scare the Minokawa and save them from total darkness.
Arimaonga is a gigantic Maranao mythological dragon like lion. This creature was known to be so playful that it would swallow the sun and the moon that causes darkness in the community. The Maranao people were known to make loud noises through their gongs to force Arimaonga to spit out the moon and save their villages from darkness.
In Manobo culture, Tambanakawa. This creature, similar to other mythological dragons, is known to swallow the moon. The villagers of the Manobo tribe would come out of their homes to bang their drums and force the creature to let go of the moon.
In Northern Philippines, Olimaw is part of the Ilokano mythology. Similar to the rest of the mythological dragons across different Indigenous cultures in the Philippines, Olimaw is alos a light eating creature.
The economy has been quite a challenge the last two years. Post pandemic times is an era of recovery. 2023 was quite a year with Maui Fires, the ongoing genocide in Palestine and many other things that seem to be drawing as farther from humanity. The year of the dragon is looking to be the vessel of hope for all of us for a renaissance of our time. We are still in gratitude for the resilience that our partner communities have influenced the world, with their continuing living traditions.
We hope that this year is better for you. Our team is manifesting determination, courage and continuous healing to all! Gong Xi Fa Choi!
More resources on dragons available with Kirby Araullo’s Dragons of Philippine Mythology: