Tikbalang: A mythical demon horse from the Philippines

I’m not sure if it says something about the Philippines, but the people who live there certainly believe in a lot of strange creatures. Of course there are giants, mermaids and vampires – all the usual ones – but there’s also manananggal (a monster who can split in two and the top half flies off), pasatsats (ghosts of people who died, specifically, in the Second World War) and Tikbalang (a misdirecting horse/man/horse).


It’s in the forests of the Philippines that the Tikbalang (possibly) lives. On the days when he’s not being invisible, the creature is said to have the head of a horse, the body of a man and the legs of a horse (presumably the same horse). I don’t know whether this means he’s a man with a horse’s head and legs or a horse with a human torso stuck in its middle. Perhaps it doesn’t matter – either way it’s pretty weird.

The Tikbalang’s main purpose in life is to disorientate travellers and lead them in the wrong direction – a bit like a sort of naughty, paranormal sat-nav. It’s said that the Tikbalang’s “powers” can be counteracted simply by wearing your shirt inside-out (a technique that wouldn’t work against a mischievous TomTom.)


Legend has it that it’s possible to tame a Tikbalang by jumping on its back and hanging on until it gets tired. This seems like a lot of effort when the worst it can do is make you get a little bit lost. It’s a wonder the creature bothers, really – for most of us being in the middle of a jungle, with any possible directions written in Filipino, would be enough of a navigational problem even without its involvement.

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About Nick Heady

Nick Heady

My favourite holiday souvenir is a shower cap I brought home from the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. I’ve never used it, though. I’m saving it for a special occasion.

At the Luxor, all the casino games are inside a pyramid. The hotel rooms are also inside a pyramid. And their shower caps come in little pyramid-shaped boxes. It’s fantastic.

Once you’ve been to Vegas, there’s no need to go to Egypt. The Luxor’s pyramid has a giant lamp on top and, from the hotel windows, you can see a medieval castle – the same can’t be said for Egypt’s pyramids. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a model of the Sphinx that’s bigger than the one in Giza. It’s made of plastic, sure, but at least its nose is still intact.

Nick works in our marketing team

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