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Urban Legends About Creatures


what would happen if a country of millionpeople were taught at a young age that the boogie man was real?in the philippines this isn't far from the truth.it is estimated that up to 80% of the provincial population believes that such a being exists.it has been amoung them for centuries, but became truly horrifying after spanish colonizerschristianized their indigenous beliefs. it comes in many manifestations and performsviolent acts against anyone who crosses its path.is this creature just a myth? or is there some truth to the stories of the aswang.wonderful place to grow up. the philippines. mindoro. panay.really.

fascinating.and this one? this is the aswang.good god. this was my first introduction to the aswang.the wrye martin and barry polterman film in which an aswang has taken residence in ruralwisconsin . years later i made my first visit to the philippines.like many tourists i spent time in the metropolitan area of makati, did some shopping,traveled around on the local and abundant transport like the tricycle and the jeepney,and relaxed on some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world.i visited only a few of the 7107 islands, and met just a handful of the million people livingthere.

the philippines is 83% catholic, and havingbeen raised catholic i understood the strict moral and family values most filipinos displayed,what i didn't understand was their superstitions. i started watching any movie i could get myhands on relating to philippine folklore and was again introduced to the aswang.this creature seemed able to do anything. it could transform into animals, fly, castmagic spells, heal itself and really didn't seem to need a specific food sourcepregnant women, the sick or children. it was a perfect subject for a film.i went back to the philippines to film my interpretation of the folklore.i had a minimal cast, minimal crew, and minimal gear.in the end i felt i had a pretty strong film,

but was always troubled by the lack of consistentinformation regarding this creature. i realized when screening it that withouta generalized understanding and acceptance of the aswang, like many filipinos have, themovie didn't make sense. so i flew back to the philippines to answerthis lingering question. the basics is transformation, the eating ofhuman flesh a young womanthe tik tik and the wak wak which are just simply birds that are associated to the aswang.another one is the one with the tongue that comes out and it sucks out the fetus.they like to eat babies and the entrails of humans.the moon has something to do with it...i think.

the aswang who walks and that who flies.the one we have here is called manananggal. they cut themselves in half, one half stayson the ground, the other half flies away. which artistically i figure must be really,really painful. the aswang in "shake, rattle & roll", theaswang of peque (director), the manananggal. if you see an extremely large dog,in the older stories horses, if you see an oversized pig, it becomes anaswang. the sigbin, which is the were-dog, which ishalf dog and half human each person has their own perspective in allthis. there's no picture of what it really is. itcan have different interpretations.

an aswang can be a man eating creature toothers and to others like a ghost or a spirit. or to others it's just.evil there's no specific character for that.i think i like the aswang idea because it's so amorphous and ambiguous and it's unknown.this is going to be harder than i thought. i ended up with more questions than answers.why are there so many different types of aswang? where generally in filipino folklore the descriptionsof a creature is unanimous. why are they predominantly women? where didthe word come from? how does the manananggal fit in into this?and most important to me was why is the visayan province of capiz suspected as their home?i was surprised during the making of this

film at how much the influence the aswanghad in shaping philippine society and how intertwined it is with their history,so here are the basics that you need to know. it is believe the philippines had inhabitantssome 40,000 years ago, but the current residents came later, startingwith the aeta, or negrito who some believe are amoung pygmy groups originating in africa.about 2500 years ago the malays came, although how they arrived is widely disputed.on march 16, 1521 ferdinand magellan arrived and was killed a month later by lapu lapu in mactancebu. but it didn't stop the spanish from returningin 1565setting up permanent colonies and unifying the country under one political and religiouscode.

the spanish missionaries successfully convertedmost of the country to christianity and controlled the island for most of 3 centuries.until jose rizals book noli me tangere also named the social cancer, waspublished in . the book brought a national identity to filipinosand sparked unrest and revolution amoung the lower class.he was executed on dec 30, 1896 for treason, sedition and instigating revolution.the united states helped out as part of their spanish american war and assisted filipinosin achieving freedom from spanish rule. the problem was, they didn't leave, andso began the highly controversial american occupationin 1942 the islands fell under japanese control

forcing the americans to temporarily leave.macarthur said i shall return. filipinos continued to fight the japaneseuntil macarthur made good on his promise. on july 4 1946 the philippines gained its independence.after a 30 year hiccup under the rule of ferdinand marcos, the philippines are working towardseconomic development and political stability. now that's covered let's get started.in luzon the tagalogs (language) say "tao po". i always thought it meant "is there anypeople here?" "tao" is person. uh any persons? "po" is asign of respect. i found out that "tao po" means "hello, i'ma human". i'm not, i'm not a monster. you always have this feeling at the back ofyour mind that it's real

