Last updated
GroupingOmen/mythological bird
Region Philippines
A sacred symbol of Bathala, depicting him in the middle with an anito guardian underneath him and a tigmamanukan omen bird behind him. The non-traditional image is influenced by modernity as the tigmamanukan is wrongfully portrayed as a sarimanok from Mindanao. BathalaDiwataPhilippinemythology.jpg
A sacred symbol of Bathala, depicting him in the middle with an anito guardian underneath him and a tigmamanukan omen bird behind him. The non-traditional image is influenced by modernity as the tigmamanukan is wrongfully portrayed as a sarimanok from Mindanao.
Fairy bluebirds are believed to be the tigmamanukan omen birds of the Tagalog supreme god, Bathala. IrenaCyanogastraGould.jpg
Fairy bluebirds are believed to be the tigmamanukan omen birds of the Tagalog supreme god, Bathala.

In Philippine mythology, the Tigmamanukan was believed by the Tagalog people to be an omen or augural bird. Although the behaviors of numerous birds and lizards were said to be omens, particular attention was paid to the tigmamanukan. Before Christianisation, the Tagalogs believed that the tigmamanukan was sent by Bathala to give hints to mankind whether they needed to proceed on a journey or not. In some Philippine creation myths, the tigmamanukan bird was sent by Bathala to crack open the primordial bamboo whence the first man and woman came out.



The root word of the word tigmamanukan is "manók" (descended from Proto-Austronesian *manuk) which in modern Filipino is exclusively used for the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus). Before Christianisation, as documented by Spanish accounts early into the colonisation, the word tigmamanukan was attributed widely for "any bird, lizard or snake that crossed one's path as an omen". [1] Such encounters were called salúbong ("meeting", "encounter"). The term most likely evolved from the practice of augury i. e. foretelling omens using the ritual sacrifice of chickens (although sometimes other animals as well like pigs). Ancient Filipino priestesses or shamans would butcher a chicken, dissect it and read it's entrails for omens, thus the practice of augury and divination of events was linked to the word for chicken. The word manok (initially written as manuc, etc.) were translated in several early Spanish-Tagalog dictionaries (e.g. De los Santos, 1703) as a term for shamans who practiced divination or augury (i.e. augurs; Sp. aguero).


Some stories say the Tigmamanukan pecked open the bamboo shoot that contained the first man and woman. Malakas and Maganda Emerging from Bamboo BambooMan.jpg
Some stories say the Tigmamanukan pecked open the bamboo shoot that contained the first man and woman.

According to San Buenaventura's 1613 Dictionary of the Tagalog Language (one of the few primary written sources for Philippine precolonial culture), the Tagalogs believed that the direction of a tigmamanukan flying across one's path at the beginning a journey indicated the undertaking's result. If it flew to the right, the expedition would be a success. This sign was called "labay", a term still present in some Filipino languages with the meaning "proceed". If the bird flew to the left, the travelers would surely never return. [2]

It was also said that if a hunter caught a tigmamanukan in a trap, they would cut its beak and release it, saying "Kita ay iwawala, kun akoy mey kakawnan, lalabay ka." ("You are free, so when I set forth, sing on the right.") [3]

The Asian fairy bluebird (Irena puella turcosa) is one of two species that have been suggested to be the actual bird referred to by the ancient Tagalogs as the tigmamanukan. Lightmatter fairy bluebird.jpg
The Asian fairy bluebird (Irena puella turcosa) is one of two species that have been suggested to be the actual bird referred to by the ancient Tagalogs as the tigmamanukan.

In mythology

In at least one telling of the Filipino creation myth, the Tigmamanukan was responsible for opening the bamboo from which emerged the first man, Malakas, and first woman, Maganda. [4] It is said that the specific tigmamanukan that pecked the bamboo was named by Bathala as Manaul, however, in other sources, it was the bird form of Amihan, the deity of peace and wind, that pecked the bamboo. Some sources also state that Amihan's bird form is Manaul. [5]

Possible species

While the name "tigmamanukan" is no longer used today, some early western explorers say that the specific bird referred to by the name is a fairy bluebird (genus Irena and family Irenidae ). One explorer specifically identified the Asian fairy bluebird ( Irena puella turcosa ) [6] while another specifically identified the Philippine fairy bluebird (Irena cyanogastra). [7] In any case, most of the sources which describe the tigmamanukan agree that it is distinguished by a "blue" color. [8] In a study confirmed by the IUCN in 2017, it noted that the Philippines has two Irena species, namely, the Philippine fairy-bluebird (Irena cyanogastra) which naturally lives in the Luzon and Mindanao faunal regions, [9] and the Palawan fairy-bluebird (Irena tweeddalii) which naturally lives in the Palawan faunal region [10] and was confirmed to be a separate species from the Asian fairy-bluebird (Irena puella) in 2017. [11] The Visayas faunal region and Mindoro faunal region are not known to have populations of any Irena species.

