The Boogie Men of the Philippines: Aswang, White Lady, Witches, Batibat, Spirits, Ghosts, And Demons!
The information in this article was obtained by word of mouth through interviews I conducted with actual native Filipinos living in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines, as well as a small amount of internet research.
Many Filipinos are extremely superstitious people who believe in various myths and legends about spirit beings, witches, ghosts, monsters, and what westerners would label as “boogie men.” The majority of westerners believe such appiritions of “boogie men” are children’s stories and made simply to scare kids. On the other hand, while many educated Filipinos are losing their supertitious attitudes, there are still a very large percentage of Filipinos who believe these myths as fact. Even though most superstitious Filipinos are part of the lower class and less educated, still many of the highly educated combine superstitions with their “rational” worldview.
During the summer of 2009 in Pasig was able to ask some of the maids in the house I was staying at about who the boogie men of the Philippines are. They told me about two different supernatural creatures: The Aswang and The White Lady, as well as gave me a discussion on witches and magic. Some Filipino parents use these stories to scare their children for whatever reasons they desire whether it be for them to stay in at night or make them go to bed on time (this is a similar attitude compared to the westerners labeling these creatures as “boogie men”). In other cases, a lot of Filipinos grow up believing in these creatures even in their adult life. Some even have claimed to witness the monsters themselves. Let’s look into some of the supernatural creatures that are claimed to live in the Philippines, and inside Filipino communities throughout the world!
The Aswang: The UFO sightings of Filipino Monsters
The Aswang are creatures that live mainly in the rural areas in the Visayas region and Mindanao. It is also said that in Metro Manila, in the region of Antipolo there is high supernatural activity and many Aswang have been claimed to be seen there too. Waugh (2009) explains,
“In Northern Luzon the province of Antipolo is also known as popular sightings (sic) of Aswangs especially during the Holy Week ( Easter in the Philippines) were (sic) legend says that paranormal activities are at its peak during the 3 days that Christ was dead” (www.hauntedamericatours.com).
Most sightings remind of me the American Bigfoot sightings or UFO’s as there are pictures on the internet claiming to have captured the image of a real Aswang, yet the pictures are all grainy and hard to decipher. Aswang creatures are kind of like the American stories of Vampires in colonial times or witches, and are kind of a mix of both. During the day Aswang walk around town like regular human beings and have the appearance of people, but at night they change into their true form. The maids I interviewed said they could be either a man or a woman creature. At night they split their body in half and the top half flies around. The legs stay planted in the ground. The Aswang have long hair that is wavy, red eyes, and their wings according to one maid look like a bird’s wings, but most everyone else would say they have bat wings. Their teeth can be sharp, and some have human teeth. Aswang have extremely long tongues that slide out of their mouths so that they can eat unborn babies still inside the mother’s womb as the tongue slides up the birth canal to snatch the baby (this is very disgusting to picture). They are known to fly onto rooftops and wait for small children to catch or wait above windows for pregnant women to lay down (pregnancy is a dreadful time for superstitious Filipinos). They also feast on dead bodies, human hearts, intestines, and livers. They can attack people too. When the Aswang are done flying around they fly back to their legs and re-attach themselves to the lower half of the body and walk around again like humans. When an Aswang is far away, it makes a loud sound as if it is very close by. When it is close, it makes a very quiet sound that sounds as if it is far away. This is a trick they use to confuse people they want to attack. Filipinos say they make the sound of “tuktuk” or “took took” and these specific Aswang are called Tuktuk. The Aswang creatures are supernatural beings and have special powers. Most of them are shapeshifters as well and can turn into large black cats about the size of a dog.
Most Aswang talk is directed towards children to scare them in order to keep them inside at night so they will not mess around. But, many Filipinos actually believe in these creatures and are terrified of them. Garlic is an agent that harms Aswang. I was told by my Filipino friends that you can put garlic on the legs of an Aswang when it is flying around so when it lands on its legs again it will die. Aswang are the most feared ghouls of Filipinos and just talking about the subject, even bringing it up, can sometimes cause a Filipino to shudder. This is especially true for Filipinas in my experience. One maid I talked to in Antipolo, who was working in the house of a missionary I was staying in for a couple of weeks in 2009, looked stunned for an instant when I brought the subject up to her. I could see she was spooked and when I asked her if they really exist she did not know. Most Filipinos when asked about Aswang will say they do not know if it is true or not, but tend to believe they exist. So if someone wants to give a Filipina maid the creeps, just ask her if Aswang exist.
