Legend – Philippines

The Filipino culture is chock full of folklore.  The legend of the Manananggal is, by far, one of the most widely known and one of the most frightening.  A good friend of mine from UC Irvine, Derrick Yanga, shared his personal interpretation of the Manananggal.  According to Derrick, he Manananggal are “monsters” that are disguised as beautiful women by day.  But at night, their upper torso separates from their lower body.  They fly through the night and go to people’s houses., in which pregnant women are living.  They have incredibly long tongues, so that they can eat the unborn children in the expecting mothers.  The only way to kill the Manananggal is to put salt on their lower bodies so that they can’t attach themselves again.  Also, according to Derrick, he believes that the Manananggal die during the day if they are exposed to sunlight.

Derrick first heard of the legend of the Manananggal as a young boy visiting the Philippines.  Derrick was about thirteen when he first heard this story on this particular visit to the Philippines.  His uncles were sharing the story to him and his cousins, in an effort to try to educate the young kids, and simultaneously scare them.  Derrick, as many other native Filipinos, believes firmly in the legend of the Manananggal.  Due to the heavy supernatural activity that occurs in the Philippines, things of such a nature do not come as much of a surprise to Filipinos.

According to official sources, the Manananggal are, in fact, beautiful women by day.  Men flock to them, and, in turn, these adoring men are then “recruited” and turned into their consorts who guard their queens fanatically, especially when the inanimate bodies of the beautiful Manananggal are most vulnerable: at night.  In Tagalog, the main dialect of the Philippines, the word Manananggal more or less means “self-remover.”  The reason for this is that, at night, the Mananggal, whose bodies are hour-glass shaped with incredibly narrow waists, twist their bodies around so much and so tightly that their upper halves detach themselves from the rest of their bodies and they then travel with their arms transformed into wings, and their internal organs hanging from their severed torsos.  A telltale sign that you are in the presence of a Manananggal is the smell of vinegar.  Vinegar is a fluid that preserves their ghastly parasitical cohabitation with their daytime body.  Like Derrick mentioned, the Manananggal prey on the unborn fetuses in pregnant women’s bodies, by overextending their incredibly long tongues.  Also, as Derrick mentioned, salt is the key in killing and defeating the Manananggal.  However, the only way to kill them is to first get past their adoring male companions, who guard and protect the separated lower halves of their bodies.  Moreover, if the Manananggal cannot reunite with the lower half of her body by sunrise, she dies.  The salt prevents the two halves from rejoining.  The Manananggal are subjects, in a way, or a different version of the Aswang, which are perhaps the strongest and most powerful supernatural, transformational, corpse-loving group of beings in Filipino folklore.

Annotation: More on the Manananggal can be found in

Ghostwise: A Book of Midnight Stories

Dan Yashinsky

august house 1997, pp. 34 – 39