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Beware of the Aswangs!

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Philippine folklore is filled with mythical and mysterious beings, including  scary monsters like the Aswangs that give us many sleepless nights.

The Aswang is the Philippines’ most famous carnivorous monster, a boogeyman-like predatory figure in local folklore who preys on humans.

Aswang is an umbrella term for an entire family of vampiric and malevolent spirits that suck blood, eat human flesh and also shape-shift as feral dogs, wild pigs, bats, or crow-like birds when hunting,

The witch, the were-beast, the bloodsucker, the corpse-eater, as well as the flying torsos (manananggal) or winged monster who sucks unborn children out of pregnant women, are some of the types of  aswangs in Philippine folklore wrapped in one terrifying package.

The Aswangs appeared in the international anime series Trese in Netflix which fuses Philippine folklore, legends, and horror mythology with dark, graphic storytelling.

It  follows Alexandra Trese, a mysterious detective who deals with crimes of supernatural origin.

Ghouls as aswangs formed organized gangs as underworld denizens of Manila, purveyors of nightclubs or criminal gangs involved in gun smuggling.

The Mayor was seen making deals with the aswangs in exchange for power.  – trafficking slumdwellers as  wet market for illegal human meat.

In  the documentary film called “Aswang”, the ferocious vampiric, shape-shifting monster metamorphoses  into the perpetrators of the war on drugs and their parallel abilities to stir palpable fear amongst their prey.

The  film directed by Alyx Ayn Arumpac utilized the aswang not just as a folkloric monster but as a creation for fear-mongering that simulates its  character – disguised and clandestine in food hunting prioritizing the poor at the bottom of the food chain.

“Aswang” follows a group of people entangled in the similar fate of being witnesses to the struggles of the extrajudicial killing (EJK) victims and exposing how their lives have changed during the current administration’s campaign against illegal drugs for its first two years.

As known and suspected drug users are gunned down with alarming regularity, the film paints a grim but compassionate picture of present-day life on Manila’s exceedingly mean streets when  losing their loved ones became an everyday occurrence for the poor.

The film touched upon “financial justice” wherein a person’s social standing determines whether they end up dead on a sidewalk, and  how  the poor become easy targets because they do not have the means to pay for the cost of justice — a cruel reality that many victims continue to face.

In the case of People vs  Bacalto (G.R. Nos. 116307-10 August 14, 1997), the Supreme Court said that superstition is merely an outward manifestation of an inner fear for folkloric monsters like the Aswang.

Finished with their field chores in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, farmers were on their way back home when they were accosted by several men who shot them at close range saying they would be killed because they were “aswangs”.

The hapless victims were gunned down, cold-bloodedly, and ruthlessly while pleading that they be not shot because they were not “aswangs.”

When the killers began discharging their firearms at their victims, the latter were in no position whatsoever to put up any defense or offer any resistance to the assault. The victims had no weapons.

Three were killed while one survived although seriously wounded.

The perpetrators were convicted of murder and frustrated murder.

The Court noted that this  as an example of how fear can lead to murder as no other motive for the crimes charged having been clearly shown.

In People vs Sario (G.R. Nos. L-20754 and L-20759 June 30, 1966), the offender was charged with oral defamation or slander after calling the complainant an “aswang.”

The offender said that the complainant inherited her power of witchcraft from her father and that she had probably bequeathed it to her child, who had become thinner as a consequence.

Aswang  is defined, the Court said,  as “an injurious and evil character believed to be capable of assuming various and different forms, especially that of a dog, and harassing usually in the depth of night women who are about to give birth”.

The Court stressed the term Aswang is an offensive, malicious and derogatory imputation, as it charges the complainant with having taught her child evil practices — and act which is immoral and highly reprehensible.

The offender also used the word “mangkukulam”, which the Court considered as undoubtedly an epithet of opprobrium.

To say that complainant is a witch and sorceress is to impute to her a vice, condition or status that is dishonorable and contemptible since it accuses her of having employed the black art; of possessing super-natural power by reason of a covenant with evil spirits; and of having trafficked with the devil.

Beware of the Aswangs.


Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786

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