Tata Porras, 16, of Barangay Cabuling in Tantangan, Phillipines was out in the ricefield with his younger brother Michael (14). That evening they decided to sleep in a small makeshift hut in order to keep guard over the farm ducks, as some had mysteriously vanished in recent weeks.
The boys’ parents were sleeping in their house just a few meters away from the ricefield.
In the state between sleep and being awake, he heard a squeaking sound just outside the hut. He thought nothing of it. By this time his brother was sound asleep. Suddenly Tata jolted awake and sensed that something was wrong.
Standing over the sleeping Michael, Tata saw a large, black dog. Its eyes were red and glowing in the darkness. The dog ignored him and stared at the sleeping form in front of it. It slowly opened its mouth and moved closer to Michael’s neck.
Tata, although terrified, grabbed his loaded rifle and shot in the direction of the beast. The beast turned and fled into the darkness of the field, Michael woke up screaming in pain as the bullet hit his right leg and Tata started screaming “Aswang, aswang”.
Neighbours rushed to the boys location and found Tata still screaming “Aswang, aswang” and pointing into the darkened field. Maichael was immediately taken to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital (SCPH) for medical treatment.
The villagers were divided as to what had happened. Some believe that an aswang really did appear and tried to eat Michael. Others are a bit more skeptical of the claims.
What is an Aswang?
An Aswang (sometimes called an Asuwang) is a mythical vampiric creature found in folklore from the Phillipines. Western accounts of the Aswang date back to the early Spanish colonial settlers in the 16th century.
The Aswang is usually associated with a witch and are nearly always female. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to all types of witches, manananggals, shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and monsters, although the manananggals are are usually a specific creature (more on them in a later post). They are often described as a monster with huge wings which you can hear when she is at a distance, but the closer she gets, the quieter they become.
Many stories descibes the Aswang as having red, glowing eyes. According to legend, they are red because the Aswang stays up all night searching the houses and huts for victims.
Some regions say that as Aswang appears as an ugly old woman with long, unkempt hair, blood-shot eyes, long nails, and a long, black tongue. She has holes in her armpits which contain oil. This oil gives her power of flight.
Many accounts give them the ability to change shape and turn into animals, as in the story above. Throughout the Phillipines, the descriptions vary quite substantially.
An Aswang is often said to be created from the dreams of sex.
Aswang as a generic term is usually interchanged with other monsters or ghouls such as the following:
Wak-wak – a bird-like creature that comes out at night looking for its victim. The sound of a wak-wak is usually associated with the presence of an Unglu (vampire).
Balbal - a kind of witch that preys on pregnant women. When the balbal is hungry, its eyes turn reddish, become sharp, penetrating the woman’s womb.
Kubot - a bat-like creature that resembles an umbrella with its huge, wide wings. It catches its victim by its claws and takes it home to be butchered.
Tik-tik – a huge bird that flies at night. The tik-tik looks for a sleeping person. When it finds one, it extend its very long proboscis into the unsuspecting victim and proceeds to suck the blood.
Mansusopsop - a ghoul that preys on pregnant women. Like the tik-tik, it hovers over the rooftop and seek any opening for its long, thread-like tongue to pass through until it reaches the stomach of its victim. It then sucks out all the blood, including the fetus, until the victim is lifeless.
Sigbin- a kangaroo-like creature which has a wide mouth with large fangs. Some say that this is another form of the aswang, while there are other claims which identify it as the companion of the tik-tik. It kills people with its deadly sneeze.
What do they eat?
According to folklore, the Aswang enjoy eating unborn fetuses and small children, favoring livers and hearts. Some stories tell of them have a long proboscus which is used to suck out the foetus from a pregnant woman. Sometimes the Aswang will replace the body of the victim with another cadaver, or even with a palm trunk made up to look like a person. These ‘fake’ people are alive and usually go to the victims house, sicken and die.
How to get rid of an Aswang
You can always tell if an Aswang is around if you are well prepared. You need a bottle of special oil which has been extracted from Coconut meat and mixed with the pulp of other plants. Special prayers are then said over the resulting oil.
If an Aswang comes near, the oil will begin to boil and froth. Once the Aswang goes away, this action subsides. But this is only useful in telling if one is near. How do you get rid of one if it is in your house?
The easiest method is to throw salt at it. Salt causes the Aswang’s skin to burn and blister. This effectively drives it away.
If you do not have any salt and are male, then you could also use semen. Semen irritates the Aswang. They also seem to be deathly afraid of phallic objects. One has to wonder if these men have time or will to produce this antidote if an Aswang is near…
Having a red pouch filled with ginger and coins may also prevent the Aswang from attacking. The ginger is said to repel them and the coins will weigh you down, so they can’t lift you up into the air.
In some areas you could use a stingrays tail (Buntot pagi), a silver sword or even images of old crones and grandmothers to scare them off.
Aswang stories are still around in the Phillipines. Often they are cited by the tabloid press in stories about lost children, unexplained deaths and other incidents.
In 2006 a photographer claimed to have taken a photo of an Aswang. He wrote:
“Right Through My Very Own Eyes With My Camera. I took the picture 2:00 AM May 21, 2006 using Sony Power shot with night vison peripherals.”
The photo caused a sensation in the Phillipines, but has since come under considerable skeptical scrutiny.
Sun Star: Boy survives ‘aswang’ attack