MA: “In Filipino lore there’s this thing called the Aswang, but it’s basically like a Filipino vampire. And, I don’t know if I’m confusing this with something else, but this is the story that I was told, that like, they’re kind of like vampires but they’re, I believe, can be connected to trees. They fly and they’re only half a body or something like that. But the big thing is, the thing that scarred me as a child, is that they prey on pregnant women. So, what they’ll do is fly to people’s windows, and they have really long tongues, so their tongues will go and go through a woman’s belly button and suck out the baby. And that’s what it feeds on.”
The informant is a 20-year-old college student who is from Orange County, California and of Filipino descent. She says that the Aswang is a popular legend among Filipino people. MA’s maternal grandmother and aunt are interested in the supernatural and say that they can see ghosts, so she thinks that they told her this story. She is not sure what message the story is intended to convey, but she thinks that it may be meant to warn children against staying out late, warn pregnant women against engaging in any behaviors that may endanger their unborn child, like sleeping on their stomachs, she said, or to explain miscarriage.
Legendary monsters often represent cultural fears, provide explanations for tragedies which people can’t understand, or maintain the status quo by illustrating horrific repercussions of defying cultural norms. Just as folklorists have interpreted the legend of La Llorona both as a reflection of societal views about motherhood and female morality and as a way to teach children to be cautious around bodies of water, the Aswang can be interpreted as sending messages about gender norms and safety. I think the legend conveys ideas about women and children, by virtue of the monster preying on fetuses, being vulnerable. It promotes a kind of sheltered or cautious existence for these groups, since this monster, perhaps a representative of men or malicious adult figures, victimizes them. The legend could also be intended to impart ideas about sexual morality. One could interpret the Aswang’s mode of attack as representing sex, and its devouring of women’s unborn children as punishment for female promiscuity. I also agree with MA that this legend may have been used to explain miscarriage.
For another description of the Aswang, consult page 250 of the following source:
Nadeau, Kathleen. “Aswang and Other Kinds of Witches: A Comparative Analysis.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, vol. 39, no. 3/4, 2011, pp. 250–266., https://www.jstor.org/stable/23719118. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.