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An Aswang is a cryptid in Filipino folklore. The aswang is an inherently evil werewolf and vampire-like creature and is the subject of a wide variety of myths and stories. Spanish colonists noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century. The myth of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines, except in the Ilocos region, which is the only region that does not have an equivalent myth. It is especially popular in the Western Visayan regions such as Capiz, Iloilo, Negros, Bohol, Masbate, Aklan, Antique. Other regional names for the aswang include "tik-tik", "wak-wak" and "soc-soc", which is the noise it makes when chasing prey.


Aswang or "asuwang" is derived from the Sanskrit word Asura which means 'demon'.

Sometimes this creature is called the "bal-bal" or Ghoul (maninilong in Catanauan, Quezon), which replaces the cadaver with banana trunks after consumption. Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, and no particular set of characteristics can be ascribed to the term. However, the term is mostly used interchangeably with manananggal and the creature is also usually depicted as female.



Artist's rendering of an Aswang

"Aswang" is a generic term applied to all types of witches, vampires, manananggals, shapeshifters and werebeasts.

Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, and no particular set of characteristics can be ascribed to the term. However, the term is mostly used interchangeably with manananggal and the creature is also usually depicted as female.

Appearance and activities[]

Aswang 3

The wide variety of descriptions in the aswang stories make it difficult to settle upon a fixed definition of aswang appearances or activities. However, several common themes that differentiate aswangs from other mythological creatures do emerge: Aswangs are shapeshifters. Stories recount aswangs living as regular townspeople. As regular townspeople, they are quiet, shy and elusive. At night, they transform into creatures such as a cat, pig, bird, or most often, a dog. They enjoy eating unborn fetuses and small children, favoring livers and hearts. Some have long proboscises, which they use to suck the children out of their mothers' wombs or their homes. Some are so thin that they can hide themselves behind a bamboo post. They are fast and silent. Some also make noises, like the Tik-Tik, (the name was derived from the sound it produces) which are louder the further away the aswang is, to confuse its potential victim; and the Bubuu, an aggressive kind of aswang that makes a sound of a laying hen at midnight. They may also replace their live victims or stolen cadavers with doppelgangers made from tree trunks or other plant materials. This facsimile will return to the victim's home, only to become sick and die. An aswang will also have bloodshot eyes, the result of staying up all night searching for houses where wakes are held to steal the bodies.


Artist's rendering of an Aswang

Kinds of Aswang[]

  1. Manananggal (means "The Remover" in Tagalog) - a woman who is normal by day and by night detaches her torso and sprouts bat wings and eats unborn fetuses.
  2. Tik-tik (sometimes known as Wak-wak) - Giant humanoid crows who belong to witches (or "magkukulam"). To stop them, one must remove the crow that is inside of their stomachs.
  3. Busaw - resembles human in appearance and behavior. They are corpse thieves/grave robbers. It dwells in cemeteries, sometimes steals fresh corpses from funerals or tragic accidents like car crashes etc. Their weakness is salt.
  4. Bubuu - aswang with bloodshot eyes that makes the sound of a laying hen at night.

Aswang Festival[]

On October 29 to 30, 2004, Capiz inaugurated the Aswang Festival, organized by a nongovernmental group Dugo Capiznon, Incorporated. It was a Halloween-like Fiesta as a prelude to All Souls Day and All Saints Day festivals. It was, however, condemned by the Catholic hierarchy and some local officials, as an act of adoring the devil. When former Capiz Gov. Vicente Bermejo assumed office as mayor of Roxas City in July 2007, the controversial festival was stopped. 

Canada's High Banks Entertainment Ltd.’s filmmaker Jordan Clark, 36, traveled to Capiz to film a documentary entitled Aswang: A Journey Into Myth (shot entirely in Victoria, British Columbia’s downtown). The Docu-Movie/suspense film stars Filipina-Canadian stage actress Janice Santos Valdez, with a special appearance of Maricel Soriano. The documentary's proceeds will help raise funds to help restore power in Olotayan Island, Roxas City and support patients of dystonia parkinsonism in Capiz. Capiz has the highest prevalence at 21.94/100,000 cases, which translates to one for every 4,000 men. Aklan has the next highest rate at 7.72/100,000. The figures suggest that XDP is endemic in Panay, particularly in Capiz. Some believe that dystonia was the origin of the belief in the existence of the aswang. Especially during the times in the past when disorders like dystonia were yet to be diagnosed and understood in the Philippines, some people assumed that individuals afflicted with dystonia were aswangs. Some physical manifestations of dystonia resemble the typical characteristics of an aswang, thus giving the illusion of a sufferer being an aswang.