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Encounters With Aswangs, Witches, Goblins, and Ghosts in the Philippines

Witches, aswangs, and goblins are part of the Philippines culture. As a Filipino-American, I can identify to this phenomena, true or false.

Explore some Filipino folklore, ranging from the vampire-like Aswang to the elven Nono.

Explore some Filipino folklore, ranging from the vampire-like Aswang to the elven Nono.

What Is an Aswang?

An Aswang (or Asuwang) is a mythical creature in Philippine folklore. The aswang is an inherently evil vampire-like creature and is the subject of a wide variety of myths and stories, the details of which vary greatly. Spanish colonizers noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century.

Background

The myth of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines, except in the Ilocos region, which is the only region that does not have an equivalent myth. It is especially popular in the Western Visayan regions such as Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique. Other regional names for the aswang include "tik-tik", "wak-wak", and "soc-soc". Aswangs are often described as a combination of vampire and witch and are almost always female. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to all types of witches, manananggals, shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and monsters.

Purpose

The aswang are the most feared of the supernatural creatures on the Philippines. They can enter the body of a person, and through this person they inflict harm on those the they dislike. Most common are the female variety who appear 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 gives her power of flight.

A being of enormous power, she can transform herself into any shape, even inanimate objects. She preys on children, pregnant women, and ill people. Once she has overpowered a victim, she will take a bundle of sticks, talahib grass, and banana stalks, and transform these into a replica of her victim. This replica is sent home while she takes the real person back with her. Upon reaching its home, the replica will become sick and die. The victim will then be killed and eaten. She is said to be particularly fond of the liver.

There are a wide variety of stories about the Aswang circulating between rural Filipinos, making it impossible to settle upon any fixed definition of their appearance or activities. Aswangs are particularly feared for their fondness for eating unborn fetuses and small children. Their favorite body parts are the liver and heart.

Aswang and witches of Panay Island.

Aswang and witches of Panay Island.

Aswang in Capiz and Lubag

Explanation for Aswang in Philippine Folklore

I was born in Panay Island. As a child, I have heard of many stories about aswang and witches. There is one town near by hometown (Barotac Viejo, Iloilo) supposed to be the haven for witches. In the province of Capiz in the island of Panay, many studies have been conducted to understand the reason for the persistent perpetuation of the aswang folklore in that part of the Philippines. One possible explanation is the occurrence of a neurological disorder endemic to the island. It is known locally as Lubag which meant twisted. Scientifically it is a neurological disorder known as Dystonia Parkinsonism or Dystonia De Panay.

Dystonia de Panay

Dystonia de Panay ( torsion dystonia-Parkinsonism) is a rare musco-skeletal disease found only in Panay. A scientific research found an unusually high percentage of dystonia in several areas of Capiz. The study's molecular genetic analysis indicated that the mutation responsible for the x-linked dystonia-parkinsonism found mostly in males was introduced into the Ilonggo ethnic group of Panay more than 2,000 years ago. But before it could be sufficiently examined to find a cure, the disease mysteriously disappear in the early 1950s.

Lubag

The disease called "Lubag" in the vernacular afflicts a person with uncontrollable intermittent body spasm of twisting movements, muscular contortions, and shuffling gaits. To the simple superstitious and uneducated in the hinterlands, it was a scary sight that provokes terror and fear. The afflicted person was ostracized and made the scapegoat for any misfortune or accident that befell the community.

I was privileged as a child to observe a neighbor afflicted by the disease. At that time I thought he was an aswang and was so scared, I never venture to be near his home even in broad daylight. It was only during my college years that I realized our neighbor was afflicted by Lubag.

Panay Island, Western Visayas, Philippines

Witches, Ghosts, and Nonos

Witches, nonos, and ghosts are part of life in the Philippines not only during Halloween but also the whole year round.

Witches

During my childhood years in the late 1940s, I have heard from my parents and relatives about aswangs (flying witches) visiting homes in the middle of the night. These witches were looking for pregnant women, so they could suck the fetus from their stomach, or for beautiful babies, so they could eat their liver.

The aswang takes the form of an animal perhaps a black flying cat during the night. But during the day, they lived a normal life and looked like an average person or perhaps even a beautiful young lady. One way of discouraging the aswangs to your homes is to put garlic in all the windows as well as amulets.

