Cover Screencap from "Trese" / Netflix

Who else stayed up all night for the midnight premiere of the latest anime from Netflix? You should have been careful as we don't want to disturb the aswangs

As Netflix drops the first season of the highly anticipated international anime series about Philippine folklore, legends, and myths, we've decided to ease your way into the mysterious and spine-tingling otherworld of ours. Check out these profiles of the monsters and creatures we've seen so far on Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo's Trese.

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Babaylan

During the pre-colonial period, each barangay or rajahnate had a babaylan—a priestess that spoke to the deities, anitos (ancestral spirits), or the supreme god that they worship (Bathala for the Tagalogs, Kan-Laon for the Visayans, Kabunian for the Ilocanos, and more). Up to this day, there are still some tribes spiritually led by babaylans. Their more mystical tasks include creating healing potions for the sick, praying for the dead, giving blessings to the tribe warriors (mandirigma for the Tagalogs, bagani for the Manobos), and warding off evil spirits or creatures that threaten their estate.

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Duwende

Translated to English as dwarves, the duwendes are Filipino mythical creatures that are known for being highly magical, playful, and environmental guardians. The name came from the Spanish phrase "dueño de casa", which means "owner of the house", as they are believed to be living under earth mounds that look like anthills. But they are also believed to reside in trees, mushrooms and even the nooks and crannies of our houses.

Friendly or not?

Well, that totally depends on your behaviour towards them. A common Filipino phrase "tabi tabi po" is used to excuse oneself when wandering around the forest or earth mounds. Hence, dwarves demand respect from strangers and one could show it either through prayers or sacrificial offerings. But those who have the audacity to destroy their homes would definitely face their reckoning as dwarves are known to be heartless when it comes to their curses. In Trese, we find Amang Paso, a red dwarf (yes, dwarves have colour coding related to their budhi or conscience) who assists a young actress to stardom. So yes, a dwarf can also be friendly and bring you good luck when you treat him kindly.

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Elementals

The concept of elemental creatures is actually foreign to us but yes, our ancestors also believed in the existence of creatures associated with specific elements (fire, water, air, and earth). Perhaps, it is an umbrella term for all mythical creatures but the Swiss philosopher Paracelsus was the first one to divide it into four categories. In Trese, we find our heroine Alex meeting two elemental creatures of air, Hannah and Ammie. Hannah, according to the award-winning graphic novel series, came from the Habagat (Southwest monsoon) tribe while Ammie is from the Amihan (Northeast monsoon) tribe. Meanwhile, Alex also had a battle against Bagyon Kulimlim, an elemental creature of lightning who is the scion of the powerful family led by Bagyon Lektro.

Friendly or not?

Do your part in taking care of the environment first and you'll see.

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Emissary of the goddess Ibu

Though most of our tribes during the pre-colonial era bury their dead through mummification, there are also some who put their deceased loved ones on a boat and cast them off the rivers. This reminds us of the Greek mythology about Charon, the boatman of the underworld who guides the souls in crossing the river Styx. But in our Trese-verse set in the modern period, the path to the underworld is via MRT. Here we find the emissary of the Manobo goddess of the underworld Ibu, leading the train of souls and giving some advice to Alex.

Friendly or not?

Make sure you have no more unfinished business before following the light.

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Ibwa

First things first, aswang is an umbrella term for carnivorous monsters and shapeshifters. But in the series, we encounter Ibwa, a leader of one of the criminal aswang gangs that are living in Metro Manila. Ibwa, according to the Tinguians, is human in form and shape but a corpse-eating spirit. They may stalk the house of a dying person and steal its body. To discourage the ibwa from taking the body of the deceased, wake and funeral superstitions include the burning of holes in the garments of the dead as well as putting a sharp object on top of the grave. The Tinguians would also light a fire at the grave for nine nights, and maybe that's where we got the superstitions about keeping the candle burning during the wake and the nine-day novena, called Pa-Siyam.

Friendly or not?

Definitely not.

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Kapre

One mythical creature that has racist and colonial roots is this one, the giant tree-dwelling kapre. The Spaniards called non-believing Negrito ethnic people as cafre and somehow it became associated with really dark, hairy, and super scary mythical giants that smoke tobacco. Kapres are believed to reside in ancient and huge trees like acacia, mango, or banyan (called balete in the Philippines). They are feared to be notorious kidnappers of beautiful women wandering the night. However, they are also believed to have magical white stones that when you get fortunate to acquire, will be at your mercy and grant your wishes.

Friendly or not?

There will always be a struggle for power, and that is not good in any friendship.

