An Aswang (also known as Asuwang) is a ghoul in Philippine Mythology which appears to be an ordinary human by day, and turns into a blood-sucking monster as darkness falls. Aswang are known as shape-shifters that transform into animals. They prey on weaker victims like children and old people, but will also attack any single unguarded individual. They feast on the guts or inner organs (heart and liver) of their victims.
Appearance and characteristics
An aswang can look like ordinary human being, often appearing as a beautiful woman or an old man. It may also transform into an ugly beast, usually taking the form of animals like pigs, dogs, or other monsters like the sigbin, balbal, wak-wak, etc. Hunting its prey, it will disguise itself as an animal until it finds an opportunity to attack and kill its victim.
An aswang lives as an ordinary person by day and prefers to take occupations related to meat, such as butchery. They live in secluded areas of barrios far from the townsfolk, usually isolating themselves from the public, appearing to be quiet and shy.
An aswang can be distinguished from a human by its bloodshot eyes. Elderly rural folks say that in order to detect an aswang one must look at it from an inverted position.
Superstitions and antidotes
Fear of the aswang leads many to seek means of warding them off. Rural folk believe that they can be driven away with burnt animal horns or sharpened bamboo called bagacay. Aswang are also afraid of bullets, bolos, feathers and canes, and ever-trusted garlic hung on doors and windows or hung as necklaces. A crucifix will kill the aswang.
Aswang as a generic term is usually interchanged with other monsters or ghouls such as the following:
- Wak-wak - a bird-like creature that comes out at night looking for its victim. The sound of a wak-wak is usually associated with the presence of an Unglu (vampire).
- Balbal - a kind of witch that preys on pregnant women. When the balbal is hungry, its eyes turn reddish, become sharp, penetrating the woman's womb.
- Kubot - a bat-like creature that resembles an umbrella with its huge, wide wings. It catches its victim by its claws and takes it home to be butchered.
- Tik-tik - a huge bird that flies at night. The tik-tik looks for a sleeping person. When it finds one, it extend its very long proboscis into the unsuspecting victim and proceeds to suck the blood.
- Mansusopsop - a ghoul that preys on pregnant women. Like the tik-tik, it hovers over the rooftop and seek any opening for its long, thread-like tongue to pass through until it reaches the stomach of its victim. It then sucks out all the blood, including the fetus, until the victim is lifeless.
- Sigbin, a kangaroo-like creature which has a wide mouth with large fangs. Some say that this is another form of the aswang, while there are other claims which identify it as the companion of the tik-tik. It kills people with its deadly sneeze.
Presently, the belief in aswang has not ceased. Many still testify to its existence, especially in the rural areas. Aswang are usually blamed for lost children, unexplained deaths and other incidents.
Movies both local and foreign tackle this theme and have aswang in villainous roles such as:
- Aswang: A Journey into Myth – Documentary movie about the aswang starring Janice Santos Valdez, with a special appearance by Maricel Soriano.
- Aswang (1994) - Foreign horror movie that features the aswang.
- Aswang (1992) - Directed by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, starring Alma Moreno as the aswang, along with Manilyn Reynes, Aiza Seguerra, and Aljon Jimenez.
- Shake, Rattle and Roll 2 (1990) - Third episode entitled "Aswang" starring Manilyn Reynes, directed by Peque Gallaga.
- Maximo D. Ramos' The Aswang Complex in Philippine Folklore - Phoenix Publications
- Armin T. Santiaguel II' Tikbalang, Aswang, atbp. - New day Publishers
Other Philippine ghouls and monsters
- Demetrio, Francisco, S.J. Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs. Cagayan de Oro City: Xavier University, 1991.
- "Mythical Creatures of the Philippines." Associated Content, 10 March 2006. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/21178/mythical_creatures_of_the_philippines.html (Accessed on September 14, 2007).
- IMDb official website
- Aswang: A Journey into Myth
- Aswang @ Encyclopedia Mythica
- Unexplained Mysteries
- Explained:"Childhood Fantasy"in The Philippine Daily Inquirer