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Kapri and Nonos

I have heard also of other superstitions and folklores mentioning the giant people called Kapri. There are two kinds, the white (the good one) and the black (the evil one). Opposite to this is the small people, the elves or Nono as known in Marinduque. The Nonos lived on big trees in the jungles or even in your backyard. They may be harmless if you left them alone. But if you disturbed their territory, be prepared for bad luck, calamities or sickness.

One of the most popular beliefs and folklore in Marinduque are the existence of Nonos . Three years ago the 12-year old son of our caretaker disappeared for about 4 hours. When he returned he told us that a group of elves had captured him. He said they were friendly and told him that we should not cut the big balete tree in our backyard.

With regards to the Nonos, even though I really do not believe in their existence, I still say "Tabi Po Nono" ("Excuse me, Nono") when passing under the trees and bridges in my property at night and after sunset. Even my 4-year-old granddaughter from Sacramento has learned of this phrase. We told her of the "Tabi Po Nono" phrase seven years ago, during our golden wedding anniversary celebration. The funny part is, when they were in Boracay (an island resort) a week later for a vacation, she said the same phrase while passing a bridge at the Boracay Regency Hotel, where her mother and grandmother were staying. Hurrah to the memory of a 4-year old.

Ghosts

There are also stories about ghosts (white lady apparition) and witches. In Iloilo, my town of birth, there are several towns where there are a lot of witches according to the residents of the neighboring towns. However, there are no proofs or documentation if this is true.

In my resort property here in Amoingon, Boac, Marinduque some of our neighbors claimed that once in a while in a moonless night they have seen an apparition of a white lady. The white lady is supposed to protect the property from robbers and intruders. She is supposed to be the ghost of my mother-in-law who loved the beach resort and its gardens. The neighbors are scared of this apparition. So far, I have not seen this lady in the flowing white dress.

Have You Encountered Any of These Creatures?

Aswang Movies and Documentaries

There are several movies and documentaries about the aswang folklore and phenomena in the Philippines. My favorite movie was the first aswang movie made in 2008 starring Lovi Poe and Paulo Avelino. My favorite documentary is the Aswang Phenomena made by Jordan Clark in 2011.

Questions & Answers

Question: How is one supposed to know if a person is an aswang?

Answer: There is no scientific signs or behavior that an aswang possess during normal hours according to legends. They turned into aswang at night according to stories I heard from my grand parents.

Comments

David B Katague (author) from Northern California and the Philippines on February 07, 2020:

I am glad you found my article interesting. Cheers!

Lorna from USA on February 06, 2020:

Such an interesting article! It reminds me of my childhood. I was scared to walk alone at night because of aswang.

Stansy on April 08, 2019:

Hello sir david, in your experience, haven't you heard of any group / organization who are focused on dealing with these type of creatures?

Have you had any personal experience with these types?

Before my personal enounters, i also did not believe. I also thought that these "stories" were also Made up by the elderly to scare the kids and make them come home / stay home when it is dark. However, Everything changed when i Personally encountered "it".

No one can explain the Wings i heard, the one Landing and walking in our roof,the voice calling me, the Very very sharp sound tapping of the windows, the Big shadow that moved in our ceiling.. there is Just no Logical explanation to all of these, except admit the fact that the one they say "aswang" with wings really exist. The priest not laugh at me, he did not tell me to go back home by myself, he went with me in our house and performed prayers and spirinkled holy water.

David B Katague (author) from Northern California and the Philippines on April 08, 2019:

Hi Stansy, thank you for your detailed and interesting stories about your experiences with aswangs! I believe you although others may think your stories are just a fabrication of a crazy person. Have a great summer!

stansy on April 07, 2019:

just to continue...

Then I turned off the Lights of the hallway in the 2nd floor, Held the Holy water container, and the long scissors. I waited in the dark while looking outside. I wanted to see this creature and battle with it.

Then i heard a VERY SHARP or Pointed Object Hitting our window, Tick Tick Tick... Tick Tick.... Tick tick tick... Then I realized Oh shit,, It saw me already and knows my location and my plan... I ran to the computer room to my brother, scared, and he asked me why are you running? I said "The creature saw me", my brother said I am crazy. He still does not want to believe me because according to him this stuff is not true.

