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Basic Information

The berbalang is a variety of ghoul, indigenous to the South-Western Phillipines that has a particular taste for human intestines. Normally they confine themselves to grave robbing, but when the supply is limited, they have been known to hunt down and kill living humans instead.

As is normal for ghouls, it is not entirely clear that berbalangs are undead - indeed one account tells of them keeping their own village in the interior of one of the islands. Generally human in appearance, they can be identified by the cat-like pupils of their eyes.

Berbalangs hunt by a technique similar to astral projection. Hiding themselves in a cave, they go into a trance and send out their spirit-body to find food. This spirit body apparently has wings - or at any rate can be detected by the sound of its wings when it is close by. Otherwise they are best spotted by the firefly-like light of their eyes and the moaning sound they make whilst on the hunt, which has the odd property of sounding loud at a distance and fading away as they approach.

Those attacked by a hungry berbalang are in grave danger, as the monster is immune to any weapon except a kris that has been smeared with the juice of a lime. Even then, the astral body has a strange property of visual displacement, seeming to be directly opposite wherever it actually is, so that when you see the beast in front of you, you should immediately turn and cut into the air behind you. Otherwise, the berbalang dislike limes generally, and their fresh juice may serve as a deterrent - especially when sprinkled onto a grave to prevent the monsters digging up and eating the corpse - but this is not a sure defence. Only a coconut pearl can certainly keep them away and those are both exceedingly rare1 and, according to Phillipino lore, only of value to the finder, losing their power when they change hands. It is not known whether the berbalang's "human" body is as robust as the astral one, but original sources are silent on the matter.

In the modern era, the berbalang is not much in evidence, and there is some suspicion that they were massacred, along with many human Philipinos, during the Japanese occupation. It would, however, be unwise to accept absence of evidence as evidence of absence.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Prowling berbalangs could certainly add an interesting flavour to a WW2 game set in the Philippines (or even earlier games if you fancy bringing Jack Pershing's expedition into it).
    • Speaking of the Japanese occupation, these creatures might have been of very great interest to the Black Dragon Society (mirroring Nazi tendencies to meddle with things from European folklore through Sonderkommando Thule - no branch of the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department was officially recorded as being deployed to the Philippines, but that doesn't mean someone wasn't about to experiment on them (or crate them up and ship them to Harbin).
      • This in turn gives all sorts of additional possibilities, from the ship being bagged by a US submarine and the critters shipwrecked somewhere, to the survivors being captured by the ChiComs or Soviets and ending up as pawns in the cold war. You could even have berbalang on berbalang warfare with Soviet] owned examples facing off against those wrangled by the CIA from the remaining native population.
  • These days, given the number of Philipinos working overseas, berbalang could turn up almost anywhere - and where the hell are you going to get a kris in New York (for example) let alone a coconut pearl?
  • A trail of eviscerated corpses? Not all that likely to be traced to such an obscure monster - but the Philipino neighbour of one of the dead people has gone missing - is he the berbalang? Or has he just realised that one is about and gone into hiding?
  • With modern cosmetic contact lenses, the whole "cat eye" thing becomes much harder to spot … wedge of lime in your drink Esteve?
  • A selectively-corporeal undead that does the displacer beast trick is a pretty high-level monster, but this one has some weaknesses that a clever low-level character could exploit. The weapon shop in the nearby village might sell kris and limes; and while hunting the thing's vulnerable to a hero who's good at hide-and-seek.
    • Luckily, the kris shares the same historical range as the berbalang (although it may be better known as a kali in those parts) as, in fact do limes.
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