The Gods and Goddesses

Again, just like the creation myths, gods and goddesses vary from region to region. I’ve mentioned a few in the creation stories, but I actually want to discuss a few different ones this time (though, in some cases, they can be linked to the creation gods from the previous lesson).

The Tagalog “Pantheon”

Below, I have listed the major Pantheon gods and goddesses. This may or may not include the Diwata, who were believed to have been gods in ancient times. Now, the term “diwata” refers to mythical creatures akin to fairies and nymphs (and in some cases, demons), but we’ll get to that in a later lesson.

Bathala, or Bathalang Maykapal (or any other spelling variations), is the head honcho of the gods in the Tagalog myths. There are definitely counterparts in the other dialects, and you might recognize him as Captan/Kaptan from the Visayan creation myth. Bathala reigns supreme in the heavens, though his beginnings were not necessarily so set.

In his story, Bathala was more known to have ruled over the barren Earth, while two other gods (brothers, perhaps)—Ulilang Kaluluwa (a snake living in the clouds) and Galang Kaluluwa (the winged wanderer)—ruled the skies. None of the three knew each other, and when Ulilang met with Bathala, tempers ran high. In a violent duel, Bathala emerged as the victor, and Ulilang was killed, giving Bathala control of the heavens. Galang, the more good-natured of the sky rulers, became Bathala’s best friend, and after the sky wanderer’s illness—leading to an ultimate death—Bathala ruled supreme. The god is known to have married a mortal woman, and from her sprang three of his powerful offspring: Apolaki (God of War and Guardian of the Sun), Mayari (Goddess of the Moon), and Tala (Goddess of the Stars).

Apolaki and Mayari
I’m putting these two together for a reason. Apolaki is also known as Adlaw (remember Liadlaw?), and he holds dominion over the sun. His sister, Mayari (whose Visayan equivalent is Bulan), rules over the moon, and is known to be the most beautiful goddess in Bathala’s kingdom.

According to one myth (generally believed to be Pampangan), when Bathala passed away, he did not designate the Earth to any of his children. Apolaki and Mayari both fought over the Earth’s dominion; the sun god wanted to be the sole ruler, but the goddess of the moon wanted an equal share. This resulted in a ferocious battle, Apolaki taking out one of his sister’s eyes. Regretting his actions, he conceded and ruled the earth with Mayari, only they would rule at different times. In the day, it was Apolaki’s moment, and at night, Mayari shone in the sky (though her luminescence is dimmer, due to the loss of one eye).

Not much is said about Tala as the daughter of Bathala, only that she ruled the stars (and is usually referred to as the “evening and morning star”). There are, however, varied accounts of her origination. One myth tells us that she is not the daughter of Bathala, but in fact the child of moon goddess Buan (probably a variation of “Bulan”). It is said that Tala warns her mother of sun god Arao’s (Adlaw) rampage, and only when the sun is gone is it safe for Buan to bring forth the stars in the sky.

The bird of legend is said to be the first creature inhabiting the universe, and has been linked to the saving of Earth’s first humans: Malakas (“strong”) and Maganda (“beautiful”). While this name is particularly not used in the Tagalog creation myth about the bird who stirred up the waters and the heavens, I believe there may be a correlation.

The Marias
Maria Cacao, Maria Makiling, and Maria Sinukuan are mountain goddesses (or fairies) with their own separate jurisdictions. The most famous of the three, Maria Makiling, is the guardian of Mount Makiling, located in Laguna. The mountain is said to resemble the profile of a woman, perhaps of Maria herself. Maria Cacao watches over Mount Lantoy in Cebu, and it is said that her domain houses the Cacao plants, a useful ingredient in most Filipino chocolate delicacies. Lastly, Maria Sinukuan holds dominion over Mount Arayat in Pampanga. There, she is said to bring forth bountiful harvests from the mountain’s fruit trees.

“Moon eater” Bakunawa is most akin to that of a gigantic sea serpent or dragon, and is said to be the god of the underworld. Bakunawa is apparently a major cause of the eclipse, for he swallows the moon at that time.

According to some accounts, Bathala and Bakunawa are mortal enemies. In ancient times, it was believed that Bathala created seven moons to light up the night sky. Enchanted by the beauty of the seven moons, Bakunawa leapt from the sea and swallowed the moons, angering the king of the gods. To keep the giant serpent from swallowing the moons whole, people in the ancient villages would bang their pots and pans noisily outside their homes, in hopes of scaring Bakunawa into spitting the moons back out.

Post-Spanish Philippines

In time, the gods and goddesses’ roles, names, and myths changed to better fit a more Spanish and Christian influence. Because of the Spaniard settlements on the islands of the Philippines, missionaries of the time have worked to assimilate the idea of Bathala and the major gods into a monotheistic principle, with saints as the lesser divinities. The missionaries may have been successful, but even then, some of the Filipino culture is steeped with allusions to the gods and goddesses of old.

I have included a more comprehensive list of Visayan, Bicolon, and Tagalog gods and goddesses in a separate page if you would like to take a look at them and see the similarities among those of its Western mythological counterparts. For a longer list, you might want to check this link out.


F. Landa Jocano, Outline of Philippine Mythology (Centro Escolar University Research and Development Center, 1969)