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".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.
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.
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.")
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.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.
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 )while another specifically identified the Philippine fairy bluebird (Irena cyanogastra). In any case, most of the sources which describe the tigmamanukan agree that it is distinguished by a "blue" color. 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, and the Palawan fairy-bluebird (Irena tweeddalii) which naturally lives in the Palawan faunal region and was confirmed to be a separate species from the Asian fairy-bluebird (Irena puella) in 2017. The Visayas faunal region and Mindoro faunal region are not known to have populations of any Irena species.
"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)
"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)
"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)
"The Tagálogs adored now Tigmamanoquìn, which was a blue bird of the size of a turtledove..."
Fr. San Antonio, Cronicas, (1738-44)
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