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Kataw

In Visayan mythology, the merfolk has three rankings: sirena (mermaid/ondine), syokoy (ugly merman), and kataw. The kataws are the guardians of the waters and sea creatures. They have the ability to manipulate the tides, water pressure, waves, and even turn water into ice. They are more human-like in form but have gills and fins across their body.

Friendly or not?

They are very mischievous and would disguise themselves as fishermen asking for help. Be careful when you approach them as they might drown you.

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Laman Lupa

Laman Lupa is actually an umbrella term for duwende and nuno. But in Trese, they were illustrated as earth mounds that are servants of the said earth elementals.

Friendly or not?

Run for your life or be crushed into pieces!

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Manananggal

Another type of aswang is the self-segmenting evil creature called manananggal. Most commonly believed to be females, the manananggals detach their torsos from their lower halves and fly into the night to eat unborn infants. Legend has it that when you hear wing-flapping over your roof at night, that is a manananggal still at a distance from you but going towards your place. But when it becomes inaudible, that's when the manananggal is already above you, about to puncture your womb with her long tongue.

Friendly or not?

Definitely not! Make sure you have a buntot ng pagi (stingray tail) at arm's reach to use as a weapon.

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Nuno

Here's another term for the Filipino dwarves, which derived its name from "ninuno" ("ancestor" or "old man"). In Trese, we find Nuno sa Manhole, a totally different creature of his kind from Amang Paso and even had a quick word war against each other. Actually, compared to dwarves which are more gnome-like in nature, nuno is believed more widely as dwellers of mounds. Similar to goblins of Western culture, nuno can be very mean especially to those who damage or disturb their homes.

Friendly or not?

Don't forget to say "tabi-tabi po" when excusing yourself and don't point your fingers on anything, and most especially, on anyone.

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Santelmo

Have you ever read about St. Elmo's Fire? The weather phenomenon where you see floating plasma in an electric field? Well, we Filipinos also believe in that, but maybe not the scientific explanation about it. According to Philippine mythology, santelmos are balls of fire that fight each other and appear where accidents or big arguments have happened. In the case of Alexandra Trese, her santelmo came from the great fire that happened in Binondo in the 1950s. In the Trese-verse, these santelmos are one call away when there is help needed for investigating supernatural forces. 

Friendly or not?

It's a case to case basis.

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Sigbin

Sigbins are fast tiny creatures that look like frog, goat, dog, and kangaroo combined. They are believed to live in jars and come out in the open during full moons. They are loyal servants of aswangs and drink the blood of humans right out of their shadows.

Friendly or not?

If dogs are man's best friend, they are definitely aswang's, so don't you dare fall for their cuteness (or lack of it). What's worse, they shapeshift into massive sizes in the Netflix series, so absolutely not friendly!

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Tikbalang

Known to be half-human, half-horse (but not like those of Greece's beautiful centaurs), tikbalang is another creature feared by women for being flirty and really scary. They are believed to lure their victims, hence the superstitious practice of wearing your clothes inside out when being lost on the road.

Friendly or not?

Legend has it that you have to ride the tikbalang and pull three hairs out of its mane to tame it and be able to make it obey you.

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Tiyanak

Perhaps having the most heartbreaking of aswang origins is the tiyanak. They are either unborn fetuses or less-than-a-year-old infants who were aborted or killed by their own mothers. Catholics believe that they are souls of babies who died without being baptised. They haunt their mothers, of course, but also women who want to have a kid by shapeshifting into cute, adorable babies.

Friendly or not?

Beware of its infant-like wail because when you pick it up and wrap it around your arms, it will turn into a hideous monster who will suck the blood out of you.

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White Lady

The White Lady is a popular ghost story with various versions not only in the Philippines but also around the world. In Trese, we find the most iconic of them in Pinoy urban legends, the one who haunts the Balete Drive in New Manila, Quezon City. Legend has it that this particular white lady died in a car accident while driving along that particular road. Some say that she died while waiting for the arrival of her lover. And some would associate her with one of the society "it" girls who used to live in that prominent village. The consistent detail in every urban legend version is a taxi being stopped by a beautiful woman asking for a ride, who at one glance through the rear-view mirror would suddenly appear drenched in blood and bruised.

Friendly or not?

We all need a getaway after a breakup. Cut her some slack.

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Xa Mul

In the series, we also encounter another leader of a different criminal aswang gang, Xa Mul. This name is inspired by the Isneg people's belief about Xa Mul, an evil spirit who swallows people alive.

Friendly or not?

When encountered, call Alexandra Trese.


Trese is produced by BASE Entertainment, with animators from Lex and Otis Animation Studio. It is executively produced by Jay Oliva, Tanya Yuson, and Shanty Harmayn.

Read More: Filipino Novel "Trese" Gets The Netflix Treatment, To Launch This June 2021