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

Updated on June 20, 2018
chateaudumer profile image

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

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.


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.


The aswang are the most feared of 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, 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 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

Do You Believe in Aswang and Witches?

Aswang of the Philippines
Aswang of the Philippines

Aswang Encounters

Have you any Personal Encounters with Aswang, Witches or Nonos?f

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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.

Movie Trailer for Aswang Movie

Questions & Answers


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      • precy anza profile image

        precy anza 

        2 years ago from USA

        Interesting read po! These topics always gets me. Reminds me of my dad's own aswang story back in his province. Thanks po for stopping by on my hub!

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        I don't know if the aswang was attracted to my husband but he was sure it was after his baby sister at the time. I will ask my dad about Duenas. I grew up in Luzon and dad never talks about these kind of things.

      • chateaudumer profile imageAUTHOR

        David B Katague 

        3 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

        I really appreciate your feedback on this. They say there are persons that the tik-tik and aswangs are attracted to, Perhaps your husband is one of them. Have you heard of the town Duenas in Iloilo famous for its aswangs residents?

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        I really believe they are true since my my own husband had a close encounter with one. It was 1988 in Makati and hubby was only 13. His mom couldn't make it to the hospital, so she had no choice but give birth st home. Hubby was outside around 9 or 10 pm and the family dog started howling like a wolf. Next thing you know, he saw something flying with a really huge wings and hiding its face by the tree leaves. Husband saw a glimpse of the red eye and he didn't know what to do but pick up rocks and threw them as hard as he could. Thanks God, it went away. He never told his mom about the incident but the weird thing is, she never questioned him why he threw out the dog. He still calls that dog a traitor.

        Another story, my dad was born in 1958 in Jaro. My dad always cried hysterically every night and according to my Lola, you can hear the wings flapping around midnight. Great-grandma advised them to move to Bacolod in which they did and dad started sleeping well.

      • chateaudumer profile imageAUTHOR

        David B Katague 

        3 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

        Hello, ladyguitar picker, There are several Pinoy movies on this subject and they are entertaining and also scary. Cheers!

      • ladyguitarpicker profile image

        stella vadakin 

        3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

        Hi, My Italian grandmother use to tell me stories like that. These Mythical creatures would make nice Stephen King movies. Interesting hub. Stella

      • CrisSp profile image


        3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

        Very interesting read and the video on Dystonia Parkinsonism is a good eye opener for those who believed in Aswang.

        Have you seen Mikey Bustos' new video on Filipino Mythical Creatures Rap? It's on youtube...check it out! You should attach that as well on this hub. It's very entertaining. :)

      • Jeannieinabottle profile image

        Jeannie InABottle 

        3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

        This was really interesting. Every country has its own folklore about supernatural beings. It is funny how some are similar in each country, yet some of so different and completely unique to a particular region.

      • chateaudumer profile imageAUTHOR

        David B Katague 

        4 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

        Hi Mel, I like your word, McArthuresque for a substitute of the I Shall return phrase. Have a great night. First time I heard of that word

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        4 years ago from San Diego California

        Thank you sir. Hope to make a McArthuresque triumphant return someday.

      • chateaudumer profile imageAUTHOR

        David B Katague 

        4 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

        Hi Mel, thanks a million for your feedback. If perchance your will be in the Philippines in the near future, perhaps you can visit Marindque. Just let me know.

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        4 years ago from San Diego California

        I have been to the Philippines 6 times in the Navy and I have several wonderful Filipino friends and neighbors here in San Diego. I feel a close bond with your people and these legends are fascinating to me. Great hub!


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