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The form of the Tikbalang traces back 4000 years ago, with roots in Hinduism which explain how that influence evolved into the mysterious half-horse creature we know today.


Ancient people in the Philippines believed in animism. They believed that the world had its consciousness and that stones, trees, mountains, water, animals, sun, and the moon had a hidden power known as the spirit or the 'idol'. This power could be good or harm the spirit, but it was believed to control some aspects of life. in 1589, during the earliest days of the Spanish occupation, Father Juan de Plasencia documented the long-term Tikbalang awareness of indigenous peoples.


Hinduism, from its origins in India, spread to Southeast Asia in 200 CE as Indian cultural influence spread throughout the region through trade routes. Tikbalang may have originated from Hayagriva, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. The worship of Hayagriva was recorded in 2000 BCE.


The images for giant flying birds, the Tikbalang, and Sirena are straight out of Hindu imagery. Influence on religion was also prevalent with the concept of a multi-layered world – Heaven and Hell. According to the Hindu Puranas, there are fourteen worlds in the universe: the seven upper and the seven lower. The seven upper worlds are Bhuh, Bhavah, Swah, Mahah, Janah. Tapah, and Satyam; and the seven nether worlds are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala, and Patala. The region known as Bhuh is the earth where we dwell.


Association with Tikbalang began around the 1860 discovery of a statue in Cambodia during the 10th century. It portrayed the demons that Vadavamuka, the more radical version of the avatar of Vishnu. Eventually, Buddhism changed the image of Hayagriva into a small horse's head floating in a crown of fire. In China, provided the old image of Hayagriva face with horses – one of the keepers of the demon of an inferno. The same thing probably happened to the Tikbalang as the Filipinos adopted it in their beliefs after exacting culture through trade. Nine hundred years before the Spaniards arrived, Chinese merchants settled in the Philippines and used horses. The evolution of the Tikbalang probably started then.

Kimberly Balingasa

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