Deep within the jungles and city allies of the Philippines lurks a creature rather unknown in the West, but believed in by an estimated 80% of the population. Its method of feeding and favorite foods vary from island to island, but none of the options are pretty. In some places it’ll suck your blood like a vampire. In others, it’ll use its long tube-like tongue to suck out your entrails or unborn children. If you’re lucky, it’ll wait until you’re a corpse, steal your body, and eat your heart and liver. In many regions its torso can rip away from its lower body and fly away, making it as horrifying as it is deadly.
This creature of many methods of horror is the aswang.
While the origins of the aswang are rooted soundly in Philippine folklore and tribal religion, belief and fear of the creature took off once Spanish missionaries arrived. Babalang, or medicine men and women, were labeled as aswang to make people flock to the church out of fear. During the Spanish occupation, numerous rebellions were organized by women, who were also labeled aswang to discourage people from supporting their causes. Between the rebel leaders and the fact that babalang were most often women explains why the aswang usually has a female form, but not why there’s so much variation on what they they do or why they’re so prevalent even today.
The aswang is said to turn into so many different things that they’ve actually been categorized to keep them all straight. The usual kinds of aswang include humanoid, canine, porcine, avian (also known as the tiktik), and feline. Animals such as stray dogs, pigs, and cats are so common in the Philippines that it would be too late to tell if the creature is what it seems, or a blood-thirsty aswang.
Lucky for us, there are as many ways to defend yourself from an aswang as there are incarnations of it. If you’re religious, you could carry holy water or recite the Lord’s Prayer. If not, there’s always the option of garlic, gold silver, bronze, salt, or even sunlight. If you want to get really creative, you could stick a needle with a broken eye in the frame of your front door.
Unfortunately, all these things don’t stop aswang from stalking prey. Maria Labo, a woman who turned aswang and ate her children, apparently roams the province of Capiz, hoping to find more to eat. There’s even been reports of aswang attacking people as late as 2015.
So, be careful tonight. The aswang can look like anyone or anything. Their tell-tale signs are usually their blood-shot eyes and tangled hair, but that could just as easily be a person trick or treating or on their way to a Halloween party. The only way to be truly sure is to look into a person’s eyes. If your reflection is upside down, they are an aswang, but by then it’s probably too late, so investigate any possible aswang at your own risk.
Image from cryptidchronicles.tumblr.com