After speaking with these maids in Pasig I had taken a short trip to Boracay. One late afternoon towards evening, I was at the beach enjoying the beautiful weather. I looked up at the slowly darkening blue sky and I saw a very large creature with wings flying above the water extremely high in the air. I instantly thought, “Wow! An Aswang!” in a sarcastic manner. Above that creature even higher was another creature of the same kind. The large bat-like wings wafted in the air. Honestly, these creatures looked as if they were about the size of what an Aswang would be. I instantly knew in my heart though, that these creatures were just giant fruit bats. It makes me wonder if people are seeing these kinds of animals that God created and assuming they are Aswang.
The White Lady: Horrifying Mysterious Apparitions
Another creature is The White Lady who appears in houses or areas where someone has died. It does not matter according to the maids if the person who died was a man or a woman, The White Lady will still appear. All she does is appear and does not seem to do much of anything else, yet it terrifies superstitious Filipinos. The White Lady is exactly what it sounds like: a White/Caucasian woman in a dress. She is of European decent and I have no clue why the lady is literally a White lady and not a Filipina lady, but they said she appears nonetheless. I was told of a story where a young girl was murdered by a taxi driver on the side of a road in an area close to Pasig where we were staying. The taxi driver pulled up to the girl and shot her dead with a gun. There was no explanation or story of why the murder occured, but they say it did. Now, no taxi drivers, according to the girl who told me the story, dare to drive through that street at night. If they do The White Lady appears and they fear for their lives. I do not know the validity of this story, but it is a true example of the kinds of stories that are told when talking about The White Lady. This ghost is the most common ghost talked about with Filipinos. Filipinos (and Asians in general) are really obsessed with ghost sightings in photographs and in many other things. Even in the United States ghost fever is stirring. The TV show “Ghost Hunters” shows people getting scared out of their wits over silly noises and reflections. The United States has a lot of skeptics, but a belief in ghosts is becoming more common. The Philippines however, has a long history of spirits, witches and ghosts and almost everyone from the lowest class, to the higher educated and wealthy elite believe in the supernatural creatures of the night and darkness. One of my Filipino American friends’ mother was discussing with her brother about a time when she was a youth in the Philippines where a certain house had a ghost in it and she was alone in the room and knew someone was there with her. She screamed and ran out.
Talking about Aswang or The White Lady really creeps out some Filipinos and many will want to change the subject according to one Filipino friend I have. There are also many other Filipino mythological creatures that a large amount of Filipinos believe in due to their superstitious outlook on life. Filipinos also believe in witches. They believe in what seem to be wild mythological stories about witches, but in reality there really are human witches in the Philippines practicing witchcraft and occult arts.
Witches and Magic
Many Filipinos are stuck in beliefs about witchcraft that cause sickness and other misfortunes. I may not believe in sci-fi monsters or aliens, but I do believe in spiritual beings that God has created. These of course are angels, and then the fallen angels called demons. In many cases I believe witchcraft and occult magic works; it depends on the beliefs of the person who is effected by it. Demons will do the work in order to keep spiritual bondage on people. But for me as a Christian I am protected by the blood of Christ.
One of the maids in Pasig thought that since I got sick in Bacolod (I had nasty watery diarrhea for 2 1/2 days), a witch might have cursed me, or some young woman admired me so much that she accidently cursed me without even knowing it. This is called the evil eye. The evil eye is a belief that if another person envies another, or desires something so intensely they can accidently practice witchcraft and curse someone. The person could end up really sick or dead. So you can see how such superstition causes problems and points the finger at people. Do not get angry, do not envy, and be respectful or else you could get labeled a witch and taken out by the rest of the group. This has happened all throughout history. This is how people groups maintain societal control within their own in many cases around the world. After I told the maid I was sick and she expressed that it had to be a curse of witchcraft, she tried to lick her thumb and blow some air on me in some sort of quick ritual to dispell the black magic; but I instantly declined. She told me to beware of anyone because you can never know if they are a witch or not. If they touch your shoulder randomly, you need to touch them back to block the curse they probably put on you from that action. This idea makes me think of the fear so many superstitious people live in day to day. Just like the X-Files: trust no one. I do not believe in silly superstitions, and I do not believe that Satan’s power has anything over me. With other people who have no faith in Christ, spiritual ignorance exists. With such a person there is also no protection of the Holy Spirit that seals him. Satan is able to use that person in any way he wants. Ephesians 1:13 says, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” All Christians are portected by the blood of Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives in us. We know that all evil spirits are really demons, who are fallen angels headed for God’s wrath in the end. Satan himself is an angel. Jesus Christ is superior to angels and controls them (Hebrews 1:7).
