Every culture has its share of urban legends. It is often passed around from generation to generation, and each version changes too, depending on how drunk the storyteller is. Philippines, being a superstitious country, has a lot! As we were growing up, my cousins and I love to listen to stories told by our yaya (nanny). She told us these stories to keep us from misbehaving.
The story of Lily has been around for as long as I can remember. She is an aswang. An aswang is the most feared among all mythological creatures in Philippine mythology. It is like a vampire/ghoul hybrid. She comes out at night, and preys on people. Babies are an aswang favorite.
Lily was known to terrorize the Visayan islands. Nobody knows how she became one. I can remember the times that there were supposed sightings of her, which would cause hysteria. Every time people would go to where she was last seen, she vanishes. This was my yaya’s favorite weapon of choice. Every time we don’t take our afternoon siesta (nap), she would say Lily will eat us.
From time to time, Lily sightings would still come up in the local tabloids.
2. Maria Labo
According to the stories, she was an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) from Spain, in some accounts, Canada. When her employer was dying, he passed on a curse to her— she became an aswang. When she came home to the Philippines, her husband noticed her acting strangely. One night, her husband came home and asked where the children are. Maria said she cooked and ate them. Blinded by fury, her husband took a bolo (a large cutting tool/knife) and attacked her. Her face got slashed but she escaped. Labo in the Ilonggo dialect means to slash, and that’s how she got her name. Nobody knows what became of her. An aswang can’t die unless they pass on the curse (a small stone or a chick) and someone willingly accepts it.
3. Minda Mora
If you studied in University of San Carlos (USC), you would know who she is. They said she was a Carolinian (term for a USC student) who loved performing. After being raped and killed by security guards, her body was buried at the USC Cultural Center. She is said to haunt the cultural center until this day. There was a locked room in the cultural center where students are often told to stay away from. It was a room she used to frequent when she was alive.
I am a Carolinian, and of course, I heard that story. When I was in college, we had this group practice in the cultural center. By the way, the cultural center is where student activities are performed. Our practice ended up late. Some girls and I decided to go to the comfort room together. There were 3 of us in the comfort room, and we were noisy. We were talking about Minda Mora, laughing about how ridiculous that story was. Suddenly, we heard loud banging from the last cubicle. We thought another student was there and was pissed at us for being boisterous. “Calm down, sorry for the noise,” we called out. It stopped. We were curious who the grouch was and waited for her to come out to have words with her. After 10 minutes, we decided to check out the cubicle. There was no one there! We exchanged looks and ran as fast as we could.
4. The serpent in the basement
Robinson’s Fuente was an upscale department store in uptown Cebu. I was in grade school when it opened in the 80’s. But thing was, not many people patronized it because of a rumor — the owner of the store has a twin who is half human, half snake. The serpent takes his victims through the dressing rooms. It was said that one of those dressing rooms has a trapdoor that leads straight to the basement, where the serpent waits. It even went too far as to suggest that a famous actress was almost victimized. She was paid off to keep it under wraps. This actress was Alice Dixon.
5. Cat meat siopao in Colon
Before all the big malls came, Colon street was the business hub of Cebu. It is the oldest street in the Philippines. There was a popular Chinese restaurant there that serves yummy siopaos. Then the rumor spread like wildfire that the meat in their siopao was not pork, but cat meat. I was one of those people who believed that. I was in grade school, young and gullible. I stopped eating siopao too. It took some time to overcome my aversion to siopao.
6. The Mantaga in Kawasan Falls
I used to frequent Kawasan Falls when it wasn’t famous and not too crowded. The trek was exhausting but it was beautiful then. The locals would often warn me to observe proper decorum or else the mantaga or the engkantos (fairies, earth elementals) will take me. A mantaga is supposedly a leviathan-like creature who lives in the depths of the falls. This falls has 3 tiers, and the mantaga lives in the 3rd, the deepest. Another tale was the mantaga often takes a human life every year as some sort of sacrifice for disturbing the peace. Charge it to carelessness (drunk diving anyone?) or the mantaga, someone dies in the falls every year. As for elementals, yes, there were elementals in that area. I haven’t been there lately. Maybe they moved to somewhere peaceful and quiet.
7. The mysterious man with a wide hat
This was relayed to me by my mom’s friend. It happened to her daughter. Let’s call her Ana.
There was this mysterious man who comes out when it is almost Halloween. This entity frequents the Naga area (south of Cebu, also known as the aswang capital of Cebu).
Ana was having a sleepover in her friend’s house in Naga. She and her friends started talking about this mysterious man who appears when it is almost Halloween. What one has to do is cry out loudly that he/she wants to die and invite hat man to take him/her. Fueled by alcohol, she did exactly just that. This happened on October 30. Come All Hallow’s Eve, they were drinking again. Sometime during the night, there was a knock on the door. When they opened it, there stood a man wearing a large brimmed hat made of straws. They couldn’t see his face clearly, but by their accounts, he looked human. It was what he said that sent chills down their spine. “Who was that girl among you who wants to die?”, he said softly. Everyone stood petrified, especially Ana, who clutch her scapular and started praying the Apostles’ Creed. Just like that, the mysterious hat man vanished.
As my grandmother used to say, it is not wise to make ignorant pronouncements when it is almost Halloween. You never know who could be listening. When I heard this story, I never leave home without my scapular.