A few blog posts ago, I promised to tell the true eyewitness account as related to me by The Sainted Patient Wife, of a witch or aswang, (Manananggal, as they are commonly called in the Western Visayans in the Philippines) that her family crossed paths with in San Miguel, Jordan Guimaras, in the Philippines. I relate this story to you and include all the details as told to me by my wife Melinda. Nothing has been embellished in the retelling of this story.
My wife’s younger sister Emily, was a beautiful baby. Cute sharp nose and just one of those infants people would gush over and comment on how maganda (beautiful) she was. She was the favorite of her parents and adored by her older brothers and sisters. When Emily was about a year old, she became extremely ill. Wouldn’t drink her milk and didn’t want to eat. What she did eat was immediately vomited. She suffered diarrhea and dehydration, and couldn’t sleep at night.
Melinda’s Tatay (Father) and Nanay (Mother) bundled up the sick little one and took her to the doctor. The doctor examined her, and prescribed some medicine. Emily got a little better the next day, but then she became quite ill again, and so another trip back to the doctor.
Quite expensive for Melinda’s Father and Mother who struggled to make ends meet and support a family of eleven. The doctor prescribed more medicine, again Emily got a little better for a couple of days. Then she worsened again. More trips to the doctor with the same results as before. The same pattern persisted, get a little better, than sick again. Tatay and Nanay were becoming increasingly worried and extremely distraught; the doctor’s visits had drained what few pesos they had before Emily became sick, and now all their money was gone. What could they do to save their little infant Emily?
Only one thing to do, Tatay and Nanay decided they would have to sell the family carabao (water buffalo, the ultimate work animal on farms in the Philippines, not "caribou" as the carabao is often mistakenly referred to by foreigners like myself. They had to raise the cash to take Emily to the hospital and have extensive tests run on her. This was an act of utter desperation; the caribou plowed the rice fields for the family farm. Without the carabao there would be no rice fields plowed and no rice next season: No rice to sell. No rice to eat. The decision was final; the next morning Melinda’s Mother and Father would bring the carabao into San Miguel to be sold.
Darkness then falls in the heart of the jungle as the giant lizards’ cries of “tukkku …tukkku..tukkku” reverberate throughout. Giant pythons hang menacingly on the trees. An evening where Melinda and her family, distraught with worry over baby Emily, huddle inside their candle lit nipa hut shorn of any modern conveniences such as electricity and running water.
No telephone. No television. The only contact with the outside world was a tiny transistor radio. Emily was especially ill that evening, vomiting and crying; reinforcing Tatay’s and Nany’s decision to sell the carabao and bring their beloved infant daughter to the hospital. Nanay held the little baby in her arms to try and comfort her and rock her to sleep. The hour is around midnight.
Suddenly the family heard a loud commotion outside! A cat emitting strange high-pitched screams was outside the front of the nipa hut. Melinda peered out the window and saw its eyes as they glowed fiery red! Taytay cracked open the front door, and the demon cat jumped inside the front entrance of the nipa hut, and according to my wife Melinda who witnessed it, FLEW across the room.
It is common knowledge in the Philippines that a witch or Manananggal had the ability to inhabit an animal’s body and possess it. Melinda’s father quickly grabbed his bolo (machete) and ran towards the flying cat screaming: “You are NOT going to eat my child, you Son of a b—-!” The cat literally flew out the front door, and my father-in-law shouted at all the children to gather all their old slippers (rubber flip-flops) and put them in the front yard. The multitude of old flip flops were piled up and put in a semi-circle, and Melinda’s father set fire to them.
As Melinda and her family huddled in the nipa hut, she could hear piercing screams and laughter coming from just beyond the burning mountain of rubber: it was the witch tormenting them, still in the cat’s form! Thick black smoke poured from the mound of melting flip flops, and the terrorized family huddled inside with Tatay in the doorway, bolo in his upraised right hand. The evil laughter continued from right beyond the flames taunting them.
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