Last-minute Halloween costumes for Filipinos
We’ve all had our fair share of bedtime stories about the diwata, scary stories about the multo and tiyanak, and the occasional Lola Basyang story about a mangkukulam or mambabarang. But as we get older, these stories become long-forgotten memories.
So what better season to revisit this folklore than dressing up as these creatures during Halloween? The best part: they can be DIY-ed even if you only have limited time to pull together a costume for your Halloween party.
1. Maria Makiling – the diwata
Image credit: @irenecassandranepez
In Philippine folklore, lesser gods and goddesses are called the diwata. They are spirits who are responsible for the different aspects of nature – from water to air – and Maria Makiling, who protects Mount Makiling and blesses its people, is arguably the most popular one.
Things you will need: Diwata dress simply. So you’ll just need a flowy dress or top and skirt, and minimal nature-centric accessories such as a flower that you can pin on your hair.
Accentuate your natural beauty with minimal makeup – lightly tap some blusher on your cheeks, brush a dash of highlighter on your cheekbones, dab a tint on your lips and you’re ready to go. You won’t need to source for footwear because diwata are almost always barefoot, but if you want to, you can wear neutral-colored slippers or sandals.
2. Multo – the white lady
Image credit: @liek_kiel
Filipinos believe that the multo or white lady is a spirit who has unfinished business in the world of the living. Many people have claimed to have seen or encountered her, which is why she is one of the Philippines’ most popular mythological creatures.
Things you will need: A white dress, of course – preferably one that you are already looking to throw away so you can use brown and black eyeshadow to add smudges of “dirt” to it. Drip or splash some red food coloring too, to create “blood stains”.
Slap on a foundation that’s a couple of shades lighter than your skin tone so you look pale and sickly, and smudge eyeshadow or kohl eyeliner around your eyes to make you look like an eyebag-laden college student who’s just pulled her fifth all-nighter.
If you have long hair, wear it down and mess it up to make yourself look thoroughly dishevelled.
3. A bereaved mother and a tiyanak – the baby from Hell
Image credit: @pztveone
A tiyanak is a baby who passed away before being given the rite of baptism and, because of that, has gone straight to Hell and turned into a malevolent spirit. Since it is unlikely that you can pass off as a newborn, or a tiyanak, for Halloween, you can go as the bereaved mother of one.
Things you will need: Splash red food coloring on the lower half of your clothes — hospital gown or white dress preferred — to make it look as if you’ve just given birth.
Get an old baby doll and use red and black markers to “disfigure” it. Tip: Step on the doll or kick it around on the ground so it will look even more deformed and terrifying as you carry it around with you while trick-or-treating.
4. Mambabarang – the insect summoner
Image credit: @sappy_buns
The mambabarang are warlocks who use black magic to curse their victims by swarming them with insects – either internally or externally.
Things you will need: Wrap a cloth or scarf around your head and top it off with a skull and feathers. Fashion another two scarves — one as a malong draped across your torso and another as a bahag — and you’re ready to head out.
If you want to go the extra mile, use a kohl eyeliner to create dark circles and wrinkles on your face. Tip: Bring around plastic creepy crawlies (you can get them at most toy stores) so you can toss them at anyone who irritates you.
5. Mangkukulam – the voodooist
Image credit: @elgosh
The mangkukulam is another mythological creature that practices black magic. But instead of using insects like the mambabarang, the mangkukulam uses voodoo dolls to curse her victims.
Things you will need: You can wear any outfit if you want to be a modern version of the mangkukulam, but we recommend busting out your old Buwan ng Wika costumes – the more worn out, the better – to be truly on theme.
Use foundation that’s a shade or two lighter than your normal skin tone, and use an eyebrow pencil or eyeliner to draw wrinkles on your face. Dust baby powder or flour on your hair to make it grey.
Complete your look by bringing around a doll and needle. If you really want to get into character, you can go around making eye contact with people and making a show of poking the doll with your needle.
6. Tamawo – the woman-abductor
Image credit: @faenel
Who would have thought that Philippine mythology had its own Legolas? The tamawo is a race of supernatural beings with pale skin and white hair, who are clad in gold. It is said that they use their charm and good looks to trick people into their kingdom and trap them there, so they can never go back to their old lives again.
Things you will need: You can use powder or flour to lighten your hair, but if you want to go the extra mile, a long, platinum blonde wig and gold contacts lenses would be the best way to go.
If you manage to get your hands on fake pointed ears, you can wear them too. Otherwise, pile on a gold or gold-accented malong as a bahag.
7. Bathala – the almighty god
Image credit: @datu_lakan
Bathala is arguably the most popular figure in Philippine mythology, known for being the ruler and maker of everything. Much like the gods of any religion or mythology (or any Asian parent, let’s be honest), he rewards those who do good, and punishes those who do bad. He is often portrayed wearing the fashions of our pre-colonial ancestors.
Things you will need: Wear an open vest and a cloth or scarf that you can fashion into a bahag by using safety pins or even knots, as long as you’re sure they won’t unravel. Get another scarf you can turn into a pudong (the headdress of Filipino ancestors), and accessorize it with a gold chain or ribbon to make it Bathala-headdress-worthy.
You can also easily replicate Bathala’s white hair by sprinkling baby powder or flour onto your hair. Complete your outfit with lots of gold accessories, and you won’t need to bother with footwear, as going barefoot is the best way to portray Bathala. But if you prefer some sort of protection for your feet as you head out to party, slippers or sandals will do.
Quick and simple Halloween costumes
In the Philippines, we have our own scary monsters and creatures that you can dress up as for Halloween. These creatures are fun and different from the usual cowboy, vampire and skeleton costumes you tend to see year after year at Halloween parties. And the best part is that you won’t have to spend a ton of effort, time or money on replicating these looks.
Also check out more Filipino fashion ideas:
- This online store created an empanada purse
- Jackets and cardigans from indigenous Filipino fabrics
- Bahay kubo backpacks and bayong totes
- Face masks inspired by Apo Whang-od’s tribal tattoos
- Philippine Instagram thrift stores that provide online delivery