Friday, June 02, 2006

Aswangs in Western Visayas

Aside from sugar, Western Visayas is also famous for its aswangs. Aswangs are the scariest of all supernatural creatures in the Philippines, commonly appearing as bloodthirsty eaters of humans. The myth of the aswang is popular particularly in Panay. The province of Capiz even parlayed this notoriety into a festival. The Aswang Festival of Capiz, which created a stir with local Church groups a while back, now attracts hundreds of tourists yearning for some thrill and excitement, and in the process created livelihood oppotunities for Capiceños.

Perhaps the most popular aswang in Western Visayas is Teniente Gimo. According to legend, Teniente Gimo was a real-life Teniente del Barrio (or Barangay Chairman in present-day terms) in Dingle, Iloilo. He is said to possess supernatural powers and can change into any animal. Various night-time AM radio dramas have depicted him either as a blood-sucking villain terrorizing small villages or as a sort of local “superhero” who used his supernatural powers to help the weak. Another more recent incarnation of the aswang myth is that of Maria Labó. One version of the myth says Maria Labó used to be a beautiful barrio lass who was raped by village men. Swearing revenge, she is said to roam the fringes of small towns victimizing young men. Another version describes Maria Labó as a cannibal who ate her own two sons. Maria Labó is said to be fond of eating human liver and is recognizable by a huge scar across her face, thus the name Maria Labó.

Aside from Teniente Gimo and Maria Labó, one can also hear many scary tales of kapres, dwendes, engkanto, santermo (St. Elmo's Fire), white ladies, manug-hiwits (or mangkukulam) all across the region. Back when there was no cable TV, I used to listen to terrifying aswang stories on our wooden AM transistor radio and one of my favorite programs was the story of Teniente Gimo.

Much has been written about the socio-psychological and anthropological explanation for the persistence of the aswang myth in Filipino folklore. But the first time I heard of a scientific explanation of the aswang myth was from Mar Roxas, Mr. Palengke himself. Back when I was still his executive assistant at DTI, I heard him talk to several important visitors in Capiz about a mysterious disease called Dystonia de Panay and how it may have contributed to the perpetuation of the aswang myth in the region. Dystonia de Panay (scientific name: "torsion dystonia-parkinsonism") or lubag in Ilonggo is a rare musco-skeletal disease found only in Panay. I don’t know who exactly discovered it but a scientific study found that there is an unusually high frequency of dystonia in Panay, particularly in the town of Dingle, Iloilo (where Teniente Gimo supposedly came from) and several areas in Capiz province. Of the 50 recorded cases of dystonia, 23 are from Iloilo and 19 of are from Capiz and all are males. It is called lubag in the vernacular because persons with this disease are afflicted by intermittent twisting movements, muscular contortions and shuffling gaits. There was no known cure for the disease. The said study's Molecular genetic analysis indicates that the mutation responsible for X-linked dystonia-parkinsonism was introduced into the Ilonggo ethnic group of Panay more than 2,000 years ago.

Before it can be sufficiently examined by science and before a cure to it was found, the disease mysteriously vanished in the 1950s. To see someone afflicted with dystonia de Panay must have been a really scary sight especially to simple, superstitious folk. Hence the preponderance of aswang myths in the hinterlands. Who knows, since dystonia de Panay is a congenital disease it may suddenly appear again somewhere when we least expect it.

26 comments:

Angel said...

I remember sleeping over at a friends' house in Dumangas ages ago, and being scared s***less when told that the "tiktik" noise we heard during the night meant that a "Manananggal" was hovering outside our window. It's funny now - it wasn't then. Ima link you up too, okay?

Iloilo City Boy said...

HA HA HA... I'm sure every Ilonggo has had that experience.. Sure link me up no prob.

Jules said...

Dueñas!!

Anonymous said...

im not from ilonggo speaking locality but i do grew up being scared everytime the tiktik passes the house at night time. my mother used to make a big deal out of it (cussing, banging kettles and dropping burnt papers from the second floor. i guessed that's what she learnt from her elders. goodthing it didn't no body in the family inherited that..

jad said...

well this kind of story is a bit interesting for every ilonggo and i also believe thaty every ilonggo have their own experiene well dont really believe in aswang but i believe in ghost because ive seen one. some peolpe say to see is to believe. i only have one exception GOD.

Cris Causing said...

I was born & raised in Dingle but lives in the U.S. for 25 years now. Stories handed down from generations about aswangs were part of our after supper conversations.Scary indeed. My mother told us stories about Teniente Gimo when we where young that he was a resident of Duenas, never from Dingle. So kindly correct your story.

Anonymous said...

Teniente Gimo was a terror of Duenas not Dingle.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Writer...Blogger...Kindly check your unreliable source coz as far as I am concerned... being a native of Dingle no less. Teniente Gimo was not a resident of my beautiful and peaceful banwa. So please check, check and check your story...it is very misleading.

Anonymous said...

GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT!!! GIMO IS FROM DUEÑAS!!!