7th event: One night When we arrived from home, our house is very near the Guard house, from the landscape of our subdivision, if you are entering the guardhouse, you can see a good view of our roof. My mom did not turn on the light of the garage again that time, only at the back, but I looked closely at the roof that time, I saw a large dark object moved in the roof. I did not say this to my father because my eyes might not seen correctly, but I am alert. When my dad and I entered our house, when he turned on the Light inside our house, WE BOTH SAW A VERY DARK SHADOW VERY FAST MOVE in the ceiling light going upstairs. My dad was the 1st to react, he shouted "ANU YUN???? ANG LAKI NUN AH, Nakita mo ba yun??" (What was that?? That was Big?? Did you see that???) I said : of course Yes! Then I told my dad: I saw something in our roof move. A dark object. I think that is our visitor. I told him Lets go look from outside again using our emergency light. He agreed and we both looked from outside and pointed our emergency light in our roof. But we did not see anything. But we are both convinced "it" was there again. When we went to the 2nd floor we opened the Spotlight in the front. nothing. Then my dad said "oh well, we really cannot find this creature" , I said to him, "No, wait, I know where "it" is, I signaled to him to follow me. He followed me to the back part of our house, I opened the Spotlight of the back part of the house, then guess what? We both heard and felt the "THUUUUUUDDDDDDDDD", our ceiling vibrated again ofcourse. And I just smiled and said to my father "See". his eyes was shocked in suprise. He said "ah so this is where "it" was hiding , that is why we cannot see it."

8th encounter: It was morning, My dad and I woke up, we heard a VERY VERY VERY NOISY SOUND. An animal was crying like crazy, its like a pig being slaughtered but more more worse. My dad was looking outside our window, searching for the sound where it came from. it was like "EEEEEEEEeeeeeeeEEEEEEeeeee" "EEEEeeeeeEEEEEEeeeeEEEE" eEEEEEEeeeeEeeee that kind of sound. It was so Loud. Louder than our Aircondition. My dad asked me, did you hear it ? I said "yes". I opened the lights and looked at the time. guess what? 3 A.M. Sharp. Then I went outside our room, I looked for my mom, I called her, And asked her if she can hear the noise, she said Yes. And i asked her what are you doing, where are you? she said I am here, she was on our front door, looking outside, also looking for the sound.

We called the Guard house, We asked if they heard the Noise, Guess what??? They said they did not hear ANYTHING.

As i searched, these creatures have the ability to choose the people who will hear the sounds they make.

Anyway, after that my dad and I purchased a buntot ng Pagi (Tail of a Ray) . A hanged this Buntot ng pagi in the Big room. My dad warned me, even though I have the Buntot ng pagi, I should control myself and never confront the beast because he is afraid I will lose to the beast and be eaten. I realized he is correct and I have no match for the creature, anyway God is stronger than this creature, it has a place in Hell. The Devil is stronger than the creature, but the Devil is afraid of God. So what should I be afraid of??? So From then on I did not mind if there were weird sounds again. Then I did not hear from it again maybe because I decided to ignore it and "it" also grew tired of me.

8th encounter: My brother and i were ready to sleep in our room, with the air condition turned on. There was a loud "thud" in our roof, we both felt the vibration from the ceiling. I did not say anything. My brother asked me "Narinig mo yun?? anu yun????? " (Did you hear that, what was that???) I just told him "malamang narining ko, kaso diba baliw ako sabi mo?? sinung baliw sa atin ngayon?? (Of course I heard it, but remember you said I am crazy to believe in such myths???? So who is the crazy one now??? )

Well it is my 1st time I wrote my experience with this creature. I keep on sharing this story to my wife, she also says I am weird, Only my dad believes me. I am a businessman. A successful businessman. I am honest and I do many online Transactions. My customers send me money before I send the Items to them. And I have a 100% Good track record of being honest. I am also Smart, I graduated with honorable mention from DLSU and I am an distributor now. So you can guarantee I know what i am talking about.

For sure the church knows about the existence of these creatures, the priest did not laugh at me, he followed me and did his duty. I wonder what part of the church organization is doing their part to hunt these creatures??