The Manananggal – Filipino Myth

1. Text

When asked for a folk narrative the informant shared the myth of the Manananggal.

“My mother and father described to me a mythological creature from the Philippines known as the manananggal. She’s described to be a vampire-like creature that can separate the top of its body from the lower half, and preys on couples, grooms, and pregnant women. The manananggal is part of a group of mythological creatures generally called Aswang, but a lot falls under this category, like ghosts and ghouls.”

“A lot like the La Llorona figure in South American stories – her origin story is similar to that of La Llorona in that she was abandoned at the alter, hates grooms-to-be and is jealous of pregnant women so she eats fetuses from sleeping women. She has vampire like qualities, for example doesn’t like garlic, salt, or holy water.”

“My parents told me stories like this were passed down to “scare” or warn children from staying out late, and encouraged them to be careful of their surroundings.”

2. Context

The informant is Filipino American, and both her parents are Filipino. Her parents grew up hearing about the myth and passed it down to her.

The informant interprets the myth as a story used to discipline and educate children on how to avoid danger.

3. Analysis

The Filipino myth of the Manananggal is similar to myths in many cultures of scary monsters that prey on children and the weak. The Manananggal is a female monster, which seems to be a recurring motif, where female monsters filled with hatred and have a tragic origin story prey on those they are jealous of, in this case couples, grooms, and fetuses for the Manananggal. These kinds of tale with vengeance filled female monsters satirizes how many cultures view women as family-centered and a loving mother figure. In a way, myths like these are a rebellious act against those stereotypes by showing females that hate familial happiness. The qualities that the Manananggal has such as disliking “garlic, salt, and holy water”, are a way for people to keep the Manananggal away. These weaknesses humanizes the mythical figure Manananggal since they have weaknesses just like any human. That makes the myth more believable and less scary since there is a way to keep the monster away. The Manananggal may have been a way that people explained inexplicable deaths of grooms, couples, or failed conceptions and deliveries of babies. By creating a monster who preys on people, people can make sense and cope with unexpected deaths.