Anting-Antings From Around the Philippines
by Fr. Francisco Demetrio, S.J.
Amulets, talismans, and charms have been worn for centuries by Filipinos to protect themselves from evil spells and malevolent spirits, to gain an advantage over others, to defend themselves against accidents and sickness, or to attract love and good fortune. In the Philippines, these amulets, talismans, and charms are collectively known as anting-anting. These objects are thought to possess magical powers, and they are often made from materials with religious or superstitious significance. Anting-antings vary all across the nation, and there are amulets and charms that address almost every kind of need.
Many believe that the best time to acquire materials for an anting-anting is on Good Friday, because there is a belief that the spirits roaming the earth lamenting the death of Christ will add extra potency to the materials. Although some people procure their supernatural talismans from a tambalan (quack doctor), some believe that the talismans work best when they are found accidentally.
Top: A Maranao amulet consisting of a secret book of Koran passages, a crocodile’s tooth, and payer beads; Bottom: Assorted amulets to protect the wearer against a hex (“kulam”); anti-rape; and a corn amulet to keep in the cash box for good luck in business
Some examples of anting-anting from around the Philippines are as follows:
- The Bilaan believe in the supernatural powers of the anting-anting. An anting-anting could be a crocodile tooth, tree roots, or a piece of colored glass found in a big balete tree.
- Some Filipinos believe that a wearer of anting-anting will not die unless he or she vomits it.
- In Laguna, an anting-anting called a “tagibulag” is believed to give its wearer the power of invisibility.
- Mothers pinned blessed medals or agnus dei on the clothes of their babies to protect them from evil spirits.
- A broom made from coconut midribs and placed on the door of a house is believed to frighten spirits from entering the house.
- Wearing a diamond (also called a “mutia”) will protect the wearer from “barang” (sorcery) and evil spirits.
- A baby’s mantle or cowl at birth should be wrapped in cloth after it has been dried and kept inside a chest in the house. It is said to bring good luck to the owner.
- A lizard with a forked tail caught on Good Friday serves as an amulet and brings good luck to whoever found it.
- Animal horns planted in the yard of a store will bring bad luck to the store.
- At midnight on Good Friday, a certain species of banana yields a hard stone, which, if caught and swallowed, will make its possessor irresistible to women.
- Some parents believe that letting their child wear a necklace of crocodile teeth will keep the child healthy and immune from diseases.
- Wearing a crocodile tooth also protects the wearer from being struck by lightning.
- The Tiruray have “kebel”, a charm related to water. It is believed to make a person’s skin thick and hard, and that possessing a kebel will keep one from being slashed by bladed weapons.
Directions are also specified to ensure that the anting-anting will work its magic. These include removing the amulet when one is defecating, drinking intoxicating liquor, bathing, or while having sexual intercourse as these acts cause the amulet to lose its potency. Care must also be taken whenever the anting anting is left lying around where it could get wet, or be handled by children.
Left: A large ivory medallion with the decapitated head of Saint Paul; Right: A belt containing passages from the Koran supposed to render the wearer bullet-proof
Left: A Muslim charm consisting of a piece of magic wood covered with black cloth (amulets are not to be seen by human eyes); Right: A brass figurine of Santiago Apostol to give a man courage (originally for men in battle)
Source: Demetrio S.J., Fr. Francisco. Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs. Xavier University, 1991.