K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is Filipino. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent lots of time with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines.
Context of this piece was in a Filipino restaurant where K started talking about her Filipino heritage. We asked her more questions about her Lolo and Lola, and what stories she had heard from them.
K: “This one creature scared me the most as a kid, I think. It’s just because it was so easy for it to change into anything and well my Lola would always tell the scariest stories to me. Aswangs are shapeshifters, they basically transform into another creature. They aren’t a universal monster type thing you know, but it’s used to name shape-shifting monsters.”
Me: “What kind of monster is a shapeshifting one?
K: “I’m sure there’s more but I can only remember my Lola telling me about two. I remember the vampire and the manananggal”
Me: “What’s the second one? I have no idea how to pronounce it or what it could be”
K: “Its somewhat like a vampire but it eats organs and takes a different shape than a vampire would. My Lola said in its human form it looked like a pale woman with beautiful hair that was so long it almost reached her knees! But it was something way different at night, it would separate itself from the waist up, hide its body, and then grow wings to look for prey……yeah, this one really left me scared”
Aswangs seem to be a part of Filipino folklore and the name itself is used as an umbrella-term for creatures that have the ability to morph into other beings. The aswangs can be labelled into different categories; vampires, weredogs, witches (Kulams), viscera suckers (aka manananggals), and ghouls. Vampires are a common part of western folklore but in contrast to the vampires from western cultures, the vampire aswang consumes blood through their tongues and not through fangs. In addition to sharing similar concepts of folklore with other cultures, the notion of a werewolf exists in Europe but as the Philippines has no indigenous wolf species, the term weredog was created in place. Weredogs are said to be aswangs as they shed their human form in the daytime for an animalistic one at night. In the Filipino folklore, not all witches can be considered aswangs. Only witches that have the capabilities of certain aswangs already can become one. Ghoul aswangs are typically considered humanoids that feast on freshly buried corpses. The viscera suckers, as said in the text, transform into winged creatures that are made up of half of their original body and hunt at night.
You can see more about Aswangs here at, Ratcliff LK. Filipino Folklore. The Journal of American folklore. 1949;62(245):259-289. doi:10.2307/537202