Manananggal. One of the most popular monsters in Philippine folklore and a staple of Pinoy horror movies. Almost every Filipino knows what a manananggal is but to those who don’t, well, a manananggal is a variant of the aswang. By day, is just a normal person, usually a woman, but come sundown she goes to a secluded area, goes naked and rubs a specially prepared oil all over her body while murmuring an incantation and staring at the moon. Her body undergoes a transformation where her nails turn into claws and her teeth grow into fangs. Leathery, bat-like wings sprout from her back and her upper torso begins to separate from the lower half of the body at the waist. Fully detached, she flies off with her large intestine rotating or undulating to stabilize her flight. She searches for people who are still outdoors alone after dark or for a house where there’s a pregnant woman sleeping inside, for she loves to eat fetuses or babies inside the womb. She usually perches on the roof and if she finds a hole right above the pregnant woman, she slides her tongue in and it stretches to a great length and as thin as a thread but with a pointed tip. The tip pierces the victim’s navel and goes straight to the yet to be born child in the womb, sucking the poor child’s blood, for the manananggal’s tongue is hollow and acts like a straw or a syringe. The child dies and the mother suffers a miscarriage upon waking up.
The manananggal’s weakness is her discarded lower half. Destroy it or move and hide it somewhere else to prevent her from rejoining it. Without her lower half, she will die by sunrise.
Among the Waray, the manananggal is called Tangso-tangso. In Aklan, Tanggae. In Mindanao, Salimbarot; and in some parts of Palawan, Tanggar.
The Aswang Delegation
In 1930 a teachers’ seminar was held in Lucban, Quezon. All towns in Quezon province sent delegates. These were housed in the elementary school buildings a kilometer from the town proper. The seminar lasted one week. The night after the delegates arrived, the townspeople living near the school compound heard peculiar noises of flying wings and the sound “Tik-tik-tik” of the tiktik bird. It was a firm belief in the town that whenever the tiktik was heard at night there were aswang around.
The next night, some brave folks peeped out of their windows when they heard the sound of wings. They were horrified when they saw a flock of black-winged creatures flying in the dark of the night. The creatures had human heads but half of their bodies from the waist down were missing. The people presumed that what they saw were manananggal.
The following morning, the people of Lucban, who were in charge of feeding the delegates observed them closely. They noticed that some of the delegates refused to eat spicy food and where very fond of dinuguan and inihaw-na-lamang-loob. They also noticed that these delegates had deep armpits and could not look directly into other people’s eyes.
From that night till the seminar ended, the people hung spices like garlic and black pepper outside their windows. They placed crosses on top of their roofs.
When the eminar was finished and all the delegates had gone home, the peace of night returned to the town. Source: The Aswang Syncrasy in Philippine Folklore (1971), p. 47.
Blumentritt, Ferdinand. Diccionario Mitologico de Filipinas. Manila, 1895.
Ramos, Maximo D. The Aswang syncrasy in Philippine Folklore. Philippine Folklore Society, 1971.