philippine symbols


So while doing some research for my book I have been studying and researching the mythologies and beliefs of our neighbors in Indonesia and Malaysia, particularly at the moment of Kaharingan, the indigenous religion of the Dayak of Borneo. While doing so I noticed the very similar creation myth, deity names, and the overall beliefs among the Dayak to that of various groups in the Philippines. I also stumbled upon their symbol of their tree of life, or the Batang Garing. The tree, which represents their cosmology and the 3 worlds, the Upperworld, the Middle world (where we live), and the Underworld. This concept is also shared throughout the Philippines. When I first saw the image of the tree I was surprised as I have seen the very same tree before but not from the Dayak but from the Philippines.

Looking back at my photos of the gold artifacts in the Philippine gold exhibit in New York last year I looked closely at the them and saw how in many of them they have the same exact tree of life marked in the them. I remember reading in the descriptions of a few of the artifacts of symbols that were in them, one being the tree of life, but upon seeing the Batang Garing the similarity between the two is uncanny. 

In the Dayak creation myth, where as there were two birds, there was only one in the Bisayan and Tagalog creation myth. Also while the first humans were born from the devastation of the tree that grew from their god Ranying Mahatala Langit through the fighting between the two hornbills of the sky and sea, in the mythology from the Philippines it was a bamboo that was pecked open by only one bird. That bird was believed to have caused the fight between the two primeval deities, Kaptan and Magwayen, who were again the representation of the sky and sea.

So ya the the similarities are very noticeable and it is no wonder considering the Bisayans at the very least have always claimed that they were originally from Borneo through their myths, through historical accounts, and even today. 

But I just found this absolutely fascinating. Makes me wonder, is the tree of life depicted in many of the gold artifacts similar to that of the Dayak as well and represents the cosmology and precolonial beliefs of various groups such as the Bisayans and Tagalogs? Or does it represent something else? From various artifacts you can see the religious beliefs and spiritualism etched in them such as human figures in an orant position with their hands raised, birds upon birds, images of Buddhist deities and figures such as the Garuda. But it really makes you wonder what this tree meant to our ancestors for it to be important enough to be etched and hammered into these artifacts.

Heneral Luna + Sampaguita

Some quick headshots. Babarilin raw ako ni Heneral pag ‘di ako gumawa ng fanart. Nyeheheheh. The sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines, which symbolizes devotion, strength, and purity.

When Colors Unite
Illustration by: Albert Lee Reyes


Love and joy, these I stand for;

Give them respect, not sore.

Be someone they justly adore,

Thus, they shall return the favor.


Let them live with cheer and adventure.

Grant their rights and be mature.

Burden shall quell, accept their nature;

These make them feel pure.


Light from beyond is my name—

Glowing passionately without a flame;

Bestow them bliss, and do not shame;

They are humans, not lame.


Life is my terrene representation—

Growing with sanguinity and affection,

But without acceptance, I shall fade,

That is why you must stop to evade.


Listen to the serenity of the sky;

Genuinely recognize their cry,

Believe when they say how and why,

Trust them and they shall fly.


Learn and value, these are my reminders;

Gaze their inner beauty and do not wonder.

Behold their integrity and success—

Things that will not make them feel less.


Lead yourself to an equal path,

Going against harsh aftermath;

Be just, be an advocate of change

That defines true courage.