Characteristics of the Manananggal and Wakwak
The subject of countless movies here in the Philippines, the Manananggal and Wakwak are other types of evil creatures in the same league as the Aswang. Legend says the Manananggal is a pretty woman by day that transforms into a vicious, half bodied, viscera-eating monster by nightfall.
It is said that the Manananggal will sneak out of her house near midnight to hide in the bushes, or maybe a grove of banana trees. There she rubs her body with a certain type of oil and minutes later, she will sprout bat-like wings and her body gets cut at the waist.
The body from the navel down will stay rooted on the spot while the top half will fly around looking for something to eat. With its acute sense of smell, it can smell a sick person or a pregnant woman even miles away.
In some areas in the Philippines particularly the Visayas, the locals call it the Wakwak. The Wakwak is so named for the sound its wing makes while hovering or flying. In the movies it is normally portrayed as flying in an upright position.
My father who grew up in Antique, in the island of Panay, says this is not so. He has a relative who saw a Wakwak flying over a bamboo grove. Dad’s kin says with all lucidity and sobriety that the thing flew upside down.
I just can’t imagine the aerodynamics involved with a position like that but it does make sense if you think of a bird out to hunt in the night. It would be easier to see the big picture if your head hangs below like the gun sights of a bomber plane.
My wife told me that some time ago a group of kids and some elderly menfolk saw what they think was a manananggal here in our little municipality of Pateros. The thing, they said looked like a big umbrella hanging from one of the electrical posts around 7 in the evening.
One of the kids saw it and threw stones at it. One of the elders cautioned the kids to stop throwing lest they broke a neighbor’s window. When the man looked up, he was terrified as the “umbrella” unfolded to reveal a face and arms. The thing quickly flew away and the kids (and the men) ran in the opposite direction.
My Mother’s account of the Wakwak
I haven’t seen a Manananggal (Heck , I’d give everything to see one) nor did my father but my mother has seen one in her teens, out in the rice fields, back in her hometown of Dulag in Eastern Leyte. I can still remember my mother talking about it matter-of-factly.
She said she worked alone on the fields and lost all track of time until it was dusk. She was then preparing to untether the buffalo so they can both go home – which was about a kilometer of thick bushes and rice paddies away. She said she had just lit her bamboo torch when she heard the sound that went “Wak…Wak…Wak…Wak…”
She unsheathed her bolo (a long machete-like knife) and looked up and around. My mother is a strong woman even at a young age but what she saw unnerved her. She said she saw what she thought was a large, tawny looking bird with sharp, black talons just a few feet above her head.
Its flapping wings disturbed the leaves and brushes for yards around. That would’ve been scary enough when you are alone and it’s nightfall and you still have to walk through unlit parts to get home. What struck her though was the looks of the creature’s head.
She says the thing had a pretty humanoid and feminine face with yellow curly hair. She described its face as looking “like a doll.” Its wings were that of a bird, not a bat. And she says by the dancing light of the torches she can tell the thing is staring at her with cold, grey eyes. Mustering all her courage she tried to shoo it away using the torch and bolo. The Wakwak flew away.
That was the first and the last time she saw a Manananggal/Wakwak but to this day, she insists that a Manananggal is different from a Wakwak.
I wouldn’t know. I just hope I can see and photograph one nowadays. That’ll give the Enquirer a run for it’s money hehe.