The Philippines Can Make Even the Strongest Skeptic Shudder in Fear

Aswang, Tiktik, vampire, witch, ghost. Do you know what is watching you when you walk in the dark places of the Philippines?

I have lived in the Philippines for nine years, and one of the weirdest things I’ve noticed is how superstitious the Filipino people are. Even my wife, who I would consider an educated, modern woman of the world, has fear in her eyes when she talks about the goings-on in our subdivision over the past few weeks.

In another phase of our housing development, people have been reporting that something has been jumping from roof to roof in the neighborhood internet forums. The houses all have something in common; there are either pregnant women or small children inside.

In a conspiratorial voice, my wife explained that it was an Aswang. It seems to be a vampirish, werewolf, witchy being that preys on the young and the recently deceased.

I’ve heard of the Aswang before because, as we were driving through the Dumangas area, here on Panay island, my wife became visibly frightened as we went through a dark and gloomy neighborhood. It seems as though these Aswangs live in Dumangas and try to fit in with the population by shapeshifting into young, beautiful women with long hair. They like the dark, too.

Capiz is also another area known to be the home of the Aswangs, and many Filipinos avoid it like the plague.

I’ve seen and experienced this kind of mass fear before, with my first wife and the skinwalkers of the Navajo Nation. On the reservation, tales of skinwalkers are serious. And if you call the police about a prowler on your land, they will come out and hunt for whatever was out there.

I still remember parking on a dirt road in the middle of the reservation, drinking wine coolers, and remarking at how dark it was with no lights anywhere.

My ex was so scared of what may or may not have been outside the car that we had to leave and find somewhere a bit more populated and bright to get drunk. The cops were less of a threat than the Skinwalkers.

In both places, the evil witch shapeshifts into different animals and beings to harm or kill the natives of that area. You might scoff and roll your eyes, but to these people who have lived with Aswangs and Skinwalkers their whole lives and have seen and heard them personally, none of this is a joke.

Where Did the Aswangs Come From?

When the Malay people came to the Philippine archipelago in the 13th century, they brought with them their beliefs, traditions, and history.

In the first Philippine communities, before the Spaniards came and colonized the area, the leader was a woman called a Babaylan. She was often responsible for healing the sick and communicating with spirits. So when the Spanish Catholics arrived, they spread propaganda to discredit the women and attached evil to the doings of the Babaylan.

“When Spanish friars arrived to evangelize the Philippines, they spread propaganda about indigenous beliefs as a strategy for converting natives to Catholicism. Anything the friars didn’t understand was deemed un-Christian and evil.” —

That is one reason why the Aswang is often said to be female, and Capiz is the home of the Aswang because the church spread lies about a female leader of the Spanish resistance in that area.

This is why today there are so many superstitions about witches and evil spirits. The thoroughly Catholic people of the Philippines still believe the lies of the church all those years ago.

Does this mean that the weird things that happen in the Philippines are fiction? Even as the skeptic I am, I have to say no, because there are things even I have seen beyond explanation.

Can You Explain This?

I used to roll my eyes when my wife would tell me of the superstitions from the elders in the community. I would smile a smug smile when my mother-in-law would tuck a piece of ginger in the baby’s blanket, or when my wife told me I shouldn’t do something because of what the mysterious “they” said.

I was one of those self-righteous atheists who think their beliefs are the only important ones.

But, I’ve been opening my mind about things I cannot explain. I still don’t believe there is a God but there is something. How do you explain Karma?

And things have happened to my family that makes me think everything doesn’t have a rational explanation.

When my wife was pregnant with my daughter, Zoey, I was away in the U.S., taking care of some business. Every night, what she supposed was a big black bird would sit outside her window and make a “Tik Tik Tik” noise. Her parents said it was a Tiktik, which is one form of the Aswang, drawn to a pregnant woman.

Her family used to throw salt and lit matches out the window at the bird, and eventually, when the baby was born, the Tiktik went away.

At least we think it did.

Recently, my wife’s Tita, or auntie, took sick and died suddenly. Immediately after we found out she was gone, our dog started howling outside and would not stop. It was a scary, mournful sound, and she had never behaved that way before. I found out the same thing was happening at the other siblings’ houses with the neighborhood dogs.

My wife told me, “they” said that when someone dies, the departed go and visit all the family members one last time, and the dogs can sense the newly passed.

When I went outside to check on the dog, she just howled and stared at something behind me. I must say I was a bit unnerved.

Over in phase one, the families are reporting something jumping from rooftop to rooftop. When they investigate, the jumping stops, but many have damage to their sheet metal roofs, as though someone heavy had been stomping on it.

All the reporting families have young children.

I can’t say for sure if there is such a thing as an Aswang or even a Skinwalker. I’ve never seen one, but I know some very credible people who have. I can’t tell you for sure if Tita came and visited us one last time after she died. I can’t say that the Tiktik outside my wife’s window was not just some deranged crow looking for food.

But, I am willing to accept the possibility that there are things out there we cannot understand with any science we have discovered yet. Some happenings can only mean there is an intelligence present. There are events in the universe that appear directed by something or someone.

I like that I don’t have an answer for everything because it gives me a reason to keep searching for the truth. If we had it all figured out, wouldn’t life be boring?

So if you find yourself in Capiz, on the island of Panay, or walking the dark streets of Dumungas, watch your back. You never know if an Aswang is watching you.

Also, there are things out there worse than an Aswang, so be careful!

Introverted essayist and creator- I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store