While it would be impossible to catalog all the different creatures that pop up in Filipino mythology, here are some of the more famous creatures. This is a short reference intended to serve as a jumping point for more research. As my understanding of these creatures grows (and more of them show up in more comics) this document will likely grow and be refined, some may even end up with write-ups.
Cosmology: The Three Worlds
Filipino Mythology is primarily divided into three “worlds.” Trese makes frequent references to the Underworld (Kasanaan sometimes also called Impiyerno in traditional stories). This is the world where supernatural creatures come from. Though usually associated with the various Aswang (monsters), some of the encantos (all enchanted creatures, including fey) may also come from this world. This would be the world of magic that exists behind the veil of reality. In game terms it is one of the Magic Lands on the dimensional map next to The Realm of Faerie. The Christianized version of this world gains associations with Hell which may mean that it’s actually closer to the Afterworlds. The second world is Terre Mundo which is the Earthly realm we live in. The third is Skyworld (Kaluwalhatian). This is a heavenly world exists “above the sky” and is where some of the old heroes and gods reside. In game terms this would likely be one of the Afterworlds, possibly close to Heaven.
Balete tree — This is more commonly known as the Banyan tree or the “strangling fig” tree in English. This species of rubber tree can grow to an immense size and is said to be closely connected with the supernatural world. It often serves as the home of one of several types of creatures, especially the Kapre or Diwata. It seems to have special significance to the supernatural world and may serve as a doorway of sorts between worlds.
While they might not be described this way originally in Filipino Mythology, these creatures would fit right in with the Faerie Realms and seem to display a lot of similar traits normally associated with the fey. Since Europeans influenced the Philippines through colonization, some people do refer to them as fey or fairies. If you are using Underworld to equate more with Hell than the supernatural in general, then these creatures would reside mainly in a sub-realm of Faerie. If you are using the faerie “courts” in your game, the Filipino version would be more tribe-like and might have some variances on the seasonal aspects since the Philippines is a tropical country.
As with Western fey creatures, the appearance of these creatures can vary wildly depending on the specific creature encountered. Some appear as unearthly attractive humanoids. Others have more bestial or nearly monstrous forms. It depends on the creature in question.
This too, seems to reflect Western fey. These spirits are traditionally either elementals of nature, or beasts tied to the land in some way. They generally should be treated with respect and good manners are worth their weight in gold when dealing with them.
One of the most common powers amongst the fey creatures in the Philippines is the ability to make people disoriented in the wilderness. They will often lead travelers astray and deeper into the wilds. Sometimes this is accompanied by a sort of time disorientation. People who have felt lost for hours have found their way to discover months or years have passed and vice versa.
Considering their fey-like nature, this could be a side-effect from traversing the natural dimensional portals leading to and from the Realm of Faerie or other realms where these creatures reside; or perhaps illusory powers are as common to them as glamour is amongst the Celtic Fey Folk, or both.
It would seem that all the supernatural creatures in Filipino Mythology including the fey abhor salt. For some this is stronger than others but a ring of salt will at least slow down most of the creatures of Filipino myth.
Most specifically, Diwata are fairy-like spirits similar to dryads or nymphs who reside in trees (especially the acacia and balete). They are considered to be guardians of natural areas, much like dryads and nymphs are guardians of forests and lakes. They are very much associated with being fey and could easily be compared to powerful Sidhe.
Much like the word “fairy” can refer to a specific type as well as a wider classification of supernatural beings, so can Diwata (and Anito which originally referred to deities and ancestor spirits). They are quite similar to the Sidhe of the Faerie Realm in the DC Universe. When referenced as a general class, these beings range from powerful deities (up to and including Bathala the Skygod) to simple nature spirits. This blurred line between god and powerful spirit of nature just shows how powerful all Diwata can be considered, but may be geographical in nature. Stories from some parts of the Philippines seem to reference these beings synonymously while other provinces and islands make a stronger distinction between the two.
Diwata generally refers female nature spirits, except when it is used to apply to gods like Bathala. They are usually flawless, ageless beauties with no wrinkles but have been known to appear in other forms. The lack of a philtrum (the ridge on your upper lip) is considered their most distinguishing characteristic. They are said to have fair skin though this varies with the individual. When referring to the wider class of beings, the appearance can vary depending on the specific being within the class.
As protectors of nature, Diwata are powerful enchantresses who are usually associated with the geographical region that is their domain (such as Mariang Makiling and Mt. Makiling). Usually, they are helpful to the people and the villages surrounding the area, providing them with food during hard times as well protecting them. However, if shown disrespect, they can become quick tempered, turning food to stones or men into animals. Some have been said to withdraw their charms entirely when slighted, not being seen again for hundreds of years.
Diwata are typically the mistresses of their neck of the woods (sometimes literally). They know the flora and fauna and are aware of any changes (an animal being killed in a hunt or flowers/fruit being picked). They seem quite adept at turning one thing into another (fruit to rocks, ginger to gold, men to animals) and to be elusive if need be. They can make their dwellings appear in numerous ways and it’s said no one can find their way back to a Diwata’s home unless she allows it. Some of this may be illusory; however, when dealing with the more powerful Diwata that double as deities, this could be assumed to be virtual omnipotence within their realm of control.
There are several famous Diwata who have quite a few stories written about them. They all seem to be associated with mountains and are almost as often referred to as deities (demi-goddesses) as Diwata. The first two also seem to have tragic love stories associated with them.
Mariang Makiling is the Diwata of the mountain which shares her name. There is a famous National Arts Center camp, Boy Scout Camp and University of the Philippines campus here.
Maria Sinukuan is the Diwata of Mount Arayat (an active volcano with a national park).