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The Aswang Vampire Legend in Philippine Folklore
Aswang in Philippine folklore is the most feared creature
Among the dreaded mythical creatures in the Philippines, the Aswang is the most feared. It is a ghoulish creature that feed off humans. But unlike the vampire that rises from the grave at night to drink the blood of the living, the Aswang in popular folklore is also a flesh eater of both the living and the dead.
Filipino folklore of the Aswang abound in the Visayan region of the Philippines. Dating as far back as the 16th century when Spain colonized the islands.
The western provinces of Capiz, Iloilo and Antique have long been known as an area of the Aswang's supernatural activities.
First time travelers to Capiz, who are aware of the local folklore can not be faulted for being apprehensive.
Even in modern times, mutilated corpses abandon on the wayside (extra judicial killings) or murdered victims with badly mangled bodies (scavenged by wild animals) are sometimes exploited by the local tabloids with sensationalism, attributing the deed as the handiwork of an Aswang in order to increase their newspaper's circulation.
The sudden disappearance of a former resident who may have decided to migrate to the big cities can spread gossips that the Aswang have claim another victim. Dead animals and rotting carcass of livestock left by cattle rustlers also help spread the Aswang legend.
Parents who use the threat of the Aswang coming to snatch misbehaving children contribute to the psychological conditioning of their young minds.
During the counter insurgency campaign of the early 50's, CIA agents assisting the Philippine government would drain the blood and put puncture marks on the neck of a dead rebel. The body would be dumped on known trails use by the communist cadres. The psy-war played on the superstitious belief of the uneducated rank and file insurgents. It was an effective ploy.
The superstitious in remote areas and far flung villages adorn their homes with objects they believe will repel the Aswang. Wreaths of Garlic bulbs can be seen hanging on windows and the sign of the cross is painted on front doors. Holy water blessed in church are keep near bedsides for protection.
Albularyos (herbal medicine practitioners) who sometimes perform exorcism would extract the oil from nuts of a particular coconut tree. Mixed with certain herbs, it is bottled and Latin prayers are said over it.
It is believed that when an Aswang approaches or is within the vicinity of your home, the oil boils and continue to froth with bubbles until the Aswang departs.
Other anting-anting (amulet) like images,icons and statues of saints decorate the walls of houses. A buntot pagi (tail of a stingray) is considered an effective repellant.The purifying powers attributed to salt crystals is said to cause the skin of an Aswang to burn. Even sterling silver swords, probably adopted from western mythology of the power of silver weapons, is use to safeguard against the evil intention of the Aswang.
Aswang as a shape shifter
In long past times, rumors of Aswang activities would find people in remote barrios of the hinterland forming posse to patrol their neighborhood at night. Armed with gulok or bolos (machete) and sharpened bamboo poles, a stranger who happened to pass by would have the unpleasant experience of being suspected as an Aswang.
A person with a conspicuous behavior, or a misshapen body that is afflicted by body contortion and twitching might also be accused of being an Aswang. This is because of the belief that they have the ability to change their appearances. Aswangs are shape-shifters.
Aswang as a Barangan (Witch)
The Aswang both male and female in Philippine folklore live like ordinary people among the populace Often they are reticent and shy, Quietly going above their business.
Aswangs favor places where they are in physical proximity with blood and cadavers.They work as butchers in meat shops and slaughterhouses, or aides often found loitering in hospital morgues, embalmers of funeral homes and gravediggers in cemeteries.
One way in which they can be recognized is by looking at their eyes. your reflection would appear inverted. During their nightly activities, they walk with their feet facing backwards.
They may even be the cook in the small neighborhood eatery that prepares special dishes like the dinuguan (fresh pork blood and offal ). They are known to favor the human heart and liver.
One is warn to look carefully at the color and texture of the meat dishes.They may be the leftovers from the Aswang's victim.
Like the blood of a vampire that turns a human into the living dead, An ordinary person can also be infected by an Aswang creature.
Aswang as a false beast
The term "Aswang" originated from the tagalog word "asuasuan" which translate as having the "likeness of a dog".
In the original Philippine folklore, the Aswang like it's European counterpart the lycanthrope (werewolf) is a human being who turns into a weredog on a full moon.
Over the years the legend morph. The Aswang could now change into any shape. But usually it transmogrify into a huge black boar or wild dog with bloodshot eyes. Becoming a sigbin (zegben), similar to the Chupacabra.
It is a night stalker and the rustling movements behind bamboo groves or fields of tall sugar canes are indication that an Aswang is on the prowl. People avoid these areas at night
Aswang as a Mananangal (viscera sucker)
They are bold creatures that invade the community and homes of people.
The Aswang, usually a female will leave her lower body well hidden in dense growth of bushes or behind tree trunks and transform into a bat like creature popularly known as a Mananangal. The "wuk-wuk-wuk" cry of a night bird signals her approach. Village dogs become very agitated and it would set in motion their simultaneous howling.
The Aswang will wait patiently until the family is sound asleep. Preferring the liver and heart of small children, it would sneak inside and snatch the babies or the youngest child.
Pregnant women are not spared. A similar bat like Aswang in Philippine folklore called the kik-kik or tik-tik is very active during a full moon. Attaching itself unto the ceiling of it's victim's bedroom, it would stealthily lower a thin elongated proboscis that serves as a mouth. Worming it's way inside the woman's body it would suck out the blood of the fetus while making a "kik-kik-kik" sound.
Aswang as a Corpse eater (Ghoul)
If an Aswang fails to find a human victim, it will make do with a live animal or failing that it will scavenge for cadavers. They devour the corpse of humans or else hasten the dead of an ill person in order to eat their bodies.
They have been blame for stolen corpses sold by unscrupulous funeral morticians to medical schools for dissecting in anatomy classes. Grave robbers steal newly interred coffins (to be resold as brand new) and leave the corpse inside the tomb which are above ground and constructed with ordinary hollow blocks. In their haste to avoid the law, they neglect to reseal the tomb. it becomes an open invitation for hungry wild dogs. (these crimes and malpractice do happen and have been chronicled in newspapers)
An explanation for the Aswang in Philippine folklore
There have been many studies conducted to try to understand the reason for the persistent perpetuation of the aswang folklore in that part of the Philippines. Specifically in the province of Capiz on the island of Panay. Much have been written about the socio-psychological and anthropological phenomenon.
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 provoke terror and fear.The afflicted person was ostracized and made the scapegoat for any misfortune or accident that befell the community.
The Aswang of Philippine folklore is very much etch on the Filipino's psyche.
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