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 its 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, kung ako'y mey kakaunan, 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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fairy-bluebird</span> Genus of birds

The three fairy-bluebirds are small passerine bird species found in forests and plantations in tropical southern Asia and the Philippines. They are the sole members of the genus Irena and family Irenidae, and are related to the ioras and leafbirds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bathala</span> 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 the universe. He is commonly known and referred to as Bathala; a term or title which, in 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. Over the course of the 19th century, the term Bathala was totally replaced by Panginoon (Lord) and Diyos (God). It was no longer used until it was popularized again by Filipinos who learned from chronicles that the Tagalogs' indigenous God was called Bathala.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Augury</span> Roman religious practice

Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion of interpreting omens from the observed behavior of birds. When the individual, known as the augur, interpreted these signs, it is referred to as "taking the auspices". 'Auspices' is from the Latin auspicium and auspex, literally "one who looks at birds." Depending upon the birds, the auspices from the gods could be favorable or unfavorable. Sometimes politically motivated augurs would fabricate unfavorable auspices in order to delay certain state functions, such as elections. Pliny the Elder attributes the invention of auspicy to Tiresias the seer of Thebes, the generic model of a seer in the Greco-Roman literary culture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asian fairy-bluebird</span> Species of bird

The Asian fairy-bluebird is a medium-sized, arboreal passerine bird. This fairy-bluebird is found in forests across tropical southern Asia, Indochina and the Greater Sundas. Two or three eggs are laid in a small cup nest in a tree. It was described by British ornithologist John Latham in 1790. The only other member of the genus and family is the Philippine fairy-bluebird, I. cyanogastra, which replaces the Asian fairy-bluebird in most of the Philippines. Both species are considered as sacred to the Tagalog people as they are perceived as tigmamanukan omens.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine mythology</span> Body of myths, tales, and superstitions held by Filipinos

Philippine mythology is the body of stories and epics originating from, and part of, the indigenous Philippine folk religions, which include various ethnic faiths distinct from one another. Philippine mythology is incorporated from various sources, having similarities with Indonesian and Malay myths, as well as Hindu, Muslim, Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian traditions, such as the notion of heaven, hell, and the human soul. Philippine mythology attempts to explain the nature of the world through the lives and actions of heroes, deities, and mythological creatures. The majority of these myths were passed on through oral tradition, and preserved through the aid of community spiritual leaders or shamans and community elders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indigenous Philippine folk religions</span> Native religions of the Philippines

Indigenous Philippine folk religions are the distinct native religions of various ethnic groups in the Philippines, where most follow belief systems in line with animism. Generally, these indigenous folk religions are referred to as Anito or Anitism or the more modern and less ethnocentric Dayawism. Around 0.2% of the population of the Philippines were affiliated with the so-called "tribal religions", according to the 2010 national census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ornithomancy</span>

Ornithomancy is the practice of reading omens from the actions of birds followed in many ancient cultures including the Greeks, and is equivalent to the augury employed by the ancient Romans.

Amihan is a genderless deity that is depicted as a bird in the Philippine mythology. According to the Tagalog folklore, Amihan is the first creature to inhabit the universe, along with the gods called Bathala and Aman Sinaya. In the legend Amihan is described as a bird who saves the first human beings, Malakas and Maganda from a bamboo plant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine fairy-bluebird</span> Species of bird

The Philippine fairy-bluebird is a species of bird in the family Irenidae. It is endemic to the Philippines being found in the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Bohol.

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

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 is relatively less than in the northern part of the country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Inihaw</span> Barbecue dishes from the Philippines

Inihaw, also known as sinugba or inasal, are various types of grilled or pit-roasted barbecue dishes from the Philippines. They are usually made from pork or chicken and are served on bamboo skewers or in small cubes with a soy sauce and vinegar-based dip. The term can also refer to any meat or seafood dish cooked and served in a similar way. Inihaw are commonly sold as street food and are eaten with white rice or rice cooked in coconut leaves (pusô). Inihaw is sometimes referred to as Filipino barbecue or (informally) Pinoy BBQ.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indigenous religious beliefs of the Tagalog people</span>

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> Spirits and deities in indigenous Philippine folk religions

Anito, also spelled anitu, refers to ancestor spirits, nature spirits, and deities in the indigenous Philippine folk religions from the precolonial age to the present, although the term itself may have other meanings and associations depending on the Filipino ethnic group. 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Limokon</span>

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palawan fairy-bluebird</span> Endemic bird of the Philippines

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


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  2. "The Tigmamanukan". Archived from the original on 2019-10-19.
  3. San Buenaventura, Pedro de (1613). "Vocabulario de lengua Tagala". Pila.{{cite journal}}: 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.
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  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: Filipiniana Book Guild, Inc.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  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.