Bathala is the supreme god of the Tagalog Pantheon in the ancient Philippines before the Spanish Colonial Period. Some of his alternative names are Batala, Badhala, Maykapal, Molayri, etc. He is attributed as the Creator of all and kind caretaker of nature and mankind; evident by his full title as Bathalang Maykapal or “Creator god” in English. As the supreme being of the Tagalog Pantheon, all gods and anito (spirits) are under his rule. He is opposed by Sitan the god of hell and Bakunawa the moon-eater. It is also from him that the Filipino Philosophy known as “Bahala Na” originated from. When Catholic missionaries started converting the lands from its animistic roots, they equated Bathala with the Christian God.
Full Name: Bathalang Maykapal
Pantheon: Philippine (Tagalog)
Role: creator, preserver, sky-god, king of the minor gods and the anito
Children: Mayari, Tala, and Apolaki (other version: Hanan)
Equivalent: Kaptan, Tungkung Langit, Lumawig, Kabunian, Kan Laon (PH Mythology) Shiva, YHWH (World Mythology)
Myths and Legends
Creation Story I
In the beginning, there was nothing except three gods; Bathala, Ulilang Kaluluwa (Orphaned Spirit), and Galang Kaluluwa (Wandering Spirit). Bathala was the caretaker of a barren earth, Ulilang Kaluluwa was a giant serpent that lived on the primordial clouds, and Galang Kaluluwa was the winged-god that loved to travel. The three gods were not aware of each other’s existence.
One day, the Bathala and Ulilang Kaluluwa met. A deadly battle then ensue as Ulilang Kaluluwa challenged Bathala for supremacy over the universe. The battle went on for three days and three nights straight without stop. Bathala later emerged victorious and successfully killed the opposing god. Instead of giving the serpentine god a proper burial, Bathala burned its remains.
A few years later, the winged-god, Galang Kaluluwa, wandered into Bathala’s home. He welcomed the winged god with much kindness and even invited him to live in his kingdom. They became true friends and were very happy for many years.
One day, Galang Kaluluwa became extremely ill. Before his impending death, Galang Kaluluwa instructed his friend to bury him on the same place where Bathala burned Ulilang Kaluluwa’s remains.When Galang Kaluluwa died, Bathala did exactly as he was told.
Out of the grave of the two dead gods grew a tall tree with a big round nut, which is the coconut tree. Bathala took the nut and husked it. He noticed that the inner skin was hard. The nut itself reminded him of Galang Kaluluwa’s head. It had two eyes, a nose, and a round mouth. Its leaves looked so much like the wings of his dear winged friend. But the trunk was hard and ugly, like the body of his enemy, the snake Ulilang Kaluluwa.
Bathala realized that he was ready to create the creatures he wanted with him on earth. He created the vegetation, animals, and the first man and woman. Bathala built a house for them out of the trunk and leaves of the coconut’ trees. For food, they drank the coconut juice and ate its delicious white meat. Its leaves, they discovered, were great for making mats, hats, and brooms. Its fiber could be used for rope and many other things.
Creation Story II
When the Earth was still young, only three gods existed; Bathala the sky god, Aman Sinaya the goddess of the sea, and Amihan the bird-god. Two of these gods, Bathala and Aman Sinaya, were engaged into a violent rivalry for quite some time now. Every day, these two would try to outdo each other with Bathala sending lightning and thunderbolts below and Aman Sinaya sending waves and typhoons above.
One day, Aman Sinaya sent storm tempests on the sky realm. To counter this attack, Bathala threw giant boulders below. These boulders broke into many pieces and fell on the sea. This will become the foundation of the Philippine Archipelago. Amihan, the bird-god, grew tired of the never-ending quarrels between the two gods. He flew back and fourth between them. This made the Sky and the Sea closer than it was before. At the point where the two realms met, both gods agreed to end the fight and become friends.
As a sign of friendship, Bathala planted a seed underneath the ocean floor. It soon grew into a bamboo reed, sticking out of the edge of the Sea. Amihan had gazed upon it one day and heard voices, coming from inside the bamboo. “Oh, North Wind! North Wind! Please let us out.”, the voices said. He pecked the reed once, then twice. When all of a sudden, the bamboo cracked and slit open. Inside were two human beings; one was a male and the other was a female. Amihan named the man, Malakas (“strong”), and the woman, Maganda (“beautiful”). He then flew them onto one of the islands where they settled, built a house, and had millions of offsprings that populated the Earth.
It then finally came when the children were too numerous for Malakas and Maganda to control. One day, they were ordered to work in the fields, but instead, they did nothing. When the parents arrived home, they noticed that their instructions weren’t followed. Asking for some guidance, they prayed to the great god, Bathala, and he came to them and said, “Let your anger be shown to everyone and it shall make them into what they are meant to be.” So out of their anger, they grabbed spoon ladles and began to give blows to everyone.
All the children started running away. Some hid under the bamboo tables and became slaves. A few of them went inside the burning cauldron and turned into the Aetas of the islands. Others climbed up the rooftop and became the datus of the villages. While some climbed on top of the trees and were believed to have become the commoners. Those who fled to the mountains turned into hunters and the ones who ran to the seashore turned into fishermen. This is where the social structure of the Pre-Hispanic Filipinos originated from.