because it's coming from somebody who's oldenough to tell you what they have experienced in the past right?so i just have this feeling you know, that i don't think he's going to tell me this becausehe's just making stories. because she's and old guy or an old lady shemust be telling the truth right. so that's my interpretation before, when iwas younger. but of course now i respect all of that.for someone to come up and say i've seen a ufo. one third of the room will say he's crazy.for someone in the philippines to say that i saw an aswang...that's one curious thing about the philippines. even though some people would laugh at theconcept, a huge majority believes that there

is an aswang out there.and they will even scoff at ghosts, i have friends who "ghosts! bah, tell me where itis..." because the gallaga theatre supposed to bereally, really haunted. they slept over night to prove. they don't believe in ghosts.but they all believe in the aswang. there is an acceptance that this thing is real,this thing is around us, these things exist. aswang is a universal filipino term that ithink everyone will understand. so if someone is labeled an aswang , no matterwho you are or where you are people are going to avoid you, people are going to look atyou with suspicion. yes, there are people who have killed theirchildren because they thought they were turning

into monsters, and old ladies.the new york times published articles at the turn of the th century of incidences takingplace on panay island. one describing a man being tried for cannibalismand another which described men being tried for killing a womanand attempting to kill her husband because they believed them to be a witch.a search for articles relating to aswang sightings, or murders of people being suspected as anaswang turned up several results. it was clear that many filipinos believedin this folklore and is some cases the results were devastating.as a westerner, it was easy for me to dismiss the sightings and suspicions in rational terms,but i wasn't brought up with this belief.

i wasn't told stories from the people whoi looked up to and trusted. regardless, i was affected by the resultsand felt terrible for the families who lost loved ones.one photo deeply affected me a young girl was sick and had died through the night.it is apparent that something bit her, but the suspicion of the family was that an aswangwas responsible. a recent wave of comic books has been focusedon filipino folklore and the aswang. it seems that, like the movies, there is noconcise depiction of the creature. i moved away from pop culture and into literatureto assist in understanding the many versions being represented.a long time ago in the late 's i had directed

a play.a gentleman from batangas city had written me, apparently he was the head of a school.i found out this guy was professor max ramos, who had written a book. the book looked stupid,i mean dinky etcetera but the thing is, i mean the guy was a professorand first time i ever heard of philippine lower mythology.so all of a sudden, all these things that i was interested in and fascinated about wasa subject, was a scientific thing you know. so i made friends with him and was happy totalk with him, and he was fascinated that a city creature like me, actually a hippyat the time, was into aswangs, manananggals and tik tiksand stuff like that,

i think it was that long ago that i startedto take it much more seriously than just a bug bear, things to scare people.dr. maximo ramos did most of the leg work for anyone who might begin to research thecreatures of the philippines. he defined lower mythology as creatures thatwould cause harm or negatively impact communities. he divided them into 12 different categories.the curious thing about this is that the aswang, or creatures believed to be aswangs appearin almost half of those categories. including witches, who would cast magic spellsto kill people or make them ill. werewolves or more commonly weredog meaningit transforms into an animal to attack. the vampire which sucks human blood for sustenance.the viscera sucker which feed on the internal

organs and sputum of its victims,and the ghoul which devour human corpses. because the template set forth by dr. ramosis the most complete and widely accepted formula i will use it in our exploration of the originsof the aswang. what dr ramos did not cover in his books iswhere the word came from and how the first aswang came into existence .an article was written in the philippine inquirer about my presence making this film.a response was written weeks later by professor samuel miguel briones.he stated in this articles the term aswang comes from the root words asin meaningsalt and bawang meaning garlic. garlic and salt are commonly believed to wardoff the aswang.

what proved difficult to find was the firstuse of the word. my answer came from an old folk story about two bicolano gods.long ago, the good and evil gods lived in harmony. there was an understand amoung themas they created balance in the world. two, who some claim were siblings, lived oppositeone another. gugurang, the good god, lived inside mt. mayon.asuang, the evil god, inside mt. malinao. gugurang controlled fire and thus controlledthe people. when he was displeased with them he wouldmake the earth rumble from within the depths of mt. mayon.if he felt the people's behaviour was unforgivable he would make the volcano erupt and wipe themout.

asuang had no control over the people. jealousof gugurang's power, he begged for fire. gugurang refused.he knew asuang's intention was to gain favour by giving it to the people.they argued for what seemed an eternity, but gugurang stood strong.asuang made himself invisible and located the fire. he was able to distract the guardswith gold. he placed the fire inside a coconut shelland raced back toward mt. malinao. gugurang knew what asuang had done when thethrone room went dark. unable to control his new power, asuang set the world ablaze.every village that asuang passed burst into flame.gugurang followed the fire and eventually

caught up to asuang. he took back the flameand returned it to mt. mayon. he cried for the gods to help him controlthe spreading flames and it began to rain continuously. when the fire was stopped he took revengeon asuang by ordering lightning and thunder to attack mt. malinao.the people never forgave asuang for the evil and destruction he had bestowed upon them.professor leothiny clavel uncovered a similar story about aswang --regionalized to panay.the word came from a certain story about two spirits named aswang and agurang.so aswang represented the forces of evil and agurang represented the forces of good.each of these spirits had a particular quality of having their powers strongest at certaintimes of the day.

