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Engkanto are environmental spirits that can take the form of humans. They are usually linked with spirits of ancestors in the Philippines and distinguished as forest spririts or elves.


Etymology

Engkanto comes from the Spanish word encantar or to enchant.


Appearance

Engkanto can take the form of either flaura or fauna and are sometimes pictorially depicted looking like other elementals such elves or goblins with blue eyes, fair complexion and golden hair. Aside from these traits, they have prominent features like high-bridge noses, lack of philtrum and appear taller than humans.

Engkantos also grow old, have male and female gender, may suffer from illness and die eventually.


Place

The dwelling place of the engkanto may look like a large rock or trees but to their human friends, their house can appear as beautiful palaces. They also like to live in large trees like the balete where they can also put their belongings.


Powers

Engkanto are popular for their malignant effects because the humans that they possessed became depressed, mad or disappeared for a number of days. They can also bring about fevers and skin diseases like boils. In some cases, travelers may be lead astray by the Engkanto spirits or even kidnapped. However, when the spirits like someone, they can bring power and wealth to that person. During holy days, the shaman commune with the Engkanto to gain better healing powers.


Beliefs

  • Albinos are believed to be children of the engkantos.
  • After the Angelus parents do not allow their children to play outside the house dili-ingon nato (beings unlike us ) are already running around.
  • Excuse yourself from engkantos when taking a bath in the river for they may inflict sickness on you.
  • If you meet an enchanter of the spring, resist from taking a bath for it may change you into a flower or an ugly beast.
  • Say tabi-tabi po to make the spirits know your presence or something bad may happen.
  • The enchantress of the spring is a lovely maiden. If you see her, you may behold her enchanting beauty. Never utter a word or a sound for in this occasion it may actually save your life.
  • A lovely boy/girl should not stay long outside the house to avoid being taken by engkantos.
  • You must never reciprocate the love of an engkantada or engkantado for in doing this you would not only lose your world but also lose your soul.
  • Gathering orchids without permission will make you shed bitter tears for an enchantress might transform herself to a flower and will punish you for your wrong doing. The enchantress will make every tear drop shed a lifetime of regret.
  • Never interrupt or say anything if you hear music coming from a Balete tree for the engkantadas are having a party.
  • If you cut a Balete tree, for if you do, you will be given death as a punishment for you have destroyed the place where the fairies and the enchantresses dwell.
  • If a person was taken by an engkanto, drum beatings near Balete tress to recover lost persons.


Study

Francisco Demetrio conducted a study of of 87 folk stories from Visayas and Mindanao that are related to Engkanto and he contended that the Engkanto were based on early European friars.


References

  • Silliman University, James W. Chapman Research Foundation (1977). Silliman Journal. Silliman Journal (Silliman University): 354.
  • Aguilar, Filomeno V. (1998). Clash of Spirits. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2082-7.
  • Demetrio, Francisco (1969). The Engkanto Belief: An Essay in Interpretation. Asian Folklore Studies 28