Riding an Iloilo City taxi the other day and heading home via pump boat to Guimaras, our driver, his radio tuned to a local radio station in Iloilo City, remarked to my wife in their native language, Hilgaynon, that the radio was broadcasting a news report that a witch, or aswang, was reported in San Joaquin, a municipality of Iloilo.
From Wikipedia, here's a basic definition of an aswang: "Aswangs" are often described as a combination of vampire and witch and are almost always female. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to all types of witches, manananggals, shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and monsters.
Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, so no one particular set of characteristics can be ascribed to the term. However, the term is often used interchangeably with manananggal, which is a particular creature with a specific set of features. They are often portrayed as a monster with wings which flap loudly when she's far away and quietly when she's nearer."
The aswang was spotted one evening on the roof of a nipa hut by a female resident who tried to capture the aswang with some other San Joaquin citizens but were unsuccessful in their attempts. The aswang flew away and escaped. The local parish priest was called in to bless the home. As the holy man entered the room he was knocked to the floor by a sudden gust of wind. The priest declared there was a devil in the home and exhorted people to pray more.
Other residents said (and I'm not making this up) that the aswang was an alien from a UFO. I verified the details of the radio broadcast with my wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. I have no idea whether those particular eyewitnesses who claimed the aswang was an alien were just drinking too much Tanduay Rum. or watching to my reruns of "The X-Files." My wife and her family were actually attacked by an aswang at their home years before we were married. I am pretty sure they were not drinking since they barely had enough money for food. Click HERE for Part One of that story.
Our cab driver informed us that he used to think aswangs were real , but he doesn't anymore. He said mothers used to tell tales of aswangs to make sure kids did not stay out late at night and came home when it was dark. He said many people still believe in the aswang.
The Western Visayas region, where we reside, has a strong belief in aswangs and other eerie creatures. I'll be sure to keep you posted on any new developments. But if you hear something stirring on your roof some dark, spooky evening, make sure you exercise extreme caution. And as you pick up your bolo to confront the creature, take the priest's advice and don't forget to pray. It can't hurt!