so aswang had his power strongest in the eveningand agurang had his power strongest in the day time.these two spirits were fighting for ownership of the island of panay.so later on, agurang wanted to defeat aswang and because of his intelligence he attackedaswang during the daytime when he was asleep. so during the attack, agurang won the fightand agurang gained possession of the island of panay.the stories of aswang were used to discourage villagers from leaving a settlement,which would weaken the numbers of defenders and appearance of progress.it was said aswang lay in large rocks or bodies of water and inflicted harm by giving a disabilityor illness to those passing by.

people stricken with illness from aswang wouldgo see the local healer or babaylan who was given guidance and wisdom from agurangon which roots and herbs to use for healing them.i was hoping the witch classification of aswang would answer why they are usually portrayedas women and to find out how and why they cast evilspells on the seemingly innocent. the answer was rooted deep in history around 1567 when miguel lopez de lagazpi landed on panay and began active colonization and christianizationof the villagers. during this particular period, there werelots of upheavals in the town of capiz itself and these upheavals were usually led by women.so that the people would not follow these

women, who usually attacked at night becausethey had no modern equipment or no modern weapons,the spaniards told the natives that these women were evil and that they performed magicalthings, magical acts and that these people were aswangs,these women were aswangs, so people avoided these women and as a result,they didn't have anyone to join them in their upheavals.the same thing can be said for the babaylans, or the shamans or priestesses of the pre-spanishphilippines. these people are very powerful, the villagerevolves around these people, they cure a lot of sickness, they perform prophecies,some of them even claim to be able to change

their sexes at will. some people still holdfirm to their native pagan beliefs. the spaniards don't like that. so what theydid was label these people as aswangs so people would avoid them.now the people would usually go to babaylan or local healers for treatments of their diseases.but the spaniards, in order to get clients for their modern medicine, they destroyedthe stereotypes of these babaylans and attached evil.father juan de plasencia , best known for writing the doctrina christiana and creatingthe written tagalog language using the latin alphabetalso created a classification of witches in the philippines or those who are in leaguewith the devil and causes harm amoung the

people.they were divided into twelve categories with details of what their spells may look like.so it would have been easy for other friars to cast healers and babaylan into many ofthese categories. even today the babaylan have a strong presencein deeper barangays. it seems the populace is divided as to their value.those living in cities would usually opt for modern medicine as opposed to the visitingwhat they refer to as quack doctors'. one of the factors why you cannot go to thehospital or see a doctor is you have no money. and if you are living in the mountains, youhave to walk about half a day to see a doctor. the best remedy is to see this babaylan. andfor them, they're the doctor.

okay, so this oil is used for someone whohas mental illness, and this one, this is used to ward of aswang.this is for mangkukulam (witch). lolo gonying is a fire dancer, and accordingto him and according to the people in his community he can contact spiritsand the spirits would possess him and he would be able to dance on fire when the spiritsare inside of him. these spirits tell him whether a particularpatient who comes to him is being cursed by an aswang,or being attacked by an aswang or some other some other spirit, or nature spirit in particular.so this is how he does his healing, because according to him he is able to dance on firewithout getting hurt because he is possessed

by the spirits of the unknown.too much belief in the supernatural makes us ignorant, but too much reliance on scienceand logic would make us arrogant. it seems clear that early spanish friars hada hand in creating this aspect of the myth. they introduced the concept of demons andwitchcraft to the indigenous population. it may also explain why there are many malebayabaylans today. historically it is a spectacular reversalof role that the babaylan would go from healer, and mid-wife, to causing harm through evilspells and wanting to feed on a fetus. this opinion was enforced when i came acrossa public decree made in the philippines during the th century.if you know whether there are any, either

of you natives,or of any other nation, either men or women, who are sorcerers, or witches, or magiciansor those who pray to the devil, it is a very great offense and disserviceto god our lord we order, all the citizens, within the saidterm of three days--under penalty that, if they know it and do not declare it, bepunished most severely. given in this village of dilao, june twenty-four,one thousand six hundred and twenty-two. fray miguel, archbishop.i'm not sure if you're familiar with the legend about the aswangs.that goes all the way back to the battle of heaven. the miltonian battle.of course, the angels, with lucifer, they

