World of Bukana: The Planes

Much of what the ancient inhabitants of the Philippine islands once believed has been lost to time. What little we do know comes largely from Spanish missionaries as they began their colonization of the archipelago. Our understanding of their beliefs suggests a concept of a layered series of planes. While the exact nature of these realms varied from culture to culture, they shared some commonality. Existence was broken up into the Sky World, the Middle World, and the Underworld. Each of these were often further divided. The Sky World and Underworld were home to powerful spirits, many of these entities would later be called “gods” by some. The Middle World is the home to mortals. Existing parallel to the realm of humans was a mirrored spirit world inhabited by a multitude of creatures.

For those of you who are familiar with other Fifth Edition (5e) settings, you will recognize much of the cosmology of Bukana. Here, we have three main planes of reality present in Filipinx myth. The “Middle-Realm” consists of the Material Plane as well as the Feywild. The former is the physical reality of mortals that we all know and love; the latter is a thin skin, or maybe a series of blisters, that acts as a border between the world of mortals and beyond. The Feywild has many names in Bukana, but for the sake of ease, we’ll use its most widespread moniker: The Unseen Realm. This border “sub-plane” is particularly important in Bukana as compared to the rest of the Middle-Realm. In the archipelago, the veil between humanity and the fae is unusually thin and riddled with holes. All manner of enchanted fae creatures dwell in this fantastic land and frequently cross over to the Material Plane to explore and cause trouble for mortals. These so-called “engkanto” are the subject of many tales and superstitions among the people of the islands. In fact, several of the ancestries of Bukana are said to be engkanto that have taken mortal form. The elves, dwarves, gnomes, merfolk and many others show a fundamental affinity to the Unseen Realm and many of their domains extend into the Feywild.

The Elemental Planes still exist in our multiverse, but they are less accessible than in other settings. Despite this, tales do tell of both heroes and powerful spirits that have found treacherous paths to these tumultuous planes. Their presence is most evident in that where they border the Ethereal Plane, nature spirits called diwata are spawned. Speaking of the Ethereal, this is a land of perpetual mists. It connects all of the planes and, just like in other 5e worlds, it mirrors that realm. This is the spirit world of Filipinx legend. It is this place, that diwata, ghosts, and ancestral spirits mingle and can be contacted by the many mediums of Bukana. This is also the conduit that mortal souls take to reach their final reward or reenter the cycle of life and rebirth as they attempt to find the enlightenment that they need to be received by their deities.

The Outer Planes of Bukana are divided into the Sky-Realm and the Under-Realm of myth. While the various cultures dispute the exact number of planes composing each, they all agree that they are layered. The Sky-Realm is home to celestial creatures and Lawful gods. The “lowest” of these planes can be seen in the Middle-Realm as the highest clouds, moon, sun, and stars. The “highest” planes are reserved for the most powerful of the gods of order. The Under-Realm, conversely, is the domain of the infernal hordes of Chaos. The powerful typhoons, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions of the islands are how the destructive forces of the lower realms are most felt in the mortal world. The deities (or gods if you prefer) of both the Sky- and Under-Realms form themselves into courts. It is not uncommon for an entity to move from one court to another, or to attend multiple. Some even do so between celestial and infernal planes. Look forward to one account that may just explain why that could be in a forthcoming piece of fiction.

Before we close out this article, we will talk about the Astral Plane. Little is known about this realm except that it appears to be a place of pure thought, idea, and emotion. While it is utilized by the most enlightened of Monks to explore themselves and their connection to everything, it is poorly understood. There have been accounts of some magic users having spent too much time in this unquantifiable void and failing to return to their bodies or come back… different. Most simply use it to move about or to aid in divination through the use of relatively simple spells.

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