Creatures of Midnight - Philippines Nightmares and Figures of Horror

 What may be the matter in the Philippines at night? Rotation machines are rattling in the publishing houses of Manila. Operators are sending their data programs over the ocean to the large-scale-computers in America. Ago-go girls may dance for the questionable favor of tourists and thieves may test the utility of their tools.

And on the rural side? Winds are rushing in the palm trees. Pigs are wallowing in their hunt and on the sea fishermen are fishing in the light of their petroleum lamps. That's all? An observer may come to this impression - if he does not know anything about figures like Aswangs, Pugots or Viscera Takers which often press the Philippine soul so much.

We want to present some of these figures here - according to the motto: Danger recognized, danger banished. Our remarks lean on the book from Maximo D. Ramos "Legends of Lower Gods", Manila, 1990. The western unbelieving reader may escape in poses of humour while reading - but he should be cautious - many of our figures have wings. Some already use taxis and those are also going to the Aquino-Airport.

Let us take the appearance of twilight and let us approach little brighter beings, the ELVES. Elves announce themselves often with sound of bells and sweetish music. If you don't get thrown previously sand in your eyes, then beautiful strange beings with stylish old-fashioned clothing can be seen. They can appear in feminine (KAIBA-AT) or more masculine figure (ENGKANTO / DALAKITNON) and live in large mango trees. Over its crowns they go by sailing boats. They have such a bright complexion, that the water they drink could be seen in their throats. They come and disappear suddenly, may play a prank and sometimes they are stealing rice and fishes. If they use their seduction arts, they become dangerous. Is it a lack of occasion, which makes them so dangerous to young men? Invited persons they can offer beside foods without salt and spices a black rice. You can refuse the black rice, but then after your return to normal life speechlessness or intellectual confusion may come over you. However, when somebody is eating the black rice, the soul of eater is lost. He is put to the elves mercy.

The DWARFS are rather similar to our European dwarfs. They are small and shriveled, have ears of mice, bad teeth, a falsetto voice and a long beard, in which their power is located. Their complexion is more brown. In place of a ridiculous jelly-bag cap they carry a hat made of leaves of palms. And they do not sit as the European fellows in the garden but on a termite nest, which is the outlet and entrance to their subterranean mines and cities. The Philippine dwarfs have a double standard of morality. They appear as agents of middle-class morale ("Don't throw the coconut palm flour out of window!"). On the other hand - as tuba thieves they can forget the rights of ownership. If they are not too drunken, then can waylay young girls. And - German globetrotter only knowing the travel recommendations of Jens Peters - please take notice: If a dwarf is offering you a gold nugget don't tell it to other persons otherwise the nugget will change in a piece of charcoal.

Rivers, lakes and seas are mostly populated by watermen (e.g. UGKOYS) and mermaids. Some are living in marvelous palaces. Their sexual life seems not yet to be regulated. Who succumbs their enticements will not find anymore an entrance in normal human life.

The dragon BUKUNAWA exceeds all standards of size. He can roar as a typhoon. If he cannot devour persons, he grabs after the moon which changes his colour than into red. Some hunters succeeded in cutting him out an eye. But as long as he disposes still a eye he still represents a threat.

Giant and demon at the same time is the green looking BLACK CAPRE. No prayers can him banish, he can memorize them personally.

Demons are described as dark ugly figures. They are living in large trees and can differ in size and appearance, if they do not prefer to appear without head. They appear the rural population in figure of wild boars or as PUGOTS - black dogs with big eyes like plates.

The BALANG is half a human being, half a horse. From his blues eyes flames protrude. He can also smoke a cigar, however, his goat odour is more penetrating. He frightens people by wild gallops and tries to lead them astray. There exist also a species which assists friendly farmers in the fields at nocturnal hours.

WERE BEASTS are also belonging to the waxworks of terrible figures. They are monsters, appearing in figures of black dogs or other wild animals. After attacking and engulfing human beings they return to normal human existence. The OGRES are man-eaters. They can appear as people, animals or birds. The bad smelling BUSAN can imitate human voices. A really monster is the BUSO. He has only an eye. Above the forehead a red horn is growing out. His teeth are sharp and in his hair scrub black worms and lice are nested.

The HOULS are specialists as body-strippers. Vampires - as the PRETTY NICE WOMAN ASWANG - are belonging to the group of blood- and body sucker. They fly away at nocturnal hour and they have a long tubular tongue. Congenial are the feminine VISCERA-TAKERS, which have be seen the last time on the ground of Olangopo Naval Bases. At nightly take-off, they leave back through a kind of body segmentation their lower body. Wings are arising out of the upper body. They are viscera suckers. If one scatters salt or ashes one the lower parts of body during their absence, both parts of body can't join again.. In this situation they find the way back to judgment and it may be that they return to normal civil life.

WITCHES - are mainly women, who can make other people earnestly sick or rob their vitality slowly. Witches can make bodies bulging and bursting. They fill the bodies with snakes and insects.  

There is much relief to a person labeled as a witch, if an examination turns out a wrong suspicion.

Which advices could be given to a person affected by one of our figures of horror? Existing reports point out, that priests and doctors push quickly against the  boundary of their knowledge. Competent advice may be given by a herb healer. They know "secret words" and useful ingredients. This can be a mixture of vinegar, pushed ginger, salt or be pepper. Other may recommend the inhalation of smoke from dried guava leaves or chicken feathers. A simple change of clothing was already helpful also.

Our figures do not stand in the suspicion to be especially intellectual. Longer metaphysical derivations and conclusions are wrong at this point. Who wants can refer to the psychoanalyst C. G. JUNG and his theory of "archetypes of threat", which our western culture also knows. However, may be that these figures are only created to satisfy our sensation and conversation needs in a macabre and grim manner.


Wolfgang Bethge, 1997