rebelled against god against heaven. michaelfought them and they were sent to hell. however, there was this huge delegation whowere fence sitters. they didn't choose to go with lucifer, theydidn't choose to go with michael and god. and god banished them to become the aswangson earth. this is a strong belief, this goes all the way back to my spanish ancestors.early documentation by the spanish doesn't not allow for appropriate interpretation duelack of field training and the language barriers. western and christian sensibilities were appliedto customs and practices that they observed. if it seemed unchristian it was assumedto be evil. the werewolf classification of more appropriatelyweredog would hopefully shed some light on

the massive belief that these creatures exist.if we see a large dog or pig, what leads us to believe it was an aswang who shape shiftedin this being? if you see a big pig, or a big dog or anybig animal and its out of place and usually coloured black. you call it an aswang.because that's the first term that comes to mind. it's got top of the mind recall.you know they always talk about these things and they always say...they would tell the children that the aswangs were creatures that could turn themselvesinto animals. so the children wouldn't go out at night andthey would stay in their house in the evening. eventually the myth caught up and that iswhy we have the aswang that can transform

into different forms.when i visited some of the rural areas of the philippines, there seemed to be a pigor dog bordering every property and they were easily excited at the presenceof an intruder. the children that i saw seemed to have a pointthat they would not stray beyond. children in the philippines are outgoing andfriendly in groups, but alone they become very suspicious.dr. ramos wrote about the collective mentality amoung them, if one child believed somethingthey would all follow as you can see in this interview i filmedin metro manila. i took my camera out at night on a typical street.i wanted to see what a child who has disobeyed

their parents may see after dark.i was shocked at how many dogs are roaming the streets. at one point i even felt as ifi was being surrounded. it seemed an easy way to have your child comehome before dark as they are certain to see at least one dog.the ambiguous nature of the aswang has left it open to personal interpretations dependingon what outcome is required. maybe one reason why the image of the aswanghas evolved so far from what we know of the folklore is because of movie makers also.i mean artist's imaginations and the concepts of artists in paintings, concepts of artistsin stories, as well as in the silver screen. in peque gallaga's 1992 film aswang sheis able to transform into a pig, a cat, a

bird, a snake, whatever that is and even otherpeople. in my last film "sa piling ng mga aswang"i used the sense of smell very strongly, they track everything.our skills are attuned to working our computers and electricity and everything, but when youstart to go into the wild and you start to go into the more elementallevels of existence, we've lost it all. this last movie i had is actually where theaswangs and humans reach out and the humans save an aswang baby and give it back to themother. i'm really into this idea of species.when you make a movie you try to, wait a minute, if she comes out at night, is she a vampire?does she get weakened by the sun?

you try to get some artistic logic out ofthis. i'm not an anthropologist, i'm not a scientist,i never studied these things. i came into this whole thing through folklore.peque gallaga's influence on the aswang folklore in undeniable.it seems that if a different aspect of the myth makes it into one of his movies, basedon artistic logic, it is solidified into the folklore forever.the vampire category has been tainted with western versions of the bloodsucker,but it hits closest to home for me having been terrified as a child by stories of dracula.rosario picazo wrote a paper in 1926 called superstitions in capiz.in it he says the aswang are spirits that

can fly with black with big red eyes.this was the earliest account of the bloodsucker that i could find, but it became chillingwhen i listened to a story filmed by a friend a fellow filmmaker, terrellharris, in his short film on philippine beliefs. it was in the vampire aspect of the myth that i realizeda flaw in my version of the folklore. the aswang movies that i have watched tendto have communities being terrorized, banding together, yet an individual shines as thehero. i played on the western phobia of being alone,the pervasive invasion of space, and the mind playing tricks on you in the darkness.if you know. then garlic, check, crucifix,

check, holy water, check, wooden stakes, check,let's go, let's make sure we come in at exactly , rightbefore sunset. you have everything timed out, very cinematic,everything so you can check out the artistic logic of the thing. i think it spoils thewhole idea. so i think the thing that works for the manananggaland the aswang is the same thing that keeps it from being scientific.that's what makes me confused. when they bite you or they scratch you. sometimesyou die and sometimes you don't. at the end of the day, you'll be like them.when? when does that happen? when do you die and when do you transform into being likethem?