Children of Bathala
Legend has it that Bathala once fell in love with one of his creations: a mortal woman. From their union, three demigods emerged; Apolaki the god of war and sun, Mayari the goddess of the moon, and Tala the goddess of the stars. (Some versions replace Apolaki with Hanan the goddess of morning.)
A Kapampangan myth once told of the unexpected death of Bathala and how Apolaki and Mayari fought for dominion over their father’s realm.
The Seven Moons
According to the tales of old, there were seven bright moons created by Bathala that enlightened the night sky. Many were captivated by these moons; mortals and gods alike. One particular deity was captivated the moons’ beauty that it vowed to eat each and every one of the moons.
The Bakunawa, the dragon-god, is said to live at the depths of the ocean while some claims that it is the god of hell. Captivated was he that he lunged out of his home and swallowed six of the seven moons.
Fearing that the seventh moon might share the same fate as the others, the natives prayed to Bathala.
According to one version, Bathala answered their prayers by telling them to gather their pots and pans and make lots of noise. It worked and Bakunawa returned to his home after being frightened.
According to another version, Bathala himself interfered and forced the Serpentine Beast back to its home.
Legend of the Green Snakes
In the begging, snakes did not posses any forms of poison at all. This made them weak and defenseless. The snakes longed for a way to protect themselves against men and beasts.
One day, the cobra, the king of the snakes, prayed for a form of safeguard for all snakes to Bathala. At first, Bathala ignored their request.
It did not take long for the god to fill pity for the desperate creatures so one day, Bathala descended to Earth and brought with him venom to give away to the snakes. The cobra was the first one to acquire the poison which is why it has the most lethal venom today. The other snakes also obtained their share with the venom, but with decreasing potency. Sadly, the green snake was unable to collect his share because of his tardiness.
When he arrived to the place where venom was distributed, all has been given out with the exception of small drops remaining on the bamboo mug Bathala left hanging around the bark of a certain palm tree. In his desire to possess venom like the other snakes, he tipped the mug over so that the remaining contents dropped out on the bark of the tree. He tried to drink the remaining venom but it was too little for him to drink.
The green snake decided to circle around the bark so that, at least, the venom would wipe on his scaly skin. To this day, green snakes that came after him were already equipped with the deadly venom on their green scaly skin.
Legend of the Sugarcane
There was once an old chieftain who prayed to Bathala and begged for the god to allow him to ascend to heaven earlier.
Bathala dismisses the chieftain, saying, “But your time on Earth is not over yet.”
The chieftain felt disappointed at this and left the palace for a walk around the forest. Suddenly, an old man came up to him. The old man tried to cheer him up by saying that the chieftain can still “find Heaven on Earth!”
The old man led the chieftain to a place where there grew a kind of plant that had a long tall body, with long leaves that looked like a bamboo. He went on to say, “This is a heavenly plant. Try tasting its stem. It’s incredibly sweet.”
The chieftain started to chew its stem and found it indeed to be very sweet. He really felt as if he had gone up to Heaven. He also learned from the old man that the tall shoots are called tubo (“sugarcane”).
The chieftain thanked the old man and took a sample of the purple -colored stalks home with him. He then ordered his people to plant these “tubo” which is commonly known as the sugarcane up to this day.
Month of the Flowers
Bathala played a minor role in this legend.
There was once a Sun King that fell in love with Dana, a beautiful maiden that loved to take care of flowers and visit a holy rock that was dedicated to Bathala. One day, the Sun King tried to take her to his sky kingdom while she slept but did not do so for the fear that she may turn into ashes. He stopped any further plots of abduction and softy placed her on the soft grass below.
A few months later, her father notices sudden changes in Dana’s body. The Sun King’s love has caused her to be pregnant, although she did not know about this herself. Her father soon told her to depart immediately for good. She complied but after she made a final homage to the holy rock of Bathala.
A few months after Dana left, she gave birth to her child from the Sun King. Meanwhile, her hometown was devastated after she left because plants refused to grow after her absence. Her father, missing his daughter, ordered his men to find Dana and bring her home. He even prayed to Bathala for Dana’s safe return.
Dana and her daughter were soon found and safely returned to her hometown. It was during her return at the month of May that plant life started to thrive once more. They thanked Bathala once more for bringing back the happy times.
Legend of the Eagle
During the early days of creation, Bathala created a man named Bugso. Everything that Bugso requested, Bathala fulfilled. When Bugso wanted a wife, Bathala gave him a beautiful one. When Bugso wanted a castle, Bathala gave him a grand one. When Bugso wanted the sea, Bathala gave him the sea.
One day, Bugso wanted to soar the sky. Bathala gave him wings so that he may fulfill his wishes. Bugso ascended higher and higher up until his wings grew tired and forced him to descend. After failing numerous times, Bugso wished for Bathala to give him the heavens.
Distraught by Bugso’s discontent, Bathala gave him a choice; the heavens or everything that Bathala has given him. Bugso swiftly chose the heavens and flew up and up. Bugso later became the very first eagle.
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