Dear Charlie and Jack,

The other day, while you both were playing in the living room, Charlie announced in his deepest, most ominous voice, “Baby Lion (aka Jack)! Prepare for your worst nightmare!” Jack let out a high pitched scream and ran towards the bedroom where I was cocooned in layers of warm and fuzzy blankets, hoping to squeeze ten, just ten!, minutes of peace and quiet before starting the busy weekend. Jack buried his face under the sheets and his eyes, wide with imagined terror, loomed inches away from mine. “Mama! Mama! Your Worst Nightmare! Help!”

Ok. Come here…” I mumbled and lifted the sheets.

No, Mama, let’s go and see it!

I looked at his earnest face and decided against telling him that, actually, the best response would be to hide from it, not approach it. This better be good, I thought, as I grumpily pushed away the sheets and let him lead me to the living room.

This was what we found:

SigbinYour Worst Nightmare, poised to wreak its havoc

I screamed, “Oh no! Your Worst Nightmare!!! Run!!!” And we all ran around the living room, flailing our arms until the terror subsided.

I didn’t tell you this but I will now:  Your Worst Nightmare actually exists, in a manner of speaking, and it’s called SIGBIN.

A month ago or so, my high school friends and I shared stories of the various supernatural beings that our respective parents or manangs and yayas told us to scare us and prevent us from going out late at night or doing “dangerous” activities like hiking in the forest or swimming in the river.

Stories about the Aswang were the most popular. The Aswang is a beautiful lady with dark long hair who, at night, goes to her secret hut in the forest where her body splits in half. In a matter of seconds, she grows powerful wings, flies away with bared fangs and trailing intestines, and looks for children to feast on.

The Kapre stories were also popular. The Kapre is a giant half horse, half man who hangs out on the balete tree, smokes his big fat tobaccos, and blows smoke rings.  I don’t think he feasts on children.  He just likes to play scary tricks on them.

There were also stories about the ingkanto, the white lady. She lives in the forest, invisible to human eyes.  In the silent shadows she waits, snatches children away from their parents, takes their humanity away, and turns them into her servants.

Then somebody mentioned Sigbin.

What the heck is that, I asked? Although the name sounded vaguely familiar, I couldn’t really imagine how a Sigbin was supposed to look like. Surprisingly, neither did a lot of my classmates.

“It looks like a big dog or a wild cat that walks backward.  It eats children,” someone said.

No.  It’s more like a wolf,” another objected.  “Or maybe a fox?

“It’s a kangaroo with its butt up in the air, looking through his two hind legs, and walking forward with his butt leading the way,” another offered.

We were all confused.  Wolves, foxes, and kangaroos are not known to live in the Philippines.

Eventually, I consulted good old google and, ironically enough, found some illustrations of the Sigbin.  The kangaroo description offered by a classmate matched several of the illustrations.

I’m not sure why Charlie thought an upside down kangaroo was “worst nightmare” material.  It just blows my mind that he came up with something so distinct and yet so eerily similar to the Sigbin, this supernatural creature feared by our Filipino aboriginal ancestors centuries and centuries ago!

As I shuffled back to my blankets after meeting Your Worst Nightmare, I thought to myself that I really should start telling you about creatures like the Sigbin, Aswang, Kapre, Balbal, Santilmo, Mumu, Tikbalang, Wak-wak.  Filipino, especially Bukidnon, myths tell of all sorts of fascinating creatures like them and it would be such a loss if you grew up not knowing about them.

Time to put on my story teller hat!

Charlie and Jack!  Prepare to be afraid!

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