with the lack of documentation, the differentregional incorporations, and artistic freedoms through the th century,the aswang folklore has become flooded with different interpretations.some believe you can be infected from through a bite or saliva.a common explanation could be that many bats and stray animals carry rabies which wouldappear to infect a person when bitten. it is also said that saliva from an aswangspat into the ear or mouth can transform a person. or food prepared by an aswang.again this could be attributed to an infection or food poisoning causing illness or death.for instance if the cassava root common in the philippines - is eaten raw, the humandigestive system will convert part of it into

cyanide.two cassava roots contain enough to be fatal. balut a filipino delicacy which is a fertilizedduck or chicken egg with a nearly developed embryo inside is said to ward off the aswang.however, the eating of an overdeveloped balut can cause an aswang infection.there is also a do-it-yourself method in which one would go to a cemetery on good fridaywith two fertilized eggs. they bury them in the earth, then after diggingthem up, place one under each arm and stare at the moon without blinkinguntil the eggs disappear they become an aswang. this must be repeated every year.this brings us to the last and what i believe to be the purest form of the myth.an infected aswang is said to have a small

black chick living inside them.a dying aswang can pass this power, and chick to a family member or willing, suitable recipient.the myth gets kinda crazy when i looked at allthe ways to detect an aswang and ward it off. a dog , pig or cat with no tail is said tobe an aswang in disguise. the toes of an aswang point upward. aswangs glare at you.your reflection in their pupil is upside down. the aswang has no philtrum on their upperlip. they try to dodge a blessing in church. if a baby cries for no reason or a ill personbecomes uneasy there is an aswang near. if you hear tik tik, wak wak, or kak kak,then an aswang is near although some say it means the aswang is far.scratching at the floor , scratching on the

roof could be an aswang.unkempt hair, bloodshot eyes, unusual behavior or not wanting to talk with people are allsign you are an aswang. warding them off you can use special oil fromcoconut will boil when an aswang is near. bolos through bamboo floors.a needle in the door or a needle with a broken eye at the doorstep is said to stop an aswangfrom entering. garlic, onion, spice, calamansi, holy water,blessed palms, incense, a crucifix, the lord's prayer, "our father, who..."any prayer backwards silver bullets, gold, silver and bronze, aninverted coconut rib broom, a photo of an old lady, throwing salt, throwing semen, apouch of ginger

coins, a pouch of ginger and coins, paintedwhite cross, nail or knife under the pillow, ashes, large crustaceans, fire, loud noise,trumpet plant seeds or leaves, the snout of a sawfish, the tail of a stingray, the smellof burning chicken feather, leather, or tires , bright light and sunlight.it would be impossible not to have one of these things by accident. the aswang doesn'tstand a chance. if by some miracle you ever encounter an aswangwith so many things to ward it off, how do you kill it?to capture and aswang you would use the cord of a priests robe. if you strike an aswangin precisely the right spot on their back with a bolo, they will die.if you miss, they can apply their saliva and

heal the wound.there is also a cure in which an aswang is hung upside down or tied in a chair and spununtil the chick exits from their mouth. another method is beating her back and stomachuntil you achieve the same result. a fire or cauldron of boiling water is placedbelow to kill the chick as it exits. apparently you can also bite her finger untilshe gives up and they kill her with a bolo. in the case of the manananggal, a person mustplace salt , or spices on the lower half of the bodywhich leaves it unable to reconnect and take human form so the sunlight destroys it.no matter how many alters we have. there is still salt for whatever presences there areetcetera etcetera. there are beliefs that

co-exist.the big problem now is where does the manananggal exist in this, because clearly it's squarelyon the side of the aswang. the viscera sucker is the category in whichthe manananggal falls into. a person separates from their lower half,sprouts bat like wings and flies off in search of victims.they use a long, thin hollow tongue to penetrate the womb of pregnant women and eat the fetus.also in this category is the wak-wak a bird or bat like creature that does the same thing.every myth has a precursor reality that comes before it. it's not a myth that came abouton its own.

something real has to be associated with it.it doesn't have to be the exact same physical description of the creature in questionit can be something that can be explained in rational terms.i wanted to explore a theory i had about the wak wak which brought me to boracay,a tourist destination located minutes off the coast of panay island in the provinceof aklan. i traveled by tricycle to barangay yapak wherethe giant flying fox is supposed to nest. in some cases, its wingspan can reach as muchas feet. recent resort development in boracay has pushed the bat to near extinction.in the last decade their numbers have gone from thousand to just over thousand.i wondered what a visitor to this region might

have thought encountering one of these.it seemed too large for a bat and too unnatural to be a bird.another part of the wak wak is the sound that it makes.that's why when we went near to her house i encountered the sound of aswang wak wakwak wak. there are thousands of sounds in the jungleat night, but one clearly stood out. beetles indigenous to the region can makethe noise in question. i had a very difficult time finding wherethe manananggal came from. it is certainly the most fearsome and updated aspect of thefolklore. those who wanted to control the people andthose who were holding much power during the

spanish period were the friars.and they were the ones who had a really good concept of what the demon was before.because these were catholic friars and they were the ones that the people looked up toand they actually used religion to control the people.so if you use religion to control the people, then you have the demon there or the devilthere. and what follows is whatever the local conceptof evil is, they would attack that local concept to the devil to control the people.i looked at father plasecias classifications and found the first clue to the answer.the seventh was called magtatangal, and his purpose was to show himself at nightto many persons, without his head or entrails.

