Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tiyanak (The Demon Child)

When the average person sees a baby, they cannot help but be overwhelmed by feelings of love and caring. And why not? They're adorable and innocent, as yet uncorrupted by the selfish ways of the world. They rely on their parents and other appointed adults for nourishment and protection, because they are weak and vulnerable to harm at this point in their lives. In the Philippines, however, those feelings are tempered by a sense of caution and fear of the supernatural. These people know that the cries of an infant in distress don't always belong to a human child. Those cries may belong to a demonic monster known as the Tiyanak, which deceives people into taking them in and then feeds on their would-be saviors when they least expect it.

In Filipino mythology, the Tiyanak (or Impakto) is a vampiric monster that takes on the form of a human baby or a small child (it can appear as a boy or a girl) that dwells within the deepest, darkest parts of the forests and abandoned parts of small towns or villages. The Tiyanak is believed to be the ghost or the reanimated corpse of a child who died before it could be given the rites of holy baptism. These innocent souls are bound for Hell, where they will spend the rest of eternity in Limbo. Over time, these unbaptized innocents are warped and corrupted by the hellish environment and the evil of the Pit, and are thus transformed into evil spirits. Some of these spirits escape from their fiery confinement and return to the mortal plane as goblins, where they devour living humans. In modern times, this definition has been extended to include miscarried or aborted fetuses. Tiyanak who are "born" in this manner inevitably seek to exact their revenge on the people who deprived them of their right to live: their parents. But that vengeance may also extend to the doctor who performed the abortion.

There are also people who believe that the Tiyanak is the offspring of a human woman and a demon, possibly one that is related to the Incubus. Other legends say that this creature is created when a pregnant woman dies before giving birth. When the unfortunate woman is buried, the baby undergoes a transformation into an undead creature in the womb and then emerges from the grave to feed on humans. Thus, the Tiyanak is "born in the ground," neither living nor dead, but undead. It is interesting to note that a similar creature may be found in Malay folklore: the Pontianak, a vampiric ghost that preys upon men. This undead monster was once a woman who died before she was able to give birth. Although they are from different cultures, the Pontianak could be said to be the mother of the Tiyanak. Be aware that this is only speculation, and should not be taken at face value.

There seems to be some differences in opinion as to what the Tiyanak's true form looks like. Some say that the creature's natural form resembles a baby with claws, fangs, and red eyes. It may also be able to take on the appearance of a specific child. There are others who believe that the Tiyanak has more in common with the dwarves of Filipino folklore, sharing their elemental connection to the earth (although whether or not this connection to the earth grants the demon child any specific powers remains to be seen). In this instance, the Tiyanak appears as a short elderly man with wrinkled skin, a mustache and a long beard, a flat nose, and eyes that are said to be the same size as peseta coins. Oddly enough, the creature's right leg is said to be much shorter than its left one. This handicap forces the Tiyanak to move by leaping, and makes it very difficult for the creature to hunt or to otherwise pursue potential prey. However, the monster is able to compensate for its relative lack of mobility with its eerie ability to mimic the cries of a frightened baby.

There are other versions of the Tiyanak legend as well. In one instance, the demon child is thought to fly through the air under its own power, all the while still appearing to be a baby! On the island of Mindoro, the Tiyanak is thought to be able to assume the form of a black bird and soar through the skies in that form. In Pampanga, the legend changes yet again. Here, they are believed to be small people (like faeries, also known as the Little People) with nut-brown skin, large noses, wide mouths (presumably filled with sharp teeth), fierce-looking eyes, and "sharp voices." On a rather incredulous note, these Tiyanak don't walk on the ground like ordinary people do. Instead, they float in mid-air! This may yet be another connection to faery lore. But regardless of how the creature appears to humans, it is still a monster that seeks to kill people whenever it has a chance.

In order to lure its prey within striking distance, the Tiyanak cries like a baby. There are very few people who can ignore this disheartening sound, as only the truly heartless could ignore the sound of an infant in distress. The creature varies the sound of its voice, at times getting closer while seeming further away at other times. By doing so, it seeks to thoroughly confuse and disorient its prey so that they become hopelessly lost in the forests. Once the intended prey picks the creature up, the Tiyanak assumes its true form. The creature's claws and fangs extend, and the Tiyanak proceeds to feed on the still-living victim's flesh and blood. Additionally, the demon child takes great delight in leading travelers off of the beaten path before it entices them with its cries. The Tiyanak is also said to be fond of abducting children, much like the Changeling of European faery lore.

As frightening and dangerous as the Tiyanak is, there are ways to counter and drive the creature away. According to legend, the most effective way to break free of the monster's crying enchantment is simply to strip down, turn one's clothes inside out, and then put them back on. Apparently, the Tiyanak finds this to be hilarious, and will generally let the victim go before it heads back into its forest home. It is also thought that loud noises, like those from a New Year's celebration, will frighten the Tiyanak and cause it to flee back into the forest. According to legend, objects that are used to ward off the Aswang are also said to be effective against the Tiyanak as well. Such objects and substances include garlic, silver, a rosary, holy water, salt, and a crucifix. However, there are no given methods for destroying the Tiyanak. However, one may always fall back on decapitating the monster and then salting and burning the corpse afterwards. It never hurts to be careful.

In the sixteenth century, the Spanish sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines and began to colonize the islands, starting with Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Over time, Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion through the Philippine Islands, and the legend of the Tiyanak was incorporated into that particular branch of Christianity, becoming the unbaptized, undead souls of children who had died. But many of the Filipino people still recall the old ways of life, which includes beliefs in monsters and spirits that pre-date the Spanish colonization. And encounters with these creatures of the night, such as the Tiyanak, continue to be reported to this day. It would seem that, as long as the Filipino people themselves continue to endure, then monsters like the Tiyanak are here to stay.


Tiyanak (Wikipedia)

Legendary Humanoids - Tiyanak, the Demon Child

Tiyanak - Demon Child

Monster of the Week: The Tiyanak of the Philippines


Tiyanak (Monstropedia)

Legend and Story of the Philippine Tiyanak Child Vampire