|Region||Visayas, southern parts of Luzon and parts of Mindanao|
An Aswang (or Asuwang) is a shapeshifting monster usually possessing a combination of the traits of either a vampire, a ghoul, a warlock/witch, or different species of werebeast in Filipino folklore or even all of them together. It is the subject of a wide variety of myths and stories. Spanish colonists noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century.
The myth of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines. It is especially popular in the Visayan provinces of Romblon, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Guimaras, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar, as well as southern Quezon and Batangas in Luzon. Other regional names for the aswang include "tik-tik", "fi-fi", "bayot", "wak-wak", "sok-sok", and "kling-kling" .
Sometimes this creature is called the "bal-bal" or ghoul (maninilong in Catanauan, Quezon), which replaces the cadaver with banana tree trunks after consumption. Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, and no particular set of characteristics can be ascribed to the term. However, the term is mostly used interchangeably with manananggal and are also usually depicted as female.
Appearance and activities
The wide variety of descriptions in the aswang stories makes it difficult to settle upon a fixed definition of aswang appearances or activities. However, several common themes that differentiate aswangs from other mythological creatures do emerge: Aswangs are shape-shifters. Stories recount aswangs living as regular townspeople. As regular townspeople, they are quiet, shy and elusive. At night, they transform into creatures such as a bat, bird (usually an eagle or hawk), boar, cat, or most often, a dog.
They enjoy eating unborn fetuses and small children, favoring livers and hearts. Some have long proboscises, which they use to suck the children out of their mothers' wombs when they are sleeping in their homes. Some are so thin that they can hide themselves behind a bamboo post. They are fast and silent. Some also make noises, like the Tik-Tik, (the name was derived from the sound it produces) which are louder the farther away the aswang is, to confuse its potential victim; and the Bubuu, an aggressive kind of aswang that makes a sound of a laying hen at midnight. They may also replace their live victims or stolen cadavers with doppelgangers made from tree trunks or other plant materials. This facsimile will return to the victim's home, only to become extremely sick and then die. An aswang will also have bloodshot eyes, the result of staying up all night searching for houses where wakes are held to steal the bodies.
Aswangs are physically much more like humans at daytime; they only change their appearance at night when they feel they are in need of food. It has been said that if an aswang married a human, upon their wedding, his or her mate would become an aswang as well but rarely can they reproduce. The couple may hunt together at night but will go in separate directions, either to avoid quick detection or because they do not like to share their food.
Unlike vampires and other similar creatures, they are not harmed by sunlight. They are daywalkers. Aswangs can also be befriended, they can talk to you like any normal human: they laugh and/or cry, get angry/sad, get hurt/humiliated and feel scared and envious. These creatures do not harm their friends and neighbors, and were said to be exempted from their target victims for food, hence the Filipino saying, "Mas mabuti ang aswang kaysa sa isang magnanakaw" (English: "Better an aswang than a thief").
They search for food in faraway places that it would not be too obvious for them. Aswangs are said to be vulnerable during daytime because during that time they do not have the excessive superhuman strength that they have in their nighttime prowl (aswangs only transform at night because they believe that God is dead or sleeping). When people know of their identity, they are hunted down and killed immediately.
Countermeasures against aswangs
Like vampires, aswangs are repelled or killed by using garlic, salt and religious artifacts/weapons (e.g. Holy water, crucifix, rosary, prayers and religious verses). They are also killed using a whip made entirely of a stingray's tail (buntot pagi), which may also be used to repel the creature (aswangs are said to be scared of the sound made by the whip's cord slashing through the air). It is also said that they cannot step on holy consecrated ground (i.e. churches, mosques, temples, etc.). Decapitation is also a way to destroy an aswang.
Certain agimats (native Philippine amulets) and special prayers posted on doors and entrances may also repel aswangs. A good example of which is the red and black bead bracelets worn by newborn babies.
It is said that to spot an aswang at daytime, look straight at their eyes. The person in front of you is an aswang if your reflection is upside-down. Another way of knowing is looking in a tuwad manner; that is, bending over and looking at the person from between your legs, upside-down. The person is an aswang if the image of the person is different. It is said that a person without a philtrum is an aswang. A kind of oil made by albularyos is used to detect if an aswang is near the premises. It is said that the oil will boil and bubble if an aswang is near.