in the morning, returned it to his body, asbefore, alive. this seems to me to be a fable, although thenatives affirm that they have seen it, because the devil probably caused them soto believe. this occurred in catanduanes. juan de plasencia 1689the creature described early on existed throughout south east asia.the common root word is tanggal meaning to detach but how did the creature go from separating its head and entrails to separations at thewaist. one theory is that women in pre-spanish philippinesexhibited some level of sexual freedom and power in their communities.separation at the waist was an attempt by

the spanish to take away the reproductivehalf and desexualize females who went against their catholic ideals.the upper torso still identified them as female. the wings of the devil or demon were addedto fit christian imagery of the time. the lure of the manananggal is that , by day,she is a beautiful maiden. amparo barza's 1927 paper mentions a creaturecalled the tanggal in which the head and stomach would detach from a body and transforminto a dog. he also documented stories about the wakwakself segmenting in which the upper body would become a bird.but then in the farm it was almost interchangeable with the idea of manananggals being shape-shifters.and very strongly it was either a pig, a dog,

i've heard cat but i think cat is becauseof the familiarity with witches. but it's always been a pig, a dog, andin the older stories horses. the manananggal has undergone a massive evolutionfrom the penanggal and has become the most terrifying and commonly depicted aswang.the ghoul was another aspect of the myth i had difficulty pinpointing the origin.the most common description i learned of was a creature, male or female, in human formthat steals corpses. it walks amoung people in villages, but livesoutside the community. i remember our director said, when we wereshooting aswang in bacolod. you know, i saw this lady she has black hair,big eyes, but she does not have this one,

a dent here.and then some of the people there would come to me and they'd sit down, there the directorin the middle of everything and say. "direk, i think you want to know...don't lookright away... but you see that group in the back behind......those people, just came in the from the forest. they're real aswangs. they're watchingit." i'm not kidding, i can't prove whether theywere or not, so of course i get up and i turn around and i look and i pass by there.and of course my artistic brain starts moving. they are weirder than normal, they don't havethe little. yeah, yeah, some people really believe.there's a province in the philippines, it's

called capiz.and the people of capiz, if you came to manila and said you were from capiz you are shunnedupon because they might think you are aswang. i decided it was time for me to visit capizthe suspected home of the aswang. upon my arrival there didn't seem to beanything sinister in the air. in fact, aside from an over abundance of tricyclesit was very similar to many philippine provinces. i watched their provincial video hoping tolearn more about their reputation as a haven for aswangs.there was no mention of the aswang however after interviewing residents i did hear twostories regarding the aswang on the island of panay.the first was maria labo, who had been seen

in several cities on panay. it was believedshe had killed and eaten her children. her husband, upon finding out she was an aswang,struck her face with a bolo and she now wanders the visayas , scarred, searching for morevictims. the other story was of teniente gimo who residedin duenas iloilo. he has been depicted as both a man who woulduse his powers to help the weak and also as a creature who would eat the liver of theinnocent. teniente gimo actually existed and there isthis, everyone knows that duenas is the town of aswangs.but apparently there's a story that he actually

encouraged that legend so the japanese wouldbe scared to come into that town. panay island and capiz in particular havetried hard over the years to shake the stigma that they are home to the aswang.perhaps the most controvertial event was the aswang festival, organized by a group of youngprofessionals to build tourism in the region. it was widely opposed and eventual shut downdue to pressures from the church. you know we can understand if people are maybeangry with the people of capiz and they slander us, that's understandable.but i don't think it's reasonable for example if people slander you and call you names likethey call you aswang. and then you gather your friends and thendo a celebration. oh i am happy they called

me aswang. it's unreasonable.although the aswang festival was no longer being held. i was able to spend halloweenand all saint's day in capiz. there was a light-hearted and fun spirit inthe air and it seems nobody took offense to the people dressing up as the very creaturegiving them a bad reputation. i made it through the night with no reportedaswang sightings or attacks. after spending time in capiz, visiting thefish ponds, and observing the calm and relaxed nature of the province,i couldn't think of a less likely place for the aswang to live.i began to reflect of the information i had obtained and why capiz has been so attachedto the myth.

