Minokawa is a legendary giant dragon-like bird in Philippine mythology that is said to be so large it can swallow the sun, causing an eclipse. It is described as living in outer space and capable of devouring the sun and the moon, and even threatening to do the same with the Earth.
A Mighty Bird Larger Than An Island
In Bagobo folklore, the Minokawa is depicted as a massive bird with a size comparable to an island. The bird has feathers as sharp as swords, eyes that gleam like mirrors, and beak and legs made of steel. The Minokawa is said to reside “outside the sky” in the eastern horizon. The Baua people believe that there is a place called “calulundan” above the sky, which is covered by blue smoke and can only be accessed by those who live above the sky.
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Story Of Minokawa
In the distant past, before recorded history, there was a giant bird named Minokawa who consumed the moon. The people, filled with terror, made loud noises and screams. The bird looked down to investigate the commotion and opened its mouth. As soon as it did, the moon escaped and fled.
The Minokawa bird is immense, as big as the islands of Negros or Bohol. Its beak and claws are made of steel, and its eyes are like mirrors. Each of its feathers is a sharp sword. It resides beyond the sky, on the eastern horizon, waiting to grab the moon. After failing to swallow the moon, it travels and haunts, hiding underground.
The moon rises from eight different openings in the east and sets through eight openings in the west to avoid being caught by a large bird Minokawa. When Minokawa tries to consume the moon, it results in the moon disappearing from the sky. If Minokawa were to swallow both the moon and sun, it would come down to earth and consume humans as well. During this time, when the sky is dark due to the moon being in Minokawa’s belly, the Bagobo people become afraid and start screaming and beating gongs. This loud noise causes Minokawa to open its mouth, allowing the moon to escape and run away.
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Minokawa & Other Mythical Dragons In Philippine Culture
The Minokawa is a mythical creature among the Bagobo people that is associated with eclipses, similar to other dragon-like creatures in Philippine folklore such as the bakunawa and markupo. The Minokawa has equivalents in other indigenous cultures in the Philippines, including the Arimaonga of the Maranao, the Ban-og or Bannog of the Iloko and Tinguian, and the Baua of the Hiligaynon, Pampangan, and Tagalog.
The Minokawa’s counterpart, the Baua of the Hiligaynon, is pacified by the promise of a plentiful food supply. It resides in a cave named Calulundan located above the sky and guarded by blue smoke.
The Ban-og of the Iloko and Tinguian is a massive creature that has the ability to obscure the sky when it flies. It is powerful enough to carry off both a hunter and his pig prey. It constructs its nests on the tops of trees on a distant mountain and feeds its young with the largest animals. Despite its size and strength, the Ban-og can be easily fooled and brought to its downfall.
Ramos, M. D. (1973) Filipino Cultural Patterns and Values. Island Publishers, Quezon City.
Ramos, M. D. (1990) Tales of Long Ago in the Philippines. Phoenix Publishing House, Quezon City.