Historical accounts

"They were, moreover, very liable to find auguries in things they witnessed. For example, if they left their house and met on the way a serpent or rat, or a bird called Tigmamanuguin which was singing in the tree, or if they chanced upon anyone who sneezed, they returned at once to their house, considering the incident as an augury that some evil might befall them if they should continue their journey—especially when the above-mentioned bird sang. This song had two different forms: in the one case it was considered as an evil omen; in the other, as a good omen, and then they continued their journey. They also practiced divination, to see whether weapons, such as a dagger or knife, were to be useful and lucky for their possessor whenever occasion should offer."

Fr. Juan de Plasencia, Customs of the Tagalogs (1589) [12]

"The Tagalos adored a blue bird, as large as a thrush, and called it Bathala, which was among them a term of divinity."

Fr. Pedro Chirino, Relacion de las Islas Filipinas (1604) [13]

"The Tagálogs worshiped a blue bird as large as a turtle-dove, which they called tigmamanuquin, to which they attributed the name of Bathala, which, as above stated, was among them a name for divinity."

Fr. Francisco Colin, Labor Evangelica (1663) [1]

"The Tagálogs adored now Tigmamanoquìn, which was a blue bird of the size of a turtledove..."

Fr. San Antonio, Cronicas, (1738-44) [1]

Other omen birds of the Philippine archipelago

There were myriads of species considered "omen birds" in ancient Philippines. Many of them share a characteristic: blue plumage. In Mindanao, a dove called a Limokon was similarly believed by the Mandaya, Bagobo, and Manobo to be an omen bird. A bird in Luzon was called balatiti or balantikis whose songs were listened to for signs and omens. Another, omen bird known among the hinterlands of the Tagalog region was the salaksak. Another kingfisher species was also called tigmamanukan. These birds were considered taboo to kill.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Bathala Supreme deity according to the indigenous religious beliefs of the Tagalog people

In ancient Tagalog indigenous religion, Bathala Maykapal is the transcendent Supreme Being; the originator and ruler of universe. He is commonly known and referred to as Bathala; a term or title which, in the earlier times, also applied to lesser beings such as personal tutelary spirits, omen birds, comets, and other heavenly bodies which the early Tagalog people believed predicted events. It was after the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in the Philippines in the 16th century that Bathala Maykapal came to be identified as the Christian God, thus its synonymy with Diyos. In the course of the 19th century, the term Bathala was no longer in use when it was totally replaced by Panginoon (Lord) and Diyos (God) until it was popularized again by Filipinos who learned it from Chronicles that the Tagalog God was called Bathala.


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  1. 1 2 3 Blair, Emma (1906). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 Vol. 40. Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 70.
  2. "The Tigmamanukan".
  3. San Buenaventura, Pedro de (1613). "Vocabulario de lengua Tagala". Pila.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. Zamora, Adelaida (24 February 2005). "Nagbuhat Sa Bughaw". Archived from the original on 5 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
  5. "The Role of Birds and Serpents in Philippine Mythology • THE ASWANG PROJECT". 2017-06-09.
  6. Forbes, Henry (Oct 1885). "A Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. A Narrative of Travel and Exploration from 1878 to 1883". The American Naturalist. 19 (10): 975–977. Bibcode:1885Natur..32..218W. doi:10.1086/274069.
  7. Meyer, A.B. "The Tagals Tigmamanukan". In Blumentritt, Ferdinand (ed.). Dictionario Mitologica de Pilipinas. pp. 34, 118.
  8. Garcia, Mauro (Ed.) (1979). "Readings in Philippine Prehistory". Manila 1979: Filipiniana Book Guild, Inc.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link) CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. BirdLife International (2016). "Irena cyanogastra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2016: e.T22704936A93991677. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22704936A93991677.en . Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  10. BirdLife International (2018). "Irena tweeddalii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2018: e.T103775167A132193456. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T103775167A132193456.en . Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  11. BirdLife International (2016). "Irena puella". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2016: e.T103775156A93991401. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T103775156A93991401.en . Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  12. Blair, Emma (1906). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 Vol. 40. Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 178.
  13. Blair, Emma (1906). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 Vol. 12. Arthur H. Clark Company.