if we take a look at only the stories of theaswang that have been documented throughout the visayas, there is nothing particularlydamning about capiz. if we add stories documented in the entirephilippines, it seems based on sightings alone, manila would be their likely home.so what happened that made capiz the centre of gossip regarding the aswang.the freedom fighter opposing the spanish, the babaylan they were all over the philippines.while i believe this contributes to why they were women it doesn't explain capiz beingtheir home. looking at the locations of all the majorupheavals against the spanish, it once again seems manila is the centre of activity,although there was one revolution on panay

led by tapar, who some claim was a femaleshaman and other believe was a man dressed as a woman.i'm not saying the spanish are innocent, it is no coincidence that the aswang folkloreis almost irrelevant in regions where the spanish were unable to successfully colonize.father plasecia documented the aswang as existing throughout the visayas, which includes severalislands in the central philippines, yet the manananggal, along with one quarterof the witches he spoke of, came from catanduenes in the bicol region north of the visayas.so why panay, and capiz in particular? my answer came by the most unlikely of circumstancesand in a field i hadn't thought of before. while in capiz i became involved in reliefefforts after typhoon frank had devastated

the small island barangay of olotayan.i met a doctor who had recently attended a seminar by dr. lillian lee regarding an extremelyrare and thus far untreatable form of dystonia. xdp is x-linked dystonia parkinsonism syndrome.it used to be called dystonia of panay. panay in reference to panay island in thephilippines. the whole spectrum is dystonia and parkinsonismbecause there are also parkinson like syndromes. these are small involuntary, repetitive, smalltremor movements. to be able to flex my hand, so my flexor muscleswould need to contract, but at the same time, my extensor muscles of the hand would needto relax. so that my hand can flex.this is coordinated in the brain. patients

with xdp would get repetitive, twisting, uncontrolledcontractions of opposing muscle groups. that's also why one of the local names is'lubag'. if you translate it in english it means twisting, muscle twisting 'lubag'.xdp is passed down genetically, this is how it works.in healthy parents the man would have an x and a y chromosome. the female would havetwo x chromosomes. if they were to have a son, an x chromosomecomes from the mother and the y comes from the father.if they were to have a daughter an x would come from the mother and the other from thefather. if the female is a carrier of xdp she is unaffectedbecause the good x chromosome balances out

the defect in the other.it is still possible for her to have a healthy son or daughter if the unaffected x chromosomeis passed on. however if the affected gene is passed onthen their daughter would become a carrier and their son would have a physical manifestationof the disease usually appearing sometime in his late thirtiesor early forties. because the onset of xdp comes later in life,it is common for an affected man to have children before they've begun showing symptoms,leaving his son unaffected and his daughter as a carrier.there are a few cases where an affected male and female had a daughter who received thedefective gene from both parents and had the

physical manifestation of the disease.how specific is it to panay? i think the or so reported cases worldwide,i think all of them can be traced to the philippines and to panay island in particular.george viterbo, i think he was one of the first to observe this dystonia amoung hispatients here in panay. if i could just show you some of the drawingsof george viterbo of people that seem to be in a transforming motion or mood.i started thinking that this disease, occurring in this population for generations. so thatwhat? years. could easily have contributed to the aswangphenomenon. i mean people visiting these islands, foreigners,spaniards, americans, couldn't even themselves

explain this transforming personwhen the person is not really transforming, but is afflicted with a certain disease thatthey just don't know of. this particular patient came back to capizto live with his family after being independent in manila for several years.because of this disease he lost his job, his girlfriend and the nieces and nephews whomhe used to play and joke with are now scared of him.before being afflicted he would spend much of his spare time with friends, playing basketballand now finds it frustrating that his life is confined behind closed doors.i learned the only time his muscles relax is when he is sleeping it is also theonly time he can escape from his burden as

he explained , when he dreams he is unaffected.i later learned that there were many cases where families were shunned because this diseaseis misunderstood. even one of my companions on the visit, aresident of capiz, was scared while sitting near the patient.i couldn't help but be reminded of an aswang in the stage play luna: an aswang romance.it is uncanny how similar the depiction is coming from someone who has never seen anxdp patient. i again saw this disturbing interpretationof the aswang from the children in capiz. which was very different from the aswang beingimitated in manila. even patients themselves who are affectedwith xdp become ashamed of it, of the disease,

that they have the disease.or that they don't want to be a burden to their families. so there are cases where theyhave just resorted to killing themselves because of the stigma, because of the burden,because of the lack of social support perhaps. exploring the medical side of the myth broughtme to a paper written by michael tan in which he stated the misunderstandingof psychological disorders, could also be a contributing factor to people being labeled as aswangs.so what does this mean for the philippines today?throughout my research it would appear that in recent times, filipinos are starting totake ownership of the aswang-

stripping away outside influences and tryingto understand the folklore as a whole and give depth and understanding to its representationsas opposed to using it as an instrument of fear.why is it that the aswang is ostracized? but at the same time, while she's ostracized,there is somehow with society not only a kind of fear, but also a certainif i use the word perverted sense of awe and amazement for this kind of creature becausewhile she's alive she is very powerful and she isable to understand the inner workings of the ordinary human mind.the aswang is actually all the evil, bad things that a town, or society would want to denyand therefore are hiding inside their closet.

