Search This Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Origin of the Kapre

What do we know about the KAPRE? They are about 7 feet tall, have dark skin, long kinky hair, and live in large trees like the acacia, mango, or balete. They are continually smoking cigars or a large pipe. The embers are said to resemble dancing fireflies. They enjoy confusing people by causing short term memory loss, or hiding household items.
They are not known to be violent – some would even say they are only seeking friendship, or courtship. They are apparently invisible to humans, except on Fridays. Others believe they wear a belt which keep them invisible at all times. They are often compared to other cryptozoic creatures such as the North American Bigfoot or the Yeti in Tibet. Perhaps the most famous kapre is “Mr. Brown,” rumoured to live in the 100 year old balete tree near the front entrance of MalacaƱang Palace. In 2011, President Aquino officially gave the balete tree Heritage status.

Some historians speculate that the legend was propagated by the Spanish to prevent Filipinos from assisting any escaped African slaves they sometimes imported from Latin-America. (

I am only able to date tales of the Kapre back to 1908. This isn’t to say that they didn’t exists before that time, but I find it’s evolution curious. Dr. Maximo Ramos described the Kapre as a “huge black man, legs as large as acacia trunks and eyes as big as plates.” It sounds a step removed from the descriptions we read about today. This made me look deeper into the theory that the Spanish propagated stories to prevent Filipinos from assisting any escaped African slaves. When the Spanish took control of the Philippines, it was decreed illegal to hold Filipinos as slaves because they were under the subjection of King Phillip II. However, this was ignored and Spanish conquistadores seized and sold Filipinos in various parts of the country as domestic help.
General Legazpi tried to abolish this, but it was soon replaced with “debt-bondage”, a different form of slavery imposed by the inability to pay back outrageously high taxes. New decrees were proposed but not implemented in fear of disrupting economic stability. However, there were now stricter punishments for Spaniards holding new Indio slaves. This began the trend of illegally acquiring foreign slaves – particularly Africans. They were not under the king’s subjection and therefore the new decrees did not apply to them. By 1621, blacks constituted around one third of the Intramuros population in Manila.

1568: Spanish trade between Mexico and the Philippines introduces enslaved Africans to the Philippines. (
The term “Kafir” was originally used by Muslims to describe non-believers. The variant “cafre” was adopted by the Spanish and Portuguese to describe people from South Africa. Taking this theory a step further, Jean-Paul G. Potet’s book “Arabic and Persian Loanwords in Tagalog” states the Spanish used the term “cafre” to describe “black Africans in general, slaves, and mercenaries”. In “Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, Dr. Marc S Micozzi wrote that the Spanish used the term in the Philippines to describe “black African infidels”.

Could this be the origin of the Kapre? The further I dig back in history, the closer I get to understanding the connection. Later this year I will be releasing a documentary about the Kapre as part of an 8 episode series on Philippine Mythology. Between now and that time, I hope to discover some new information that will uncover the mysterious origin of the Kapre.

Click This To Join Our Facebook Forum ---> Center for Paranormal Studies

Jordan Clark is a Canadian documentary director/producer at High Banks Entertainment Ltd. He made the 2011 feature length documentary The Aswang Phenomenon - an exploration of the aswang myth and its effects on Philippine society. Currently he is in production for The Aswang Project web-series, which will feature 8 mysteries and myths from the Philippines.

No comments:

Post a Comment