The Philippines is a country with an ancient history of magic, witchcraft, and sorcery that have influenced the lives of it’s modern citizens. This type of belief is called Animism. It is a belief that everything has spirits and many of them are angry and must be appeased. This is where magic rituals and spells come into play. It keeps people living in fear. It has mixed in with the culture and religions of most Filipinos causing religious syncretism within even opposing religions. In many cases I believe people are told so much about these supernatural creatures that people want to believe they exist, and that they believe they have sighted one (whether or not it really was one or not). This is like my case in Boracay where I saw 2 giant fruit bats flying. I could have believed they were Aswang, but my desire to believe truth kept me. It kind of reminds me of the desires some people have for a powerfully emotional religious experience. These people lie to themselves and believe what they experienced has to be from God, when its really just their desire for something to happen turning into self- manipulation. They believe, simply because they want to. Rational Christians know belief in God is not a mysitcial emotional experience, but it is a faith lived out day by day in security.
What is Really Going On?
People who see Aswang sightings and other ghosts such as The White Lady carry the same attitudes that many UFO hunters have. It is like how David Duchovney’s character of Fox Mulder from the TV series “The X-Files” would say, “I want to believe” as his famous poster hung up in his FBI office with those words boldly blazed across it. Truth stands objective despite whether or not it is believed. Someone could want to believe in something false with all of their heart and still be wrong. The goal is to understand the truth of what is really occuring: spiritual oppression from Satan and his demons.
As human beings of course we have no power to defend ourselves against demons, but God does. Since we have God, we are protected by His unlimitted power. When the Devil or his power comes upon a person whether it be a general temptation to sin, or a demonic attack; the way out is to simply “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It is that simple. Christians should never live in a superstitious way of life where magic is countered by magic. These problems exist from influence of the superstitious movements invading Christianity that have mixed mysticism with Christianity; such as the spiritual warfare movement. These ideas have pervaded in the modern environment of missiology and are brought into already superstitious cultures making them even more confused about the works of God. The spiritual warfare movement has created ideas of how to combat spiritual forcs of darkness with extra biblical tactics. This becomes “Christian magic” that keeps men blind in spiritual ignorance, who then think of prayers, Scripture, and Faith as some kind of force or magic forumala to combat evil spirits. This attitude ignores faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. In reality the only spiritual warfare we need to do is what James says in verses 4:7-8, “submit to God,” and “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” The Bible does not give extensive directions on how to combat spiritual forces, or exorcise demons out of people. But the simple commands it gives are sufficient enough for us to claim victory in the face of demonic oppression. It is up to the indidivual to seek after Christ and reject Satan to be free from demonic bondage. Just as it was the individuals actions of responding to Christ that gave them salvation. Humans hold no power over spiritual forces they do not understand. As it says in 2 Peter 2:10-12,
“Bold arrogant people! They do not tremble when they blaspheme the glorious ones; however; angels, who are greater in might and power, do not bring a slanderous charge against them before the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals–creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed—speak blasphemies about things they don’t understand.”
Even angels higher in rank and power do not cast insults at demons. Jude 1:8 says,
“Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'”
If even Michael the archangel cannot bring charges against Satan then how can we as humans? We have to do what the Bible says and resist Satan by calling to God for help. Macarthur (2006) explains the Christians confidence in Christ: “It’s wonderful to know that God is on our side. We are one with Him and fully protected in Christ” (p. 110).
The Spiritual Truth
Now are Aswang, White Lady, and ghost sightings real? It depends on what a person means by that. I personally believe in spirits which are demons that cause problems for people and can even try to overtake people who are involved in the dark arts, believe in sorcery, and not protected by Christ. I think it is possible that Filipinos are actually seeing what look like Aswang, White Lady ghosts, and more. If a Filipino actually does see such creatures and it is not the imagination, I believe that they are demons who have manifested themselve to look how the individual assumes such creatures should look in order to decieve them and strike fear in their arts. These demons have the goal of keeping such Filipinos spiritually ignorant in false belief systems. Satan wants Filipinos to stay superstitious and ignorant of Christ’s power so it should not be any suprise that he would use such tactics. Satan will appear, as will his demons, in anyway he needs to; whether it be a positive looking and sounding being of light, or a dark creature of terror; depending on what the individual is expecting. Demons could even appear as a UFO alien, which I believe he does all the time. We have to understand that Satan’s true name is Lucifer which means “the light bearer.” He was an glorious angel before he rebelled against God. He is also the father of lies. Is there any doubt he would appear in whatever way, shape, or form he can in order to decieve someone? In Revelation he will even appear as a Messiah figure when he possesses the Antichrist to take over the world in the future.
