The Aswang may not be one of the best known cryptids, but it is certainly one of the most terrifying. In the outskirts and surrounding areas of the Philippines’ Roxas City it’s unlikely you’ll find many of the locals out past nightfall.
They’re afraid of a creature that they described as a shape shifter seen in the trees as half man half bat, and at times described as having insectoid features. Most importantly, it’s a meat-eater and its favorite meal is the human fetus torn from a woman’s belly. Welcome to Panay Island…
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Before the Philippines was a country of seven thousand islands, the island of Panay was the seat of the ancient Confederation of Madja-as, the first pre-Hispanic Philippine state.
Legend tells that ten exiles from the ancient state of Borneo found their way to Panay Island where they met the Atis, a dwarfed primitive people. Sharing knowledge of the Panay jungle and the advanced sciences of Borneo the new nation was born.
When the Spanish arrived and conquered the nation centuries later, they reported in their log books tales of a creature that hid amongst the tree tops and swooped down only to collect its prey.
While in the trees it was near invisible and could only be recognized by the “tik tik tik” sound it made, and in fact they began to call it by the name “Tik-Tik”. Applying their own mythology to the creature they often described it as a vampire.
However, the Aswang was far from restricted to the form of a man-bat. Local legend tells that the Aswang can transform into any animal ranging from cats to boars, but most often a dog. In later centuries knowledge or rumour of the Aswang grew to speculate that the creatures had begun living amongst the humans disguising themselves as regular townspeople. In human disguise they are quiet, shy, and elusive.
Some types of Aswang, particularly the females are said to be able to detach the lower half of their body in order to take flight with the upper half when hunting.
Despite the Aswang’s descriptions or even abilities, it is the way they hunt and their chosen prey that is the most terrifying. In its hunting form, that of the man-bat, it’s said to have a proboscis, an elongated hollow snout like that of a mosquito, which it uses as a weapon, but also to suck the womb and fetus out of a pregnant woman.
The “tik-tik” sound the Aswang emits is used as a façade to fool its victim into thinking that the hunter is headed away rather than toward, it will begin loud and get quieter as they draw closer.
Once they’re above you they move with lightning fast speed stealing their prey up into the jungle tree-tops. To make things just a little more creepy… they’re intelligent to some degree and will attempt to fool other humans by constructing a horrifying rendition of its prey out of twigs to leave in its place.
Fortunately there are ways to defend against an Aswang if you’re lucky enough to detect one. The locals of Panay use oil concocted of extracted, boiled, and decanted coconut meat and very specific plant stems which are a well-guarded secret.
It’s said that when an Aswang is near the oil will boil of its own accord. They can be harmed with salt, silver weapons, or stingray’s tails (buntot pagi), but your best bet is to pray you never meet one.