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ASWANG, GENUINE AND BOGUS
by Benjamin A. Claveria
Two happy-go-lucky cousins, Perto and Ente, well-known for their harumscarum ways and practical jokes, decided to go on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Penafrancia during her fiesta in Naga, probably to atone a little for their numerous picadilloes. In those days, a trip between Buhi and Naga was quite an ordeal. The roads were rough and tulisanes or highway robbers infested the thick forests along the way. The trip, one way, often took as much as a week even in good weather. Travellers often travelled in groups for greater safety.

Perto and Ente had an uneventful trip to Naga. They had joined a group of pilgrims from Buhi, which was joined by many others from barrios along the way. But, being young and adventurous, they had stayed a few days more in Naga after the end of the festivities and started on their return trip without any companions.

One day, they were forced by bad weather to seek shelter for the night in a neighborhood notorious for having many aswangs among its inhabitants. But it was too dark and stormy to proceed to the next barrio, so they selected a likely-looking house and explained their predicament to the couple who owned it. When they said that they were devotees of Our Lady, they were welcomed with traditional hospitality. And when they wanted to prepare their own supper out of the provisions they were carrying, their host told them that was unthinkable and insisted that they should share the