Anonymous said...

i was born and raised in dingle and i never heard that teniente gimo was a dingleanon,, where did you get your story????? gimo was from duenas my friend..

Anonymous said...

How can I believe what you've written when you can't tell correctly such a simple and well-known story (Teniente Gimo of Duenas)? Are you really from Iloilo?

Anonymous said...

are you sure you are from iloilo? I was born and raised in Dingle,Iloilo,presently residing in US.Teniente Gimo is part of the Duenas folklore not Dingle,so please verify your data before posting it....

Anonymous said...

I am not from Capiz but my mom told us when we were kids about Gimo Aswang, Gimo Aswang is known as (Teniente Gimo Aswang) He isfrom Duenas not from Dingle?

Anonymous said...

OMG!
please stop arguing about Teniente Gimo - whether he came from Duenas or Dingle, what's the difference?! he brought shame to all Ilonggo people and even today, as I live in Australia many people assume that Iloilo is a place of aswangs!

So, no more fightings guys!! Just lock up your doors and watch your back... Teniente Gimo is coming to get you.

serge catotal said...

Yes indeed! Teniente Gimo is from DUEÑAS according to my Lola. She actually saw Teniente Gimo during those times because she is a trader from Pototan and frequently goes to DUEÑAS to do business. Please get your facts correctly. Just to share a piece of the story, Teniente Gimo is also said to have almost killed his daughter as he mistakenly identified his daughter to her friend who stayed in their house for a vacation. My Lola saw a scarf wrapped around Tiniente Gimo's daughter's neck.

Gemmalyn Masanga said...

Hi! I am Gemmalyn Masanga, researcher from I Juander, GMA NewsTV. We are currently doing a story about aswang for our upcoming episode. We would like to use your article po sana as reference and material for our episode. We would like to seek for permission for the usage.

We are hoping for your immediate and positive response.

If you have questions, you can reach me thru may mobile at 09058430721. Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

teniente gimo still exist he live in bakersfield, sa news paper lang may tiktik not in my beloved town "DUENAS"

AnkletsandBracelets said...

Hi! I like your blog about Aswang. I have heard those because I came from Antique.I am a Film student and I am writing a story about aswang. I would like to ask if you know any of their peculiar habits so I can include those in my film. I know some stories back from my hometown but I want some facts about how they live behind being normal people. I need your help, Please!

Anonymous said...

maniniwala b kayu kung sasabihin kung aswang ako....my greatgrandfather was a chieftain aswang of our clan....

ToTo Gboy said...

wtf! gimo is in duenas and btw maria is a married woman but lack of money she havent yet prepared food through her mind she thinks to killed his two son. she succeeded killing her two son and then put the heads of her children on the refrigerator! when her husband returned home from work he notice his wife was cooking for dinner and ask her whats for dinner. maria then reply "its on the refrigerator" the husband opened the refrigerator and found his two sons head. no 2nd mind thoughts the husband took his binangon(butchers knife or a tools use for rice grain to crop from his work) and then slash maria after that incident maria had still the strength to run while the binangon was still in his head. when she run outside the husband tried to chase her.but from the darkness maria vanished. and starts the legend of maria labo was always seen at night with a binangon on her hand with a slash half head.

Anonymous said...

Lol, when you write this blog did you check it? Gimo is not from dingle, I think you copy and paste this lol. I already travel around Panay Island, I stayed at Antique for 5 years, in Aklan for 3 years, in Capiz for 2 years and in Dingle for 3 years, and even in Guimaras island, But I never encounter or even heard a voice of aswang, now I'm here at Mindanao, I just want to clarify that Gimo lived in Dueñas and not in Dingle based on the Original stories, I don't believe in that story lol and I hope it's true :P

tsktsk said...

manloloko pla to e. sinungaling!!! ahah

Anonymous said...

"gimo" is fiction but dystonia is the real thing dystonia can b found in dingle CLARO MGA KASIMANWA?

Anonymous said...

excuse me, theres no aswang in duenas. For how many years of m existence here i havent find either one

Anonymous said...

wanna know the truth? i'm the great grandson of teniente gimo... from Dueñas, Iloilo.. . kung gusto nyo ituro ko pa sa inyo kung saan nkalibing yun lolo ko.... meron po akong record ng true confessions ng grandfather ko and father ko (audio) at bilang great grandson ni teniente gimo parang mahirap paniwalaan pero sa kanila ko mismo narinig ang mga kwento...

Hitmark Maquiling said...

ang alam ko talaga.. ang aswang ay galing sa Ilo ilo.. base on the study...
hundred years ago, may 2 pamilya o angkan na nagpatayan ubusan lahi ba... sa sobrang galit nila ng mapatay nila ang kanilang kalaban ay kinain nila ito ... kaya mula nun inisip na ng mga tao noon na ang pamilyan iyon ay aswang kumbaga sa science term dapat ay Canibalism... after that incident nagtago sila o tumakas at pagdating sa capiz ay doon sila nahuli... kaya ang paniniwala ng mga tao na ang aswang ay sa capiz, which is sa ilo ilo talaga...