RT Cunningham

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The Aswang in the Philippines

Tagged with aswang, brothers grimm, luzon, philippines, tacloban city on January 14, 2024

aswang Philippines The stories published by the Brothers Grimm in the 1800s may be responsible for a lot of the mythology of the Philippines and, more specifically, the aswang. At least, in a roundabout way.

According to Wikipedia, aswang is an umbrella term for various shape-shifting evil creatures in Filipino folklore, such as vampires, ghouls, witches, viscera suckers, and werebeasts (usually dogs, cats and pigs).

A Television Series Inspired by the Brothers Grimm

Many of the stories created for the Grimm television series were based on tales from the Brothers Grimm. Not all of them, of course. We shouldn’t forget the fact that most of those tales existed before the Brothers Grimm got a hold of them. Many of them were toned-down versions of the stories published by Charles Perrault in the 1600s.

I watched the entire television series on Amazon.com’s Prime Video service in 2021, while traveling in the United States. All 123 episodes. The original run was on the NBC television network from October 28, 2011, to March 31, 2017.

Only one episode involved an aswang, but it was pivotal to the character development of Sergeant Drew Wu, a Filipino-American. Incidentally, the character was played by Reggie Lee, himself a celebrity born in the Philippines.

The Aswang

Although my wife, Josie, is a firm believer in aswangs, I am not. She was born in Tacloban City, a city autonomous from Leyte, the island province where it’s located. It was also the target of a crippling typhoon in 2013. The Visayan region of the Philippines is home to dozens of supernatural stories involving one form of aswang or another.

Josie and I moved to Olongapo City on the main island of Luzon in 2006. In all the time I’ve lived here (not counting the times getting stuck in various places during trips back to the United States), I haven’t seen anything that would remotely cause me to believe in anything supernatural.

I asked Josie why I’ve never encountered anything here or in the United States, and she told me they’re only in the provinces away from cities, and only in the Philippines. Yeah, right. I’m not calling her a liar, or anyone else from the Philippines who believes in all this stuff. That would be rude. It doesn’t mean I have to believe in it.

The Brothers Grimm Connection

I can’t blame the Brothers Grimm specifically, since they published a lot of folk tales that preexisted them and their sources. The vampire legend preexisted Bram Stoker and the other writers that came before him as well. A lot of the stories came from nomadic tribes traveling all over the European continent more than a millennia ago.

Just like rumors, folk tales will eventually make their ways to other locations, having nothing to do with the locations the stories talk about. That’s what I think happened in the Philippines. Of course, that’s only my opinion, and I’ll never be able to convince any Filipino who believes in aswangs to agree with me.

Image by Gian Bernal, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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