Spirit of the Trees - Illustrado Magazine - Filipino Abroad

Spirit of the Trees

Spirit of the Trees

By JR Bustamante


Spirit of the Trees

It is that time of year again when the young and old don their scariest costumes to the surprise and delight of friends and onlookers as they walk the streets in the spirit of Halloween.

Witches, vampires, zombies, and ghosts mingle with the cute fairies, superheroes, little bugs and pumpkins . . .  just a few of the characters and creatures that come a-knocking for their treats.

In every village, you still have your grumpies and scrooges who turn off their lights, hide behind the curtains, and put up “do not disturb” signs infront of their doors to keep these happy souls away. So these revellers just look out for spookily-decorated houses they can approach as this signals a welcoming home.

At the end of their journey, a feast of sweets await these trick or treaters who have made the effort to plan and create unique, imaginative garbs that elicit smiles and giggles from homeowners.   This once-a-year day of horror attempts to scare the pants off people, who end in a scream of laughter, is a much-awaited event. But behind this fun-filled season is a story that will make give you the shivers. Did you ever wonder about the trees that stand as silent witness and what lurks behind them while everybody else is having fun?

Quiet Witness

No one has given much thought about trees because they have always been around. Sometimes they cast fearsome shadows at dusk or on a moonlit night which catches people’s attention, but otherwise they are almost invisible. No one really cares. But keep in mind, they are alive and are silent witnesses to everything that happens in the dark or when no one is looking. Maybe they are speaking but we just aren’t listening hard enough.

It is said that they are homes not only to birds and crawly creatures but also to ‘beings’ that we can’t see. These entities awaken and come out at night when all the humans are fast asleep.

If this was indeed a fact, can you imagine how many trees exist and how many of these supernatural beings they shelter? And if there was such a population, just like humans, there would be peaceful entities as well as evil entities. The mere thought that they could be silently watching our every move, thus knowing our habits and vulnerabilities is just outright frightening.

Stories of young beautiful children being abducted by strange creatures who live in the trees are rampant in provinces and are also alive in some parts of the Metro. Could there be some truth to these stories?

Anitos, Diwatas and Kapre

What do we really know about these gentle, harmless trees? They are God’s creation therefore they live, die and also need nourishment to survive. It also makes sense that they would have spirits that guard them and who get upset when they are destroyed unnecessarily. Are these spirits from heaven or the underworld?


Anitos is a general term for spirits of deceased ancestors and nature-spirits which existed in the Philippine’s pre-Hispanic belief system. Though this belief has not entirely vanished when majority of Filipinos became Christians, it is still part of the belief of indigenous groups and as well as part of folk Catholicism. Native Filipinos still fear and seek guidance and magical protection from these spirits.


Diwatas are the guardian spirits of nature, casting blessings on those who show concern for nature or curses upon those who bring harm to the forests and mountains. They are gods and goddesses who resided in large trees such as the acacia or balete and are the object of rituals for crop growth, fortune and health. If not given proper respect, they could also cause illness and misfortune.


The kapre is a Philippine mythical tree demon described as a tall, hairy, brown male with a beard who smokes tobacco to attract human attention. They dwell in big trees like acacias, mangoes, bamboo, and balete and play pranks on travellers by confusing them and making them lose their way. If you see tree branches rustling even if the wind is not strong or hear loud laughter while witnessing smoke from the top of the tree with no one around, or see big fiery eyes at night in a tree then a kapre is watching you. Abundant fireflies also warn of the existence of a kapre as they are believed to come from the creature’s lit tobacco pipe.

Trees of Horror

So be very careful and think twice before you decide to harm or chop a tree down, you never know whose home you are destroying. These spirits may not be very forgiving. They may be behind the natural calamities that befall us like killer typhoon, floods, drought, landslides, earthquakes and global warming. Even though this can’t be confirmed, the fact remains that destruction of trees are the indirect and direct causes of these natural disasters.

Deforestation is caused by farmers who need to clear land to plant their crops, ranchers who need grazing land for their cattle, and loggers who need to extract timber. Whether it is wood gathering for domestic fuel or bigger development projects such as mines, highways, and dams, the result is the same – the loss of trees in the forests. If deforestation is the way to economic development or a speedy solution to pay back foreign debt, then we are headed to a shrunken and vulnerable resource base – a diminished biodiversity that could lead to loss of food, industrial products and medicines that we need for our own survival. We need to protect our trees for the sake of all life on earth.

Trees are Treats!

A tree is a treasure for its beauty and what it gives to mankind. It is nature’s celebration of life with its diverse community of flora and fauna that resides and depends on it. With the loss of a forest, there is loss in certain animal and plant species which benefit humankind with much-needed food, rare medicinal cures, and other products still to be explored and developed. The abundance of life in a forest with all its biodiversity is the greatest resource where all life in the planet depends on for survival.

But forests are vanishing acre by acre day by day and in the process losing valuable resources for us. It will take hundreds of years just to rebuild a forest.

Let’s keep the scarefest only during the Halloween season instead of making it a lifetime experience. When we protect and care for our trees, we protect our source of nourishment, shelter and medical needs. Tree is life, no tree, no life.

Spread the word, be an environmental consumer, support products that sustain the rainforests recycle, donate, teach your children to be energy efficient, join a rainforest protection group. . . are some of the proactive things you can do.

Not scared of ghost stories? Well this horror story is real so be very afraid as the earth is headed to being a ghost town filled with rotting corpse sometime in the future if nothing will be done soon. So Booooo!

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