What is an Aswang?

Jul 18, 2011 by


Some mythical creatures have their origin in tradition and tales from the distant past. However, each culture is associated with a multitude of interesting and odd creatures, many of these beings are humanoids. One of these legendary humanoids is theaswang.


The legend of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines, except in the IIocos region. An aswang is a regular townsperson by day and prefer an occupation related to meat, such as butchery. They are also said to have an ageless appearance and a quiet, shy and elusive manner.

The creature is described as a combination of vampire and witch and is almost always female. One key feature of the aswang is its bloodshot eyes. The aswang is an eater of the dead and a cannibal. They are capable of transforming into either a huge black dog or a black boar. The creatures stalk and eat human beings at night. Many stories revolve around these creatures eating children and unborn fetuses. Their favorite body parts are the liver and heart, and they are known to be viscera suckers.

The aswang is believed to have supernatural powers. Once it has overpowered a victim, it will take a bundle of sticks, talahib grass, and rice or banana stalks, and transform these into a replica of their victim. This replica is sent home while it takes the real person back with her. Upon reaching its home, the replica will become sick and die. The victim will then be killed and eaten.


Supposedly if a person looks at them in the eyes, the reflection would appear inverted. During their nocturnal activities, they walk with their feet facing backwards. Garlic bulbs, holy water, and other objects are believed to repel aswang. At night, they transform into the deadly beast. In the Middle Ages, the aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures in the Philippines. It is said that an aswang can be revealed, with the use of a bottle of a special oil made from coconut and mixed with certain plant stems upon which special prayers were said. When an aswang comes near or walks outside the house at night, the oil is supposed to boil and continue boiling until the aswang leaves the area.

In the Southern part of the Philippines the Aswang are classified into five distinctive types:

1. The Blood Sucker(Vampire)
2. The Barangan (Vindictive Hexer…Voodoo and the like)
3. Mananangal (Self Segmenter) A creature who can fly through the night using only the upper torso with its entrails dangling below.
4. The Corpse Eater – This is the aswang who will try and change out the real corpse with a fake corpse made from the trunk of a banana tree.
5. The False Beast – An aswang who has the ability to change from a human into a wild pig, or dog or whatever shape suits it.

(These are excerpts from http://naturalplane.blogspot.com/2010/09/legendary-humanoids-aswang.html)


“Aswang belief in Iloilo has its consequences in the lives of the people.  It staggered the progress of a particular barrio.  Informants revealed that after their barrio had been known to be inhabited by aswangs, the number of people going to their place decreased.  It was also this belief that caused misconceptions between families.  It was the consensus of the informants that conflicting families will use aswang as an instrument against each other.  One party will accuse the other as a family of aswang and the other, innocent of the accusation will burst into anger.”

p. 23, The Aswang Syndrome in Iloilo by Rami Cordero, Jr. (student paper) Center for West Visayan Studies, 1981


“Individuals always tend to be vulnerable when they are confronted by unknown forces, forces beyond their understanding.  This particular characteristic of human beings, the incapability to unknown forces is considered by other people as a weakness of rural folks… and therefore utilizes it as a means of acquiring power and authority.  It is to this effect that stories of “aswang” creatures are sometimes associated with many a Panay people’s lives, as proven by the fact that ‘they are socially functional in many communities and are used by many people as a medium of social control.’(Maximo Ramos, The Aswang Syncrasy in Philippines Folklore, 1971)”

p. 2, Old Aswang Tales in Some Towns of Capiz and Their Effects on the People’sBehavior by Alberto Carbonilla, Jr. (student paper)

Center for West Visayan Studies, 1979

photo from http://naturalplane.blogspot.com

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