and because the dark side of this town isbeing hidden and being denied, it has to come out, it has to be personified into something.that is the explanation why the aswang has begun to exist because they need a creatureor someone they could purge...that they could blame for the negative things that are happeningin the town. once they are able to purge it, the town orthe community feels a sense of cleansing. most of the time, the character of the aswang,which is the woman feels a very strong passion, usually for a man.even with that, it's not just because of a man, but also because she is trying to rebelagainst the strictures of what a woman should be in the town.because of this strong passion, the pain is

so great, especially if it is manifested becauseof a broken heartedness, because the man doesn't want this woman...eitherbecause she is not following the strictures of society,she is not following the religious codes and the morality of it all.the pain is so strong that it actually literally rends her apart.when she does that and half of her flies off, she begins to understand.she can see from a different level of consciousness and yet half of her is still on the ground.when she comes back to reconcile, she cannot see that anymore. she on that same level ofconsciousness of half of her body. that's the eternal conflict of the aswang.before the aswang myth would be taken once

again by the people of the philippines therewould be one more dark blemish in the long history of it being used as a tool ofpropaganda to inflict fear on the opposition of the controlling powers.the philippines culture is that anytime anyone has anything against the government, youronly recourse is to become a bandit and to go up to the mountains,go to the forest and become an outlaw. we're still into robin hood.in the 's during the magsaysay era, while the hukbalahap was still being dismantledby magsaysay with the help of colonel landsdale one of the strategies or tactics that theywere doing was to spread an aswang scare. they were trying to get them to come out ofthe jungle and come down to refugee centers

so that the guerillas would not be able tomove around. the people wouldn't leave.so what the guy did is they finally grabbed hold of a guerilla, maybe they didn't, maybethey just grabbed hold of some poor villagers stuck two holes in their jugulars, hung themupside down, bled them to death, stuck their bodies everywhere and started this rumourthat there was this aswang. so they were driven further back and theybroke their backs. through psy-war, through aswang-war.the aswang as a form of social control is different from the aswang as a supernaturalbeing. at one point in the dictatorship of marcoswe called them aswangs.

equating them with aswangs. there was thispostcard that had ferdinand and imelda that had at the back the wings of an aswangwe use it as symbolisms of the way that we understand evil.i did not really follow the story because because for filipinos, even for me who alreadygrew up in a very modern metropolis like manila. still every november 1, every all saint's day,every halloween comes, that's the first thing that gets into your mind.all these creatures that come out. and then on election day i realized, everytime there's an election...in urban poor communities, that thing would come out.whether intentionally or not, the aswang has been used to strike fear into the heart offilipinos, propagating lies about anything

that threatens control.the constant evolution is difficult to keep up with, yet i see a pattern beginning toemerge bringing filipinos back to their roots andsolidifying part of their identity as a people. in recent years it would appear that the aswanghas taken on a meaning closer to the the original story of aswang and agurang.the monster is merely a symbol and the word has once again begun to represent somethingthat is inflicting a perceived harm on the peopleas seen in these protest photos against the philippine administration.there seems to be a rational explanation for many aspects of the aswang folklore. i startedout with 5 questions:

why are there so many different types of aswang? it seems clear that society has evolved the creature as a form of social control.whether it is to strip power from the babaylan, desexualize women, overthrow a rebellion,of have your children obey their curfew. why are they predominantly women? againthe powerful females in early filipino society were viewed as a threat to the spanishand the local version of evil was used to take away their strength.where did the word come from? the story of asuang and gugurang, and thepanay version shows aswang as an evil spirit or early deity in pre-spanish philippines.how does the manananggal fit in into this? the evolution of the penanggal from malaysiaand the incorporation of regionalized fears

and perceptions of evil.the spanish friars inclusion of western and christian values and beliefs, including theconcepts of demons, possession, and the devil turned this particular creatureinto something truly horrifying. and most important to me was why is the visayanprovince of capiz suspected as their home? x-linked dystonia parkinsonism, a horriblymisunderstood disease hidden by those affected and misunderstood by their communities.when i began this journey, i never suspected that one simple word was so integral in thecontrol, development and progress of the nation. for better or worse, aswang is partof filipino society, and understanding where the word came from is the first stepin dispelling its power and the fear it creates.

i hope this film contributes to this and createsan understanding and dialogue to ensure that a word representing evilcan evolve into an educational tool and thread in the historical timeline of the philippines.now there's a lot more poverty, there's a lot more squalor and there's a lot more helplessness,even if you're in communities. so i think again, anything you cannot identifythat keeps you powerless becomes the monster. so they have to create the monsters in orderto be able to strike at it. aswang is the umbrella representation of everythingthat is vile disgusting and evil in philippine society.that's why it becomes very horrifying, because society denies its existence and so it hasto find a way to come out.

all great horror stories are based on a verystrong poetic truth about ourselves.

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