Unlike most countries, Halloween isn't celebrated as much here in the Philippines. The most fun you could hope for during this time of year is getting invited to a costume party come Hallow's eve. If you're a kid, you can look forward to the annual costume contests held in malls far and wide or go trick or treating in some posh village. Across the nation, this season is called Undas and it is usually reserved as the time to go visit the deceased.
Filipinos trek to their provinces of origin to participate in a fiesta-like atmosphere where the tombs are cleaned and adorned with flowers, weeds are uprooted and candles are lighted for the souls of departed loved ones. Neglecting the cleaning of a tomb is believed to anger the spirits into haunting you or making you ill. It is a humbling experience, the whole point of which is to reunite the family. The clan gathers together to spend the whole day in the cemeteries, eating, drinking and regaling each other with ghost stories. Some even go ghost-hunting.
Since it is Halloween, I thought I'd just run through our version of creatures that go bump in the night. Derived from Philippine folklore, these stories have been used for generations (mostly by nannies) to scare little children into behaving.
1. The MANANANGGAL, ASWANG or TIKTIK - self-segmenter; human by day and half-monster by night; believed to cut themselves half by night, with their upper torso flying out to catch prey; transforms into a monster with large, bat-like creature with wings and sharp fangs; The lower half (waist down) is usually left in its house, closet or bed; listens for sounds of death, eats the liver of chicken and innards of old people and children, especially fond of babies, has a very long thread-like tongue which it uses to suck unborn fetuses from their sleeping mothers, can change from animal to human form and back whenever they want so as not to be discovered (pigs, dogs and black birds are popular disguises); application of garlic on the lower body while the upper half is away will make it impossible for the manananggal to return; if the upper torso remains away from the lower torso at daybreak the manananggal will die.
2. The KAPRE - described as being a tall (7 to 9 ft), brown, hairy male with a beard; normally seen sitting in a tree and smoking a big tobacco pipe whose strong smell would attract human attention; resides in big trees like the acacia, balete or bamboo; wears a belt which gives it the ability to be unseen by humans; supposed to hold a magical white stone which if obtained, will grant wishes; if a Kapre befriends any human, especially because of love, it will consistently follow them throughout life; are also said to play pranks on people, frequently making travellers lost in the mountains as well as confuse people (for instance someone who forgets that they are in their own garden or home are said to be tricked by one).
3. The TIKBALANG - large human-like being with a horse's head; said to smell awful, with glowing embers for eyes and foul-smelling smoke bellowing forth from their nostrils; long legs, clawed feet, long hair; tall and hideous; brings sickness, death and other misfortunes; knees reach above its head when it sits; leads travelers astray; lets people pass only if they ask permission; jails victim in little hut in bamboo grove; leaps and prances to dislodge rider; inflicts fever on human victim; disappears in dusty cloud and falling stones; able to assume any form and size it wishes; bewilders, blinds and crazes people; yields magic jewel when forced to do so by resolution and expert horsemanship.
4. The TIYANAK - usually a crying, adorable baby left outside one's door or yard who turns into a monster; intention is to lure unsuspecting victims into picking them up so they can eat them; the unwary are led into a forest with its cries until lost; according to superstition, the only way to find one's path back is to turn one's shirt inside out so that the spell may be broken.
5. The DWENDE or NUNO SA PUNSO - generally characterized as a gray little old man dwelling under a tree, earth mound or termite hill; house contains rows of jars containing gold; disfigures/inflicts sickness or pain on victims; plays parlor games with little girls and invite them to his kingdom whereby they will be lost to their families forever; eats rice, tubers, meat and chicken offered in exchange for gold and jewels; becomes very angry when stepped on; generally invisible; abhors salt and spices; gold gifts must be quickly spent or it vanishes into cinders and dung.
6. The MANGKUKULAM or MAMBABARANG - hexers or witches who cast spells on people to make them ill; they are also known to magically place bugs, shells, fish bones, needles, bits of glass and other weird objects under their victim's skin which causes the latter much discomfort and pain; they use a little black doll (much like voodoo) or a candlewax figure to represent their victim during rituals.
Happy Halloween, everyone!