What is a Tikbalang?

Wanda Albano
Wanda Albano
Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

A tikbalang is a mythical creature found in Philippine folklore. It is described as being a half-horse, half human hybrid. Contrary to the centaurs of western imagination, the tikbalang is said to have the head, and sometimes the hooves, of a horse, with the body of a tall and muscular man. The legs of the tikbalang are said to be so long that when he sits down, his knees rise higher than his head.

There are many stories and beliefs about the tikbalang, some of which are even contradictory. A superstition from the north, for example, tells us that the tikbalang is a mischievous creature and often plays pranks on wayward travelers. One of its favorite tricks involves causing its victims to lose their way until they turn insane. They say that the only way to be free of a tikbalang's control is to turn your shirt inside out.

Other legends depict the tikbalang as a monster of the night, with eyes that glow red. This version of the tikbalang casts it as a fearsome creature, a real danger to people. It is believed that when it is angered - and it is easily angered - it stomps on people with its hooves until they die. In these tales, the tikbalang is always accompanied by the stench of burning hair and smokes great big cigars.

Whatever kind of tikbalang it may be, there is a general consensus that a tamed tikbalang makes a great servant who will do everything its master commands. The proper way to tame a tikbalang however, is under debate. Some say that the secret is in its thick mane of hair, which hides three unusually long and strong strands. When one of these strands is plucked, the tikbalang becomes tame. Others call for a more physical approach, which involves jumping on the creature's back and choking it until it submits.

In old rural areas, people still whisper about a tikbalang getting married when the sun can be seen blazing in the sky during a sudden downpour. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of female tikbalangs in any of the myths, so who the bride may be is anybody's guess.

Discussion Comments


If he got lost in the forest, how do you know he was following his true love? Did he find his way home and tell you?


They are in fact real and have made my cousin disappear because it turned into his true love and in following it he got lost in the forest.


The question is...are Tikbalangs real?

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