November 27, 2011

Hari Ragat: Beware the Halimaw

Sumatran Tiger: image from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been debating whether or not to include the tiger in the fauna of the Hari Ragat setting.  But wait, Hari Ragat is inspired by the ancient Philippines, and there were never any tigers in the Philippines, right? 

The Malay word for tiger, harimau, exists as halimaw in several Philippine languages, but here it is a generic term for ‘monster.’  Anything large, frightening, and usually supernatural in its nature can be termed halimaw.  Show the typical Filipino a picture of a tiger, and he’ll call it a tigre, using the Spanish word.

So, no tigers.  Until, motivated by a curious itch, I searched Tiger + Philippines on the net.  And came across this: archaeological evidence of tigers on Palawan from 10-12,000 years ago.  Apparently Palawan was connected to or very near Borneo in the Pleistocene, when sea levels were lower; for the same reason, it was also a much bigger island then. After sea levels rose at the end of the Pleistocene, Palawan shrank, and this loss of habitat plus perhaps conflict with man ended the tiger population there.

So – there will be one, possibly more, islands with tigers.  These islands will be ‘lost world’ environments.  Now this has got me thinking of including the Malay were-tiger (harimau akuan) as an optional member of the Aswang family.

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