References in popular culture
- Aswang, specifically the "Tiktik", are one of the different breeds of Wesen (werebeast) and the main antagonist in the Season 3, Episode 14 (Mother Dearest) of the NBC TV series "Grimm". The main characters Detectives Nick Burkhardt and Hank Griffin together with police Sergeant Drew Wu fought off an Aswang which tries to suck the fetus out of a pregnant woman who happens to be Wu's childhood friend back in the Philippines in order to extend her lifespan.
- In a 2013 ABS-CBN TV series "Juan dela Cruz", aswangs are the main antagonist which are being hunted by the protagonist Juan who happens to be half-aswang himself.
- A type of Aswang called the "Abuak" is featured in a 2011 Filipino film of the same name. Abuak can transform from human to a raven-like creature that could fly and move underground as it stalks its victim.
- Aswang is featured in a 1994 Filipino film of the same name. It is about a young woman who agreed to be the wife of a rich man who lives in a mansion together with his mother, who happened to be the Aswang.
- An Aswang is depicted as vampire-like creature in new World of Darkness tabletop RPG game. Description can be found in supplement book called "Antagonists".
- An Aswang character appears in the fourth issue of comedy/horror webcomic Fantastic Crap Comics.
- An Aswang is featured in the sixth episode of the Canadian TV show Lost Girl, and is portrayed as a relatively harmless scavenger Fae.
- Season 11, Episode 3; CSI: "Blood Moon" was aired on October 7, 2010 on CBS Crime Drama TV Series. CSI Quotes: Ray Langston mentioned There's a creature in The Philippines called "Aswang"; a hybrid cross between a vampire & werewolf.
- The Aswang myth is featured in The Forbidden Room.
- An aswang is the primary antagonist in the Supernatural spin-off novel Supernatural: Fresh Meat; in this series, the aswang is portrayed as being capable of flight and assuming a human form, sucking out organs and filling a corpse with the surplus organs it doesn't eat. It can be held off by a specific recipe of spices, but it can only be killed with a whip of a specific design that has been specifically treated with an enchantment and more of the spices.
- Aswangs are also featured in the 2002 film Spirit Warriors: The Shortcut where they are described as hostile creatures in the dark world, their main subjective is to get Red's missing piece of amulet to prevent it from returning to their own world, but it backfired when group of diwatas and a Tikbalang (that saved Red and Thor in the river) prevented their attack on humans, then Red successfully gets the missing piece of amulet from the Land of the Waves and returns to their Homeworld.
- Face Off (season 6) is about prosthetic makeup artists must create a vampire described from other cultures with their ability: Yara-ma-yha-who, Jiangshi, Sasabonsam, & Aswang from Face Off: Season 6; Episode 13: "Bloodsuckers". Niko Gonzalez is working on Aswang. Until there's 2 part spotlight challenge: The prosthetic makeup artists must create werewolf character is the enemy of the vampires from Face Off: Season 6; Episode 14: "Cry Wolf".
- In the 2013 first-person shooter game Shadow Warrior, "Aswang Hunger" is an unlockable ability which allows the player to steal health points from enemies.
- The monster in the 2015 video game "Boogeyman" published by BlackStar Games has a lot of Aswang features to it but hasn't been publicly confirmed.
- The Aswang is the subject of the 2011 feature-length documentary The Aswang Phenomenon. The film explores the aswang folklore and its effects on Philippine society. The documentary was also the first to uncover the origin of why the Western Visayan province of Capiz is suspected as the aswang's home.
- Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
- Tan, Michael (2008-10-26). "Aswang! Aswang!". Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
- Clark, Jordan (2011) The Aswang Phenomenon Documentary, High Banks Entertainment Ltd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ePhqoyLpXQ
- Cruz, Neal (2008-10-31). "As I See It: Philippine mythological monsters". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- Eugenio, Damiana (2002). Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends. Matt Asombrado Paculba City: University of the Philippines Press. p. 490. ISBN 971-542-357-4.
- Ramos, Maximo D. (1971). Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press. ISBN 971-06-0691-3.
- Ocampo, Ambeth (2010-02-16). "Looking Back: 'Aswang' and counter-insurgency". Philippine Daily Inquirer.