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The Tiyanak is a small humanoid monster in Philippine mythology which pretends to be an innocent baby before attacking humans.

Myths & Legends

It disguises itself as a baby abandoned in the forest or in the field. It wails loudly to attract a passerby and when picked up it sheds its disguise like a snake shedding its old skin, revealing its true form, and kills the victim by biting and mauling.

Appearance

Described in Tagalog and Bicolano folklore as a small bald-headed goblin with sharp teeth, pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, and disproportionate legs (the left leg is shorter while the right one in unusually longer).

Origin

Various speculations on how Tiyanaks came to be range from babies born dead in the forest to the Catholic-influenced unbaptized stillborn infants, and later extended to vengeful murdered infants and aborted fetuses.

Belief in the Tiyanak may have originated from the Patianak of the Mandaya tribe in Mindanao, when Islam started to spread north before the arrival of the Spanish.

Interestingly, it could also be possible that belief in the Tiyanak might have been influenced if not introduced by Spanish missionaries, especially those from Mexico, who were intent on converting the natives into Catholics. With the exception of the Tiyanak’s ability to disguise itself as a baby, some striking similarities with the Chaneque (which sounds similar to Tiyanak) from Aztec mythology suggest a possible link between the two creatures.

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