Title Engkanto
Description Nature spirits/Elf
Gender Male/female
Region Philippines

Engkanto are environmental spirits that have the ability to appear in human form.[1] They are often associated with the spirits of ancestors in the Philippines.[2][3][4] They are also characterized as spirit sorts like sirens, dark beings, elves, and more.[5] Belief in their existence has likely existed for centuries,[4] and continues to this day.[6]


Engkanto have many similarities to humans in that they age, appear to have male and female sexes, can suffer from illness and indeed even die. They are an object mythology for many Filipinos. Often told by adults as stories and shown on media. They have different appearances. Some appear to be beautiful having blue eyes, fair complexion and golden hair.[4] They may however have unusual features such as high-bridged noses, fair skin, blond hair and lack of philtrum. They have a wide range of appearances but one common fact of a different feeling or vibe than humans.[5] Other variants exhibit sexual dimorphism such as Bagobo spirits which are separated into the female tahamaling and the male mahomanay. The female spirit is alleged to have red complexion while the male have a fair complexion.[5] Their dwellings will normally appear as natural features, for example large rocks or trees, or shadows in human form; although to humans they have befriended they can appear as magnificent palaces.[4] These creatures prefer large trees and nature such as the balete in which they also place their belongings.[5]An engkanto may choose to stay by a human's side as told by stories where characters are usually in either a sense of trance or a deep loss of energy. Engkanto may be good or bad.


Engkanto are most commonly known for either extreme malignant effects, or an overwhelming influence of luck. Those the Engkanto do not favor had become depressed, suffered from madness, or even disappeared for days or months, possibly as a result of the human possession.[4][7] They are also said to be capable of causing fevers and skin diseases such as boils. These spirits also sometimes lead travelers astray in the forest, even kidnap them. This, however, is said to be avoidable by bringing an "Anting-anting" or "Agimat" a piece of magical charm or amulet that wards away evil spirits and prevents them from harming the wielder.[3] However if they do favor someone they are generous and capable of bringing power and riches to that person. Shaman often try to commune with Engkanto on holy days to obtain better healing powers from them, as well as learning how to better deal with evil spirits.[4]


Francisco Demetrio made a study of 87 folk stories from Visayas and Mindanao relating to Engkanto. He contended the Engkanto were based on early European friars.[2][4]


  1. Silliman University, James W. Chapman Research Foundation (1977). "Silliman Journal". Silliman Journal. Silliman University: 354. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  2. 1 2 Aguilar, Filomeno V. (1998). Clash of Spirits. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2082-7.
  3. 1 2 Gailyn Van Rheenen, Gailyn Van Rheenan (2006). Contextualization And Syncretism: Navigating Cultural Currents. William Carey Library. ISBN 0-87808-387-1. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    • Demetrio, Francisco (1969). "The Engkanto Belief: An Essay in Interpretation". Asian Folklore Studies. 28 (1): 77–90. doi:10.2307/1177781. JSTOR 1177781.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Ramos, Maximo D. (1971). Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology. Philippines: University of the Philippines Press. pp. 55–56. OCLC 804797. ISBN 971-06-0691-3 (Quezon City Press, 1990)
  6. Tremlett, Paul-François (2007). "The Ethics of Suspicion in the Study of Religions". DISKUS. 8. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
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