The Long Red Tongue (Aswang)




Aswang, is a Filipino word for a witch, but it has more deeper and frightening meaning according to Filipino concept or belief. Aswang goes beyond black magics, crafts and flying with a broom. Aswang were persons that like to eat humans, they were cannibals.


I did believe in aswang when I was a child. Honestly, now I refused to believe it, although sometimes there were moments, I still became afraid when I heard tik-tik-tik, which Filipinos believe an aswang is around hunting for victims. I think it has something to do, that what was planted in your mind since childhood could be difficult to just eradicate or erase.  


Believing in aswang is dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that someone just can accused a person as an aswang only by suspicion. It happened that these people killed the suspected person

even there’s no proof. If you asked if they’d seen an aswang, many would answer that they had indeed, but if asked how they knew it was an aswang, nobody could explain or prove their insinuation. It happened in one remote place, that a family of six were all beheaded by the villagers because it was believed that the family were aswangs.


Once you are suspected as an aswang, if there’s a child that became sick, they blamed you. They don’t go to the doctor to know why the child have high fever; what they do was confront the suspected aswang and demand to heal the sick child or else something terrible will happen.


I don’t know why some people were suspected as an aswang, when nobody actually had seen them eaten a victim human. People based their suspicion on some of the traits or characteristics that a person have, enough to be tagged as an aswang. Liked if someone could not look at nobody straight in the eyes.


If you want to be sure if someone is an aswang, there were ways to find it out; liked when you’re walking behind that suspected person, you picked a handful of sand or earth he had stepped on and throw it over him, or just simply stepped on where he had stepped; and when that person became angry and will harm you, that person was definitely an aswang. Again, a nonsense belief because if you throw over to someone anything it’s sure that someone will became angry, who will not? Me, I knew by myself I will really become angry.


Also believed that aswang once a year must eat human. It’s a ceremonial call to maintain their power. The real big deal about aswang was that everyone was afraid to be eaten, of course who’s not? But aswang only will eat someone destined to be eaten. How delicious maybe a person looks if not destined to be eaten, nothing will happen. Although it's not comforting the thought, that nobody knows who was destined to be eaten and who is not.


Another weird belief was that a ‘manananggal’ also an aswang of other sort that have a power to fly, could make someone an aswang too, not liked vampires through bites but by letting their saliva into your body. They will infect a person by letting them sleep soundly with the help of their magic potion; then they will let flow their saliva through the hole of the ear. According to hearsays, the bacteria in their saliva once entered to one’s body will stay dormant in their chest, and when the call come to victimize a destined person, the aswang’s germs or the bacteria stayed dormant in the chest would or became activated to generate the halving of the body. The lower part of the body from the waist down would stay home and the other half will fly to look for the destined victim.


The manananggal aswang, have the power to see everything in the dark. Their eyes functioned liked x-ray, they could see their victim even through thick roofs, reason why when victimizing the destined victim, they just stayed on top of the roof and extended their tongue into the victim’s body. Their sharp tongue could function as a drill into thick surfaces. First, they would paralyze the victim so liked what mosquitos did when biting a person for blood. After paralyzing the victim, the manananggal will cut the liver and the heart, using just their tongue. They eat only the liver and the heart. They ate it raw.


Another sort of aswang, ate whole body of the victim, not raw but cooked. They slaughtered their victim liked a butcher would slaughter a pig for pork and the cow for the beef. This sort of aswang, one could describe them as cannibals; they have a power to camouflage human meat. They can create illusion, people thought that they were just cooking pork or beef or shrimps when the truth was that its already human meat they were cooking. With this belief mostly people don’t eat foods in the house of a suspected aswang. Well, there’s one way to discover or to know that the foods, may it look liked pork, beef, chicken or shrimps was not a human meat; you only have to squeeze a lemon or kalamansi on it.


It's also believed, that there were aswang who doesn’t eat their victim until the said victim was not yet buried. The illusion was that the aswang substituted the victim’s body with either a bundle of grass or a trunk of a banana; thus, people believed that a sudden death of a family member, was a doing of an aswang. There were people who strongly believed on this and to know that the dead body was real, they have to throw it out the window; when the dead body touched the ground and turned into a bundle of grass or a trunk of a banana plant, it means they have still enough time in saving the victim, believed to be still alive. What happened next was that mass of people would come to the house of the suspected aswang; these of course could create chaos and accidents of baseless killings just because of belief.


There were many stories of incidents about aswang. But the most popular was the one that happened during the last years of the Spanish time in the Philippines; the tragic story of Kapitan Gimo, he was not a military but was called Kapitan as the case of all the leaders of a village or barangay. Many claimed that the story of Kapitan Gimo was not a hearsay or a folklore. There were many evidence that it really happened in one of the interior villages in the island of Panay. It was published in a local newspaper and the incident was the base of many composed songs locally called the Composo. The Composo about Kapitan Gimo almost tells what really happened at that time.


The Kapitan Gimo story as I heard.


Kapitan Gimo had a daughter that study in a place what is now called the Iloilo City. This daughter, invited a female classmate friend to come with her to their village as there’s a fiesta. The friend accepted the invitation of which she regretted because it almost cost her life. She has to run away in the middle of the night and only survived because of the help of a watchman in a railroad crossing that hidden her from some chasing villagers that according to her were all aswangs.