Face it people, demons do exist and they do manifest themselves from time to time. But if you are a Christian and you see such things constantly, you should get your soul checked out with some serious Bible study and prayer. It is not normal for people who follow Jesus Christ to see apparitions of demons. If you see them you either have an unhealthy interest in demons, or are involved in something you should not be (either a deep sin, or occult activites). Another reason is that you are a threat to Satan’s work. Also, if Satan thinks he has you owned and you are comming out of some kind of spiritual bondage be it from a great trial or deep sin then there is a possibility of a last effort to keep you. This will most likely be in the form of a huge temptation, but sometimes it can be an actual apparition.
An example of someone who has an unhealthy interest in demons was a girl I knew in college who was partnered with me on a class project. She would always talk about how every day she sees demons everywhere, and is sometimes attacked. Then she began to tell me she sees giant angels behind me. The girl was creepy. She was caught up in the Charismatic church movement which is a mystical form of religion that claims to be Christian and follow Jesus. More particularly she was part of the Vineyard Church group who is responsible for beliefs in dog barking, weird babbling tongues, visions of angels, and other ecstatic bizzare experiences. They are deep into the spiritual warfare movement. But her activities and interests did not seem to be helpful in her life since every day she was seeing demons bothering her. She obviously did not understand what the Bible says about such things. Colossians 2:18 says,
“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.”
Shadow demons, the Old Hag, and Ilicano Bitibat
Now let me give you an example of Satan trying to hold onto a person who is being called to the Lord in a last ditch effort to keep him. This is a personal experience I had. During my life I suffered from extreme depression and hatered. I was morbidly depressed and hopeless. When I finaly started becoming confident in Jesus Christ and the Bible, and began to practice true faith; because I could then comprehend the Truth, I felt as though life’s answers were finaly clear. One night as I was sleeping in my room in Louisville, Kentucky I had a visitor. I thought my mom was in my room or something, but no it was a shadow being of complete darkness and it was overtaking me and paralyzing me so I could not move. It crawled on top of me in my bed and I saw it looking into my eyes as I felt my entire self being pushed aside as if it was trying to take over my body. I did not know what was going on and was full of terror. I could not move so I weakly tilted my head and eyes away from it and began to pray for Jesus’s help and began calling to God to save me and make the demon go away. Instantly it was gone and I was laying there wondering if it was a dream. I realized I was awake the whole time so it could not have been a dream. I did not sleep for 4 days after that happened, I tell you that. Nevertheless, I realized that night that true protection is in Christ and all it takes is a resistence to the Devil and calling upon God alone for protection. More occurences happened another time later in life as well as a few times being paralyzed and only feeling an entity, but not seeing it. I also had a few bizarre dreams with creatures as well as an old woman putting me in a trance and paralyzing me. Each time the answer was to call out to Jesus for help and it worked. A human cannot resist an angel’s power. Only God has that power and authority. So if you ever find yourself in a situation like I did remember what the Bible says. “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. The point is not that you have to believe me even though the story I told you is true. You might think I was hallucinating or mistaken. I do not care. It does not matter to me. I only care that you focus on the Word of God and seek Him for the answers to free your spirit.
These sleep occurences of being attacked by shadow people and paralyzed at night are common throughout the world. Even the old woman is a common sighting. In Western folklore, historically it has been known as the Old Hag, which is a female spirit that attacks you in the sleep. Filipino culture calls it Batibat, which is a huge fat woman that lives in trees and if you cut down a tree to use to build your house she comes in with it. This comes from Ilicano folklore. In my case the old woman was skinny. No matter what shape these manifestations can come in depending on individual cultural explanations, they are all the same idea; that there are spirit beings who attack people and try to possess their bodies or kill them.
Such common occurences of similar sightings cannot be explained scientifically, but the secular humanist scientists still try to explain it away by labeling the experiences of feeling, seeing, and being controlled by demons as an effect of the sleep disorder called Sleep Paralysis. While sleep paralysis might be a real medical problem the sightings of shadow creatures, old hags, or other monsters are not explained by science. They are explainable only by the reality of a spiritual world where demons are actually intereacting with humans to fight against God.
Whether real or not real, Filipino folklore and mythology is interesting. The Philippines is only one in thousands of cultures who experience the same problems with demonic power through magic, witchcraft, and sorcery. Many cultures see apparitions of strange supernatural creatures and each has their own idea of what monsters, or the boogie men are. It is a fun study, yet the realities of spiritual oppression are ever present. May more Filipinos, and people of all cultures, break the bonds of spiritual ignorance brought on by Satan, and come to saving faith and protection in Jesus Christ our God and savior (Titus 2:13)!
(2004). Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Publishers.
Macarthur, J. (2006). Standing strong: how to resist the enemy of your soul. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.
Waugh, L.L.H. (2009). “The Real Ghost and Strange Cryptids of the Philippines Makes it the Most Haunted Islands in the World”. Retrieved November, 3, 2009 , from http://www.hauntedamericatours.com/PHILIPPINES.php