By Kayla Vasquez
When assigned to write a scary story for our readers, I, being a skeptic and not at all a superstitious individual, naturally had a hard time gathering anything from personal experience. Upon this, I decided that it was best to go to my family. I concluded that my traditional and superstitious Filipino grandparents were the best option.
Below is the tale of the Manananggal, a vampire-like monster seeking newborns in particular, whose story is deeply rooted in Filipino culture and legend, told by my grandfather. The name “Manananggal” means “one who removes or separates,” possibly referencing its said appearance of having a severed torso.
At the other end of the dining table, my grandfather pulled back his chair and sat down in front of me with a cup of coffee in his favourite mug. After being asked for a scary story, he put down his mug, deep in thought. Coming from a generation of superstition, along with the wild and boundless imagination of Filipino folklore, there was no doubt that he had heard it all. Then he began the story.
“When Gran was pregnant with [your uncle] and ready to deliver anytime, we heard scratching sounds on the roof, right above the window of the room where we stayed.” In reminiscence, he continued. “It was then that Gran recounted the story of a couple who was from the province of Antique, Visayas Islands (an island in the Philippines). They were about to deliver their baby when they heard the same scratchings on the rooftop. They thought nothing of it. When the woman’s grandmother heard the creepy sounds, she rushed to the room of the couple, for she recognized the presence of the Manananggal (a malevolent, man-eating, blood-sucking witch that feeds on newborns fresh out of delivery, separating the baby’s body parts and consuming the heart and soft innards).”
Pausing, perhaps for effect, he carried on. “She was too late. The witch had dropped its trunk (like that of an elephant) and snatched the baby from the unsuspecting mother’s arms; then disappeared. Endless cries of terror and dread were heard all through the village…” Lost in thought, my grandfather’s face turned blank. After realizing his silence, with a sudden jolt, he stammered. “As for Gran and I, we closed the windows, and I got my bolo (similar to a machete), ready to dismember this Manananggal in case I saw its trunk, just in case this was no mere folklore.” Looking back at me, his usual lighthearted glance returned. “Lucky for us,” he smiled, “your uncle made a narrow escape that night.”