Supernatural Creatures in Philippine Folklore (Series I)
The scary stench of Halloween is now hanging in the air. Everywhere, we see faces of monsters, beasts, and other Halloween creatures. In the Philippines, it is a common belief that supernatural beings are working at large during this season. Their powers are greatest at this time, and hence, they are in their most evil facets.
The Philippine folklore is rich with mythical and supernatural creatures. It is not as popular as those in Western cultures since it is mostly composed of fragmented tales of horror and wonder. Nevertheless, it has influenced the lives of Filipinos that certain customs are being practiced so to appease these beings and to prevent them from terrorizing people. So which supernatural creatures Filipinos are most afraid of? What are their equivalents to other cultures? And how evil are they?
Aswangs are the most feared mythical creature by the Filipinos. They are Filipino ghouls and shapeshifters. They are human-like by day but transform into monsters at night. They can change from human to an animal form like bat, bird, pig, cat, or black dog. The transformation can happen through their own will or through the use of foul concocted oil. They also have the ability to steal cadavers secretly and replace them with the trunk of a banana tree carved in the cadaver’s likeness.
Aswangs wait by the roadsides, preying upon unsuspecting travelers. Some attacks houses to feed on sleeping people. It is said that human liver and heart are their favorite parts. Aswangs prefer pregnant women who are about to give birth. They love human fetus that they have developed the ability to track down pregnant women by the scent of their unborn child. Upon finding the house of a pregnant mother, the aswang positions itself on the roof and digs a hole through which it drops its long thin tongue to enter the woman’s womb and feast on the fetus.
Since aswangs can take on a human image, it is hard to detect them in a crowd. However, there are many superstitions on how to deal with them. Firstly, it is said that you can determine if another human being is an aswang if you see your own reflection in their eyes as upside down. Also, the presence of an aswang can be revealed by a using a bottle of special oil extracted from boiled and decanted coconut meat mixed with certain plant stems. When an aswang comes around, the oil will boil and will continue until the aswang has departed. Further, aswangs are afraid of salt, ginger, garlic, rosary, stingray’s tails (buntot pagi) and shiny, sterling silver sword, and so these items can be used as defense weapons against them. These creatures cannot heal themselves, so an injury acquired as an aswang will remain when they revert back to human form.
The myth of Aswang is popular in the Visayas, particularly in the provinces of Capiz, Antique and Iloilo. The aswang is also known as wakwak, tiktik, bal-bal, soc-soc, and yanggaw.
The tiyanak is another popular name in the Philippine folklore. Also known as impakto, it is a baby who died before receiving baptism rites. After its death, it goes into the Limbo, a certain place in Hell where unbaptized dead people fall into, and then transforms into an evil spirit. It returns to the mortal world as a goblin or a vampire-like creature, bound to eat living victims. A tiyanak can also be the offspring of a mortal woman and a demon, or an aborted fetus which comes to take vengeance on its mother.
Tiyanaks are mostly found in forests. Upon seeing a human, a tiyanak transforms into what appears to be normal baby. When the unwary person comes near to comfort the child, it then changes back into its true form. It develops sharp claws and fangs, and attacks its victim. The tiyanaks are thought to have the same vulnerability as the aswangs.
There are many versions of tiyanaks. In Mindoro, tiyanaks have the ability to fly, still in the form of a baby. In Pampanga, they are described as small, nut-brown people who float on air, rather than walk on ground.
Dressed in white. Long hair. A beautiful face covered in blood. Woman floating on air…
Seen one? Well, you have just seen a White Lady. Along with other supernatural beings, White Ladies are often used as subjects to convey horror and mystery. These creatures are common among folks around the country, from the secluded barrios and towns up to the highly urbanized cities.
The most popular tale of White Lady is the one of Balete Drive in Quezon City. According to legends, the ghost of a long-haired woman in a white dress appears to taxi drivers doing the graveyard shift or to those solitary people driving by Balete drive in the wee hours of the morning. The woman appears in the rear view mirror for a split second. Some accidents on this road are blamed on the White Lady. It is believed that the White Lady is the ghost of a woman who died when her car crashed in Balete Drive.
Across the country, there are many versions and reported sightings of White Lady. Some White Ladies are ghosts of women victims of murder and heinous crimes, accidents, and other tragedy.
The tikbalang (also tigbalang, tigbalan, tikbalan, or demon horse) is a half-man and half-horse creature. It has the head and feet of a horse, and the body of a human. It usually appears on the night of full moon looking for a female prey and usually rapes the victim in order to bear its offspring. Tikbalangs are playful creatures and they usually make people imagine things that are not real, sometimes to the point that they become crazy.
Tikbalangs are believed to live in dark, sparsely populated, foliage-overgrown areas, specifically in bamboo or banana groves, atop balete trees, and even beneath bridges. According to legends, a pair of Tikbalangs is being wed when rain falls while the sun is shining.
The Manananggal is a special type of aswang who has the ability to fly after separating itself from the lower half of its body. It resembles the Western vampire in being an evil, man-eating monster or witch. Its name is taken from the Filipino word “tanggal” which means to “to separate” or “to remove.” Most manananggals, like most aswangs, are females. It appears in human form during the day. At night, it finds an isolated place where she will leave her lower torso. It separates itself by will and its upper body flies, using bat-like wings, to hunt for victims.
Like other aswangs, the manananggal feeds on babies and fetuses from a mother’s womb. It uses its proboscis or long tongue to penetrate the woman’s navel and suck the blood from the unborn child. At other times, she seduces men with her beauty and lures them to a desolate place where she will eat him alive. She usually feasts on the insides like the heart, stomach, and liver.
The mananggal can be killed by sunlight if she remains in her monster form. This is why she must unite with her lower half before dawn. Hence, in order to destroy the manananggal, one must find her other half which she left behind. Salt, ash, or garlic must then be put on the exposed flesh since the creature is vulnerable to these items. This will prevent her from being combined again, and so when day breaks, she will be destroyed.