Ancient Deities of the Tagalog and Pangasinan people
***We apologize, we could not not find copyright free imagery of the deities featured in this post as we have in the past for other indigenous cultures.
When it comes to gender identity, evidence shows that the ancient Philippines had much more liberal views than we see in some aspects of modern society. Anthropological studies show that various Philippine societies regarded their myths as containing psychological and archetypal truths, and on that merit we will be focusing on some deities that exhibit acceptance of a person's chosen identity. In short if modern Philippine society needs certain deities as a symbol for the queer/trans acceptance, then that is their purpose today.
If you would like to understand our reasoning for taking this stance, we could go on at length about how, in general, every religion when adopted by a given society will change and adapt as needed when converting an indigenous population to said religion.
Instead we would like you to think about how that process can lead to misinterpretation especially from religiously fundamental societies like the Spanish in the 1500s. In other words, the Spanish concept of gender identity was binary, and any nuance understanding of gender was likely disregarded, and at the very least unreported.
Bathala is among the five primordial deities in the Tagalog pantheon. It is believed that he lives in a place called Kaluwalhatian, which is an ancient Tagalog people’s version of heaven, known as the sky realms and the court of Bathala. Bathala resides here with other deities.
Francisco Demetrio, Gilda Cordero Fernando, and Fernando Nakpil Zialcita summarize a number of Tagalog beliefs regarding Bathala:
“The Tagalogs called their supreme god Bathala Maykapal or Lumikha (The Creator)...Bathala is also known as the grand conserver of the universe, the caretaker of things from whom all providence comes, hence the beautiful word 'bahala' or 'mabahala' meaning 'to care'.”
The missionaries who observed the Tagalog peoples in the 1500s noted, that the Tagalogs did not include Bathala in their daily acts of worship. Fray Buenaventura noted that the Tagalogs believed Bathala was too mighty and distant to be bothered with the concerns of mortal man, and so the Tagalogs focused their acts of appeasement to the immediate spirits which they believed had control over their day-to-day life.
Also called Ikapati, Lakapati is often depicted as being both intersex and/or androgynous, depending on the artists chosen rendition. Lakapati is a deity of the land, agriculture, harvest and agricultural fertility. Their name literally means “giver of food” according to Patricia Telesco, ancient Tagalog farmers would bring offerings for Lakapati at the fields and invoke Lakapati to protect them from famine. Lakapati was often called “the hermaphrodite devil” by the Spanish missionaries.
Through their teachings, Lakapati was respected and loved by the people. They are known to be the kindest deity to the Tagalogs. Later, Lakapati married Mapulon, who courted them tirelessly. Lakapati marriage with Mapulon was symbolic for the ancient Tagalogs as it referred to marriage as a mutual bond between two parties regardless of gender, which was common and an acceptable practice at the time. Lakapati had a daughter, named Anagolay who aided mankind when they have lost something or someone.
The Tagalog people still worshipped Lakapati despite threats of violence from the Spanish after colonization.
The sun god and patron of warriors. In Kapampangan mythology, he is comparable to Aring Sinukuan, god of war and death. Other stories state that he is the son of Anagolay and Dumakulem, and also the brother of Dian Masalanta, the goddess of lovers. There are other sources that also say he is the son of Bathala himself from a mortal woman. In this version, the mortal woman gave birth to two children, Apolaki and Mayari. When they were born, their eyes shone so bright, they lit up the entire world.
When Bathala died, Apolaki and Mayari fought over who will take over their father’s throne. After a long and bloody war, that culminated in Apolaki blinding one of Mayari’s eyes, the siblings came to an agreement that they can share the rulership of the world. Apolaki rules over day time and Mayari takes over the night, which is said to be darker because of her blinded eye.
During early colonial times, the people of Pangasinan were said to have been scolded by Apolaki. According to the indigenous people Apolaki was angry at them for welcoming the Spanish, men with white teeth, when it was a custom to them to blacken their teeth as a symbol of beauty.
“365 Goddess: A Daily Guide To the Magic and Inspiration of the Goddess by Patricia Telesco
“Philippine Folklore Stories” by John Maurice Miller
“These Characters from Filipino Mythology Would Make for Really Original TV Series.” by Nicai de Guzman
“Archaeologists Find Deformed Dog Buried Near Ancient Child In The Philippines” by Kristina Killgrove
“Paths Of Origins: The Austronesian Heritage In The Collections Of The National Museum Of The Philippines” by Purissima Benitez-Johannot