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.

In Philippine mythology, the Tigmamanukan was believed by the Tagalog people to be an omen bird. Although the behaviors of numerous birds and lizards were said to be omens, particular attention was paid to the tigmamanukan. In pre-colonial times, 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. The tigmamanukan bird was also the omen bird sent by Bathala to crack open the bamboo where the first man and woman came from.


In Mindanao, a dove called a Limokon was similarly believed by the Mandaya, Bagobo, and Manobo to be an omen bird. Another similar bird in Luzon was called balatiti.


The root word of the word tigmamanukan is "manok". Though in modern Filipino, this is exclusively used for the chicken (Gallus galls domesticus), in Pre-colonial Philippines (as documented by early explorers in the 17th century) 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 salubong ("meeting", "encounter"). The root of the word "tigmamanukan" can be traced to the cognate manuk or "manók". The term most likely evolved from the practice of augury ie foretelling omens using the ritual sacrifice of chickens (although sometimes other animals as well like pigs). Ancient Filipino shamans/priestesses 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.


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]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fairy-bluebird genus of birds

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Bathala deity

According to the indigenous religious beliefs of the Tagalog people, Bathala is the all-mighty epicene and hermaphrodite deity who created the universe. A descriptive honorific is often attached to his name, describing him as the Bathalang Maylicha and as the Bathalang Maycapal.

Asian fairy-bluebird species of bird

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Bakunawa Philippine mythological dragon

The Bakunawa is a serpent-like dragon in Philippine mythology. It is believed to be the cause of eclipses, earthquakes, rains, and wind. The movements of the Bakunawa served as a geomantic calendar system for ancient Filipinos and were part of the shamanistic rituals of the babaylan. It is usually depicted with a characteristic looped tail and a single horn on the nose. It was generally believed to be a sea serpent, but are also variously believed to inhabit either the sky or the underworld.

Philippine mythical creatures are the mythical beasts, monsters, and enchanted beings of more than 140 ethnic groups in the Philippines. Each ethnic people has their own unique set of belief systems, which includes the belief in various mythical creatures. Due to this, there has been around 500 recorded different mythical creatures in Philippine mythology, each belonging to specific belief systems of certain ethnic peoples. Although the number may be expanded into around a thousand, as the mythical creatures of more than a hundred ethnic groups in the country have yet to be recorded and published by scholars. There are also some mythical creatures in Philippine mythology that have been imported or altered due to colonialism and globalization, nonetheless, majority have retained their indigenous beliefs rooted in folklore.

The deities of Philippine mythology are the gods and goddesses worshiped by Filipinos before the Christianization of the natives. These deities form part of anitism, commonly referred in the West as Philippine mythology, which was the dominant religion in the archipelago for more than a millennium prior to colonization. These deities and their stories have similar elements and characteristics when compared to other mythologies, especially in Asia and Oceania.

Philippine hanging parrot species of bird

The Philippine hanging parrot is also widely known as the colasisi taken from its local Tagalog name, "kulasisi". It is a small parrot species of the family Psittaculidae. It includes about eleven subspecies, which are all native to only the Philippines; however, the exact taxonomy is unclear, and at least one of the subspecies might become split off and become a separate species if further research provides clarification.

Philippine fairy-bluebird species of bird

The Philippine fairy-bluebird is a species of bird in the family Irenidae. It is endemic to the Philippines.

The Manaul bird is a creature of Philippine folklore. There are at least four existing stories regarding Manaul.

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In the Philippines, Amihan refers to the season dominated by the trade winds, which are experienced in the Philippines as a cool northeast wind. It is characterized by moderate temperatures, little or no rainfall in the central and western part of Luzon and Visayas, and a prevailing wind from the east. On the east coast of Luzon it brings drizzling rainfall and squalls. The effect on Mindanao relatively less than in the northern part of the country.


The dambana, in modern times, may refer to shrines of indigenous religions in the Philippines, altar of Philippine churches, or monuments erected to remember Philippine history. However, before the introduction of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines, the dambana was used as the main term for a sacred place, which is a home to a single deity, various deities, ancestor spirits, and beings aside from ancestor spirits and deities. Additionally, these dambanas were also traditionally called as simbahan, however, the latter's meaning was fully transformed by the Spanish in the 16th century until it only referred to 'Catholic church' by the 17th century. In traditional dambana beliefs, all deities, beings sent by Bathala, and ancestor spirits are collectively called anitos. Supernatural non-anito beings are called lamang-lupa or lamang-dagat. The dambana is usually taken cared of by the katalonan, the indigenous spiritual leader of the barangay (community), and to some extent, the datu and the lakan as well. Initially unadorned and revered minimally, damabanas later on were filled with adornments centering on religious practices towards larauan statues due to trade and religious influences from various independent and vassal states. It is adorned with statues home to anitos traditionally-called larauan, statues reserved for future burial practices modernly-called likha, scrolls or documents with suyatbaybayin calligraphy, and other objects sacred to dambana practices such as lambanog, tuba, bulaklak or flowers, palay, bigas, shells, pearls, jewels, beads, native crafts such as banga (pottery), native swords and bladed weapons, bodily accessories, war shields, enchanted masks, battle weapons used in pananandata or kali, charms called agimat or anting-anting, curse deflectors such as buntot pagi, native garments and embroideries, food, and gold in the form of adornments and barter money. Animal statues, notably native dogs, guard a dambana structure along with engravings and calligraphy portraying protections and the anitos.

Religion in pre-colonial Philippines

The nature of religion in the pre-colonial Philippines is often unclear. Religions present include animism, indigenous religious beliefs and mythologies such as Anito and influences from Hinduism and Buddhism. The earliest pieces of evidence that exist are archaeological finds including Hindu–Buddhist gold statues. The earliest written evidence comes from the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, dated to around 900 CE, which uses the Buddhist–Hindu lunar calendar. With the arrival of Islam in the 14th century, the older religions gradually disappeared, and after the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, became the dominant religion. However, some of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines continue to practice animism today, and many of the traditions in Anito have survived in the form of Folk Catholicism.

Mano (gesture) Filipino gesture

Mano or pagmamano is an "honoring-gesture" used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of requesting a blessing from the elder. Similar to hand-kissing, the person giving the greeting bows towards the hand of the elder and presses their forehead on the elder's hand. Usually performed with the right hand, the person showing respect may ask "Mano po" or "[Pa-]bless po" to the elder in order to ask permission to initiate the gesture. Typically someone may mano to their older relatives upon entry into their home or upon seeing them.

The indigenous religious beliefs of the Tagalog people were well documented by Spanish missionaries, mostly in the form of epistolary accounts (relaciones) and as entries in the various dictionaries put together by missionary friars.

<i>Anito</i> Ancestor spirits, nature spirits, and deities (diwata) in the indigenous animistic religions of precolonial Philippines

Anito, also spelled anitu, refers to ancestor spirits, nature spirits, and deities in the indigenous animistic religions of precolonial Philippines. It can also refer to carved humanoid figures, the taotao, made of wood, stone, or ivory, that represent these spirits. Anito is also sometimes known as diwata in certain ethnic groups.

In Philippine mythology, the Limokon was believed by the Mandaya, Bagobo, and Manobo people of Mindanao to be an omen bird.


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  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.
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