In the Philippine Islands today, the term aswang is a generic term that applied to a variety of mythical or paranormal creatures such as witches, vampires, manananggals and shapeshifters . The original definition is an eater of the dead, also called the bal-bal (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.
One type of aswang is a woman who changes into the form of a large bird at night. In this form, she has a very long, hollow tongue with a sharp point at the end. She lands on the thatched roof of her victims. The tongue reaches down through a crack in the roof. The tip of this tongue inserts into the neck of a sleeping person and draws up the blood. The favorite victims are young children and pregnant women. When this type of aswang returns to her own home before dawn, she changes back into human form. But her breasts and belly are swollen with blood. She then breast feeds the blood to her own children.
Sometimes this type of aswang is called the tik-tik or wak-wak. But in some Phillippine lore the name tik-tik is given to a small owl-like bird which accompanies this type of aswang at night. The smaller bird makes the sound “tik-tik” which forewarns the potential victims. of the nearby presence of the aswang. This type of aswang is described in The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton (1994, 1999) and in The Vampire Encyclopedia by Matthew Bunson (1983).
Another type of aswang is the mannananggal or penanggalan (Malay), a man or woman who separates at the waist at night. The top half then grows wings and flies off to seek victims. This type of aswang is also sometimes said to have a long tongue. It has a reputation for snatching unborn babies from the wombs of pregnant women. He or she can be destroyed by casting salt onto the lower part of his body after he becomes detached. The upper half can then no longer re-connect with the lower half. This type of aswang is mentioned in the article Phillipine (Visayan) Superstitions by Fletcher Gardner published in The Journal of American Folk-Lore, 19 (1906) and the book Supernatural Tales from Around the World edited by Terri Hardin (Barnes & Noble, 1995.)
A third type of aswang is a man or women who can change into all sorts of animal forms, including that of a bird, a dog, or a pig. Again,it is frequently said that the favorite victims are young children and pregnant women. This type seems to correspond the more specific meaning of the name aswang. Most often such an aswang is a man but there are also female aswangs of this type.
A fourth type of aswang, the mandurugo, occurs in a Tagalog folk tale summarized by J. Gordon Melton in The Vampire Book. According to this tale, at one time a certain girl was the most beautiful women on her island. She was also a mandurugo.
When she was 16 years old, she married a husky young man. He withered away and died within a year after the marriage. She next married another man soon after, and he suffered the same fate as the first husband. The same sequence was repeated with her third husband.
She then married a fourth husband. But he was warned in time. He went to bed one night, with a knife under his pillow, and feigned sleep.
When he felt something over him pricking his neck, he struck with his knife and stabbed the creature on top of him. It was too dark to see the creature, but he heard a screech and the sound of flapping wings. In the following morning, his wife was found dead at some distance from his cottage with a knife wound in her chest.
More about aswangs on Monstropedia, the reference encyclopedia about monsters.