The manananggal is one of the most famous mythological creatures in the Philippines. "Manananggal" is a Tagalog word, which literally means "one who detaches" and so it is also called "the self-segmenting one." This creature can detach its upper body from its lower limbs after undergoing a gruesome transformation. The upper body grows wings, which is uses to fly around and look for its prey.
How Does One Becomes a Manananggal?
The origin of the manananggal blood line varies. One account says that a black chick is living inside a manananggal. This chick must be passed on from one person to another (usually a relative of the manananggal) by swallowing it when the manananggal is no longer strong enough to feed. This chick is said to be living in the pit of the creature's stomach.
A manananggal usually starts out as a regular human, but the chick that is passed on to her devours her own entrails while keeping her alive. Because of this, the person then begins to crave for human flesh and eventually transforms into these hideous man-eating creatures. Unknowingly, manananggals are often seen as women.
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Another known origin involves a ritual involving a special chant, concocted oil, and an egg of a black chicken. A person would rub the ritual oil on their skin while reciting the chant. Finally, they must keep the egg in their armpit until it disappears.
What do Manananggals Really Look Like? How Do They Transform?
One of the manananggal's weapons is deception. Some of them even mingles openly with humans and do ordinary day-to-day routines. At daylight, it takes the form of a beautiful woman, an effective way to spy for naïve victims and luring them to devour. And then, when night falls, it retreats to a hiding spot where it begins its ritual to transform into a hideous, vampire-like hunter, preying on humans especially the sick, the newborns, and even those still inside a mother's womb.
The ritual starts with anointing its human body with a special type of oil. Slowly, its body grows a pair of enormous bat-like wings, very sharp teeth, and a dreadfully long sharp tongue. In the process, it produces this very tiny shrieking sound repeatedly. Then, it separates itself from its lower body and flies to the air to begin hunting for its prey, leaving its legs and the bottom half of its torso on the ground motionless.
The manananggal makes sure to conceal its discarded member either beneath the bed sheet, in a closet, or in a secluded part like in the backyard or a banana grove because it needs to reattach both parts of its body again after the hunt.
How Does a Manananggal Hunt?
A manananggal is a night hunter. It flies around the dark quiet sky looking for babies especially for fetuses inside mothers’ wombs. As to the case of human adults, it enjoys devouring human organs and entrails as well. When a manananggal spots the house of its victim, it waits patiently on the rooftop until the mother is fast asleep.
When everyone is already in deep sleep, it makes a small hole from the roof and slowly lowers its tongue to touch the pregnant woman's womb. Its tongue is said to be hollow, fine, and sharp like that of a needle. It uses its tongue to suck out the fetus from the womb along with the woman's organs and intestines.
It is believed that manananggals are always accompanied by a bird called tik-tik. The tik-tik heralds the approach of a manananggal. It produces the sound “tik-tik” or “ik-ik-ik” while flying. Folklore dictates that the fainter the sound, the nearer the manananggal is (another type of deception). This is a way to confuse their victims of its exact location. On other accounts, black cats and crows also signal a manananggal's presence. Their victims are left with deformed faces or bodies.
Encounters with a Manananggal
Even though most Filipinos probably don't believe in a self-detaching creature that eats babies, there are still some people who can testify that they have seen the creature themselves with their naked eye.
One story is from Manilyn Gaspar who contributed on Smart Parenting her encounter with a manananggal while pregnant.
When I was pregnant, I saw a tiktik (also known as manananggal). I sprinkled the entire house with salt and I could still see it flying, all white and scary. I was told by folks in my place that it appears to other people as well and it sometimes takes the form of a dog. That's why all pregnant women in our place are very watchful. (Manilyn Gaspar, 26 years old, office employee, Manila)
Another manananggal encounter that became a world-wide sensation was an incident about a manananggal terrorizing the slum area of Tondo, Manila.
A few weeks before the 1992 Philippine presidential election, the residents of Tondo, Manila were terror-striken because rumors that a “manananggal” is roaming the slum vicinity. This rumor spread like wild fire.
“She attacked me. I was just lucky I was able to get free. I saw half of her body. It was naked. She had long, scraggly hair, long arms, nails and sharp fangs.” (Martina Santa Rosa, resident of Tondo, victim of manananggal attack)
Read also: Sirena (Entrancing Water Elemental)
Although no one knows where the rumors started, the news sparked fear in everyone that even international newspapers covered the incident. It soon became the hot topic of the nation, replacing the presidential election news. There were eyewitnesses and victims who told their experience to the TV reporters.
"We saw it fly away from her house." (Alfonso Bernardo, resident of Tondo)
On Wednesday (May 13, 1992), a group of young men together with a television crew went to confront a woman named Teresita Beronqui, the woman rumored to be the manananggal. At the house, they saw an old lady that tried to reason out that she is not the manananggal but in fact also a victim of the creature. She showed her foot, which was missing some toes because of the attack.
To end the rumor, reporter Cesar Soriano, made the woman touch a dried tail of stingray. The manananggal are said to resist stingray tails.
Nothing happened and so the old lady was acquitted.
How Do You Kill a Manananggal?
The manananggals are believed to greatly detest knives, salts, ashes, garlics, holy water, large crustaceans, and the sting ray's tail. They also fear daggers, vinegar, onions, and spices. There are several ways to kill a manananggal.
What do you think?
Is the manananggal just a myth or not?
Basan J. (2012, November 1). My eerie encounter with ghosts and the supernatural. Retrieved from https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/life/home/my-eerie-encounter-with-ghosts-and-the-supernatural
Nelson, J. (2018, August 16). 17 Facts about the manananggal, A vampiric cannibalistic woman. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/january-nelson/2018/08/the-manananggal/
Ramos, M.D. (1998). The aswang complex in Philippine folklore. Quezon City, Philippines: Phoenix Publishing House, Inc.
Reid, R.H. (1992, May 8). Forget the elections, Vampire is on the loose. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920508&slug=1490670