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The curse of the Batibat

by Kiko Cueto

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night gasping for air, feeling like something or someone is sitting on your chest?

Well, you’re not alone. You may have been visited or played with by what Ilocanos call a Batibat

Want to find out more? Read on as we open Republicasia’s cryptic files.


It’s 3 a.m. 

Jason, who had a long day prior to sleeping, woke up trying to catch his breath.

When he tried to get up, he realized he couldn’t control his body. When he tried looking towards his feet, he saw a fat old hag or a batibat sitting on his chest. 

Just as he tried to make another move, the batibat strangled him, making it hard to breathe. 

When he felt like he was about to pass out, he woke up. As he really woke up, drenched in sweat, panting, trying to figure out what just happened.

The Batibat

The word Batibat, is an Ilocano word that translates to nightmare, or in Filipino, bangungot.

Bangungot comes from “bangun,” meaning rising, and “ungu,” which means moaning. 

Majority if not all cases of the Batibat involved the person moaning in his or her sleep.

The Legend

According to Filipino folklore, a batibat is an ancient, obese, female demon who lives in trees. 

Now, there are many folklores about cutting trees which are part of the republicasia cryptic files whose pages we will soon. But for this story, cutting down one of the trees of the batibat and using them as a support post for your home, you may have just invited them to your home.

Now batibats are protective of their homes. They forbid humans from sleeping near their homes, and will attack.

Legends says that the batibat tends to reveal her true enormous form – like a terrifying nightmare, they sit on the chest of the victim suffocating them.

It is to be so big and heavy that not even the biggest, strongest man could move it.

Is it true?

No one really knows how often the batibat, let’s call it bangungut, becomes fatal.

There are many cases where the incidents were not reported, especially in the rural areas, and it is often referred to as the batibat or bangungot.

But the ‘survivors’ of one or more attacks, gives details of the sudden unexpected nocturnal death (SUDS) often giving clear signs of what the medical community dubbed as sleep paralysis.

Many researchers said that the majority of the risk profiles for having bangungot are aged 25-44; just had a heavy meal; consumed too much alcohol; and with a history of fainting and family members experiencing the same nightmares.

Various reviews conducted on SUDS cases by the Munger and Booton with regards to the from Death Certificates filed in Manila during 1948-1982, showed just what the risk profiles said: 96% male, mean age 33 years, modal time of death 3:00 a.m. The deaths can be seen as seasonal, peaking in December-January, or at a time Filipinos gorge during the holidays.

A 2003 UP health survey likewise revealed that young Filipinos reported 43 deaths per 100,000 annually.

Some also say that it is because of pancreatitis, which is the redness and swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas. Such cases may be sudden (acute) or ongoing (chronic). The most common reason? Alcohol abuse and lumps of solid material (gallstones) in the gallbladder.

But there is a lingering question in my head, despite the explanations of sleep paralysis or SUDS, they have a thing in common – an old fat lady sitting on the chest, even strangling the victim to death. And why again, does it occur at 3 a.m.? It happened not so long ago that a ghost crossing the street disappeared as the motorcycle rider was about to hit him. You can read the story here.

Thank you for reaching this far. If you had fun reading the article click the like button on social media as well. It really helps with the algorithms. And like this page of the cryptic files, this was requested by you dear readers. You can make suggestions by emailing us at [email protected], or email me at [email protected].

Stay safe, and always question the unknown.

BANNER PHOTO COURTESY: Ian Balba via DeviantArt



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