In the pantheon of Philippine Mythology, it isn’t enough to be terrified by creatures that will cause your death and devour your flesh. Nope, you must also worry about what will happen after your untimely demise. Enter, the BAL-BAL.
Stories say the Bal-Bal is a creature who steals corpses to feed on the rotting flesh – using sharp claws and teeth for tearing through muscle and bone. Once the Bal Bal has fed, it will leave the trunk of a banana tree in the coffin, creating an illusion of the stolen body.
The physical attributes of the Bal-Bal have been adopted into many other tales of flesh eating creatures throughout the Philippines – such as the Visayan version of the Aswang, the Amalanhig, and the Busaw. Modern tales of the Bal-Bal say he walks in regular human form until drenched by the light of the full moon, where he will shape-shift into a disfigured bone collector. Other stories say if you utter his name “Bal-Bal” (I do not recommended trying this at home), he will seek you out and devour your flesh.
I became curious as to how this story could have originated, so I did some research to devise a theory.
In The Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology, Dr. Maximo Ramos credited tales of the Bal-Bal back to the Tagbanua people. The Tagbanua are mainly found in the central and northern regions of Palawan. Research has shown that the Tagbanua are possible descendants of the Tabon Man; thus, making them one of the original inhabitants of the Philippines – dating back an estimated 40,000 years. The many ceremonial feasts punctuating Tagbanua life are based on a firm belief in a natural interaction between the world of the living the world of the dead.