Meet the Monsters: The freaks and fiends of Philippine horror

A short roundup of the best of our creature features, from ‘Balawis’ to ‘Nanay.’

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IF YOU’RE LIKE MOST, you were also once deathly terrified to go potty for fear of the amphibious monster in the toilet. Or maybe the presence of a nocturnal predator kept you from loitering outside at night. Maybe you were also once wary of playing with new infants, afraid that you’re actually interfacing with a literal hell-spawn.

In this article, we’re quickly rounding up a handful of iconic monsters from Filipino horror films.

5 iconic monsters from Filipino horror films

Halimaw: Halimaw sa Banga

Horror, Drama | 1986 | dir. Mario O’Hara

Included here for its iconic character design, the “halimaw” (literally translates to “monster” in English) is actually a demonic spirit cursed to be imprisoned inside a “banga,” or a giant clay pot. When a wealthy family excavates this cursed pot and brings it home as decor, the demon inside starts to murder people in order to break free from its curse.

This iconic antagonist first appeared in the MMFF two-part anthology film called Halimaw, which, in case you didn’t know, also featured Christopher De Leon’s directorial debut, with his other half of the film, titled Komiks.

Shake, Rattle & Roll: Nanay

Horror, Comedy | 1991 | dir. Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes

Perhaps the most iconic Filipino movie monster bar none, the “undin” is a small amphibious creature with a deathly acidic saliva that can work its way through all sorts of material — including human flesh. It’s scary in that it’s able to dwell inside toilets before pouncing on its unenviable preys. As it turns out, the “undin” is actually a matriarch being aggressively protective of her offspring and is only out to enact violence to retrieve her eggs that were inadvertently taken away from her native habitat.

Balawis

Horror, Sci-Fi | 1996 | dir. Maurice Carvajal

Next, we have the “balawis” from the same-name film directed by Maurice Carvajal. It’s a reptilian monster borne out of the World War 2. Like its Japanese sibling, Godzilla, the creature seems to stand in as a post-war metaphor, and it, too, can wreak serious havoc. Though smaller in size, the “balawis” is a skilled predator and breaks no sweat exacting revenge on mercenaries foolish enough to hunt for it.

Tiyanak

Horror, Drama | 1988 | dir. Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes

You think babies are cute? Watch out, it might be an evil creature from hell! Filmmaking duo Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes brought this iconic Filipino monster to the screen in 1988, touching on the fears and anxieties of parenthood. This monster is an impish vampiric creature that deceives its victims by pretending to be a baby. When people fall into a false sense of comfort is exactly the moment that this ruthless creature pounces and snacks on its prey.

Zuma

Horror, Drama | 1985 | dir. Jun Raquiza

Last but not least, we have the legendary Zuma, an iconic creature from the 1985 film directed by Jun Raquiza.

Not to be confused with the also-iconic artifact of the Windows XP-cum-flash video games era, this Zuma is a demigod hailing from the God, K’uk’ulkan, the Feathered Serpent. It has green skin and a bi-headed snake slinking around its broad shoulders. To keep its strength, Zuma slays women and eats their hearts.


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