Title Aswang
Description Philippine ghoul
Gender Female
Region [Visaya AND MINDANAO
Equivalent Tik-tik, Wak Wak
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An Aswang (or Asuwang) is a mythical creature in Philippine folklore. The aswang is an inherently evil vampire-like creature and is the subject of a wide variety of myths and stories, the details of which vary greatly. Spanish colonizers noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century.[1]

The myth of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines, except in the Ilocos region, which is the only region that does not have an equivalent myth. What they have is a creature called Irene E.[2] It is especially popular in the Western Visayan regions such as Capiz, Iloilo and Antique. Other regional names for the aswang include "tik-tik", "wak-wak" and "soc-soc".[citation needed]



"Aswangs" are often described as a combination of vampire and witch and are almost always female but some may seem male because of their features but are in fact female aswell. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to all types of witches, vampires, manananggals, shapeshifters, therianthropes, and monsters in general. Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, so no one particular set of characteristics can be ascribed to the term. However, the term is often used interchangeably with manananggal, which is a particular creature with a specific set of features. They are often portrayed as a monster with wings which flap loudly when she's far away and quietly when she's nearer. The most popular original definition however, is that it is a bal-bal (maninilong in Catanauan, Quezon), an eater of the dead. After consumption, the bal-bal replaces the cadaver with banana trunks.


Before modern medicine and science, aswangs served to explain miscarriages and other maladies. Today, aside from entertainment value, Filipino mothers often tell their children aswang stories to keep them off the streets and keep them home at night.

Like UFO stories, aswang stories are one of the favorites of sensationalist tabloids, especially when there are grave robberies, child kidnappings, strange noises, people with eccentric or peculiar habits, and other incidents that can somehow be attributed to them.

Stories of the aswang are popular in the Visayan region of the Philippines, especially in the western provinces of Capiz (a province on Panay Island), Iloilo and Antique. Capiz, in particular, is singled out by tabloids as an area of high supernatural activity: a home to aswangs, manananggals, giant half-horse men (tikbalang) and other mythological creatures. Many of those who live in Capiz are superstitious, and adorn their homes with garlic bulbs, holy water and other objects believed to repel aswang. Since the stories recount aswang eating unborn children, pregnancy is a time of great fear for superstitious Filipinos.

In Southern Luzon, the city of Antipolo is rumoured by locals to be a popular sightings of Aswangs especially during the Holy Week (Easter in the Philippines) where legend says that paranormal activities are at their peak during the 3 days that Christ was dead. Aswang is also suspected of being the myth that lead to the creation of the chupacabra. It was adopted by the U.S. military during WW2 as a tactic meant to keep the Japanese out of the forests. The troops would drain the blood of those killed in war and spread rumors of Aswang sightings. This fable reached Puerto Rico by way of the U.S.'s military establishments there.

Appearance and activities

The wide variety of descriptions in the aswang stories make 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 shapeshifters. Stories recount aswangs living as regular townspeople. As regular townspeople, they are quiet, shy and elusive. At night, they transform into creatures from cat, pig, bird and the most common 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 or 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 further 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 on midnight. They may also replace their live victims or stolen cadavers with facsimiles made from tree trunks or other plant materials. This facsimile will return to the victim's home, only to become sick and 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.

Appearances in other media

The short-lived Fox science-fiction television program Freaky Links featured an episode in which the protagonists had to deal with an aswang. Unwittingly released from a mystical box, this incarnation was a creature that lacked any shape and chose to remain in the shadows. Instead of stealing dead bodies, the creature instead chose to steal a person's shadow and eventually, their life essence.

The 1994 Horror film Aswang (aka The Unearthing) features the mythical vampire-like creature.

Lynda Barry's book One! Hundred! Demons! and her spoken-word CD The Lynda Barry Experience feature stories of the aswang. In her (her grandmother's) version, the aswang is a dog during the day whose hind legs are longer than the front. During the night, she becomes a woman, sheds her legs and flies around looking for prey.

The Syfy series Destination Truth aired an episode concerning a search for proof of the aswang's existence on October 1, 2008.

In the reboot of the World of Darkness, Aswang are a unique variety of pseudo-vampire that resemble normal (if beautiful) Filipino women during the day, hideous hags at night. They require blood to survive, leading them into regular conflict with both mortal hunters and actual vampires as their activities draw attention.

In Episode 6, "Food for Thought" of Lost Girl, aswang was a type of carrion eating Fae.

In 2008 a film was made in Durban, South Africa called Surviving Evil. Starring Billy Zane, Natalie Mendoza, Christina Cole, Joel Torre, Colin Moss and Louis Barnes. it is about a TV crew travel to a remote island in the Philippines to shoot a survival documentary, Surviving The Wilderness. Only to discover that the island is inhabited by fiercesome, blood-thirsty Aswangs.

Aswang Festival and ‘Aswang: A Journey Into Myth’

On October 29 to 30, 2004, Capiz inaugurated the Aswang Festival, organized by a nongovernmental group Dugo Capiznon, Incorporated. It was a Halloween-like Fiesta as a prelude to All Souls Day and All Saints Day festivals. It was, however, condemned by the Catholic hierarchy and some local officials, as an act of adoring the devil. When former Capiz Gov. Vicente Bermejo assumed as mayor of Roxas City in July 2007, the controversial festival was stopped.

Canada's High Banks Entertainment Ltd.’s filmmaker Jordan Clark, 36, traveled to Capiz to film a documentary entitled ‘Aswang: A Journey Into Myth.’ (shot entirely in Victoria, British Columbia’s downtown). The Docu-Movie/suspense film stars Filipina-Canadian stage actress Janice Santos Valdez, with a special appearance of Maricel Soriano. The documentary's proceeds will help raise funds to help restore power in Olotayan Island, Roxas City and support patients of dystonia parkinsonism in Capiz. Capiz has the highest prevalence at 21.94/100,000 cases, which translates to one for every 4,000 men. Aklan has the next highest rate at 7.72/100,000. The figures suggest that XDP is endemic in Panay, particularly in Capiz.[3][4] Some believe that dystonia was the origin of the belief in the existence of aswang. Especially during the times in the past when disorders like dystonia were yet to be diagnosed and understood in the Philippines, some people assumed that individuals afflicted with dystonia were aswang. Some physical manifestations of dystonia resemble the typical characteristics of an aswang, thus the association.

See also


  1. ^ Scott, William Henry (1994). [putanginamu Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society]. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4. putanginamu. 
  2. ^ Tan, Michael (2008-10-26). "Aswang! Aswang!". Sunday Inquirer Magazine. 
  3. ^, Canadian searches for origin of ‘aswang’
  4. ^, Filmmaker to bring 'aswang fest' to Canada

Additional reading

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