Date of Performance/Collection: 04/27/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Tagalog
The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.
Informant: “This is like evil. So basically what it is, it’s like… It’s kind of like a shape-shifter. Like it takes on a human form during the day, and at night it takes on a monstrous form of either a bat, a bird, a rat, or something… Something that’s vicious, you know?”
Me: “Wait, did you say monster during the night? Or just and animal”
Informant: “A monstrous animal-like, animalistic… Yeah, not like a monster, it could be a bat, it could be a rat, uh… a bird… Some vicious creature. And in the day it take son this human form an it’s disguised. And what it does, is at night it feeds on human bodies. Or like, it wakes up humans in the middle of the night and they eat their flesh. And they kind of, they have this thing that they do where they feed human flesh to humans, so that they’re like manipulated.”
Me: “Does that turn them into Aswang as well?”
Informant: “Yeah, yeah. Yes.”
Me: “Ah, ok. So they like sneak into peoples’ houses?”
Informant: “Yeah, they sneak into peoples’, or they wake them up when they’re sleeping. I’m not sure if they actually turn them into Aswang, but they definitely feed on the humans. And they’re kind of like demonic, violent, evil creatures that you should be careful of. I don’t know if there’s any prevention, like… That you have to block your doors is all I know.”
Me: “But who do they target specifically?”
Me: “Anyone? So, like, how do you avoid them? You don’t know?”
Informant: “I don’t know how to avoid. Like, my grandma never told me. They just feed on anyone.”
Me: “Okay, but are they like, uncommon attacks?”
Informant: “I don’t know that part, just that they attack random people.”
Me: “And has she seen one?”
Informant: (shakes head) “I think it’s just a legend.”
Background & Analysis
The informant’s grandma learned about these creatures through oral tradition, and the legend is not particular to any island or culture specifically in the Philippines. The informant also doesn’t believe the Aswang are real, especially because it’s known as a creature that comes in the middle of the night and eats your family. She believes if it were real, there would be some sort or prevention or protection methods against them. For the informant, the lesson of this legend would be to lock your doors at night and not go wandering around at midnight, lest something bad happen. All of the informant’s family members know about this legend and other popular ones as well, since it’s been around for a long time and is so widespread.
What seems to be the trend with legends, is that you can always pull a lesson or a message out of them once you are able to look past the creepy, scary stuff. In this case, the lesson could be something as simple as keeping your doors locked at night, or watching out for those who would try to hurt or take advantage of you.