According to her, she finds it strange that only for few hours that she was in the house of Kapitan Gimo, many people came and quickly went away; she had the feeling that most of the villagers came for the purpose of only to see her. Nobody talked to her, they just looked. When she asked the daughter of Kapitan Gimo about it, the answer given to her was that it was just curiosity as they seldom see stranger in their village.


It was a tiring travel to the village, so together with the daughter of Kapitan Gimo, they slept early. The next day was the celebration of the fiesta in honor of a saint. Before they went to sleep, the daughter of Kapitan Gimo just kept talking about the bracelet her friend was wearing; and said that on her birthday she will ask her parents a bracelet as a birthday gift. Then the daughter of Kapitan Gimo asked if she can wear the bracelet for just a night, which she agreed.


Almost in the middle of the night, this woman wake-up because of a nightmare. Then she heard voices downstairs. The wall of the house of Kapitan Gimo was made of nipa leaves, therefore she could easily make a hole with her fingers on the wall and she peeped what’s happening down. There were many people, and she saw a big wok with fire under. Then she saw four men with a big sack coming upstairs. She was so afraid that she tried to wake-up the daughter of Kapitan Gimo that slept soundly with a blanket covering the whole body but only moaned as answer. She was so afraid that she covered herself too fully with the blanket, and pretended sound asleep when the four men entered the bedroom where they were sleeping. It happened so fast; the four men quickly covered the daughter of Kapitan Gimo with her blanket and put her inside the big sack. They had mistaken the daughter of Kapitan Gimo as her because of the bracelet. When the four men went down carrying the daughter of Kapitan Gimo, she quickly thought that she must do something to flee. She always carried a small knife for self-protection and she used it to make a hole enough for her to slide down and ran as fast as she can, until she reached the railroad and luckily hidden by the guard from more than a dozen men chasing her.


The daughter of Kapitan Gimo who was thrown in the wok full of boiling water died.


Many versions of the story about Kapitan Gimo were told from generation to generation. It was said that Kapitan Gimo was captured by the Guardia Civil, found guilty of killing her own daughter, and was punished by death. He was beheaded and his head was paraded to let see to the people that Kapitan Gimo was dead.


It was also said that what happened was a conspiracy as Kapitan Gimo secretly was a leader of locals that fought against the Spanish government.


Another story was that it was the doing of the enemy of Kapitan Gimo, their trouble was about land grabbing.


Whatever the truth was, the story of Kapitan Gimo stayed and being told from generation to generation in the island of Panay.


As I said, when I am young, I did believe in aswang and I had an experience about aswang that I wanted to tell.


One day, my father had won from gambling. He came home with a lot of delicious foods.


We were deliciously enjoying our lunch and there’s no talking while we were eating. Suddenly a panicking sound of a chicken from downstairs was heard. My mother said someone have to look downstairs why there’s such noise but nobody moves. My mother became angry and told me to go down and look what’s happening.


“Why me?” I protested. I am enjoying my meal and I hate it that I was disturbed.


“Because I said so!” my mother angrily answered to me. When I did not move, she started to count and everybody knew that if she reached the number three, she quickly would hit with a stick, so my father told me to go.


Sulking and with stamping of my feet, I went downstairs to look. A hen was protecting her seven chicks from something. There’s a row of sugar canes and I saw how the leaves of the plants swaying wild, so I asked, “Who’s there hiding in the sugar cane?” There’s no answer so I came near the plants to look, but then suddenly I saw a long red tongue came out from the bushes. I had not seen a body but the red tongue was enough for me to be horrified and my loud frightening screamed was heard.




Everybody upstairs heard me because as I ran as fast as I could crying of fear, I saw my father, my cousins and my uncle with big knifes already in their hand.


“Go upstairs and stay there!” my father said.


I did what my father tell me after I pointed to them the bushes of sugar canes where I saw the aswang. They also saw the heavy rustling of the leaves so they went in there to look.


Upstairs, no one was eating. We were all silent and listening to what’s happening down. We heard shouting and liked chasing after what, which we believe the aswang that tried to escape.


“Fast! It ran away!”  “Where?”  “There, in that direction!”


The commotion was like forever but then later there was silence. The first one who came upstairs was my father with a smile in his face and it meant everything was okay.


“We caught the aswang!” my father said as answer to my mother who was askingly looking at him.


We children were all excited. They caught the aswang! Then came my cousin who was carrying a big sack, inside a wildly moving creature trying to escape.


“You all want to see the aswang?” my cousin asked us. My siblings all answered yes for I guessed it would be the first time they will see in person the feared aswang, and they were all excited.


“Okay, I will let you all see the aswang. I will cook it tonight for our supper!” he will cook the aswang for our supper? My cousin was crazy, I thought to myself. Then he opened the sack and let go what’s inside. It was tightly bonded thus it could not escape.


“A big leguaan!” my mother exclaimed.


There was laughter. For a quite of time, I was bullied by my siblings in mistaking the leguaan as an aswang but then I reasoned out always with the same words, “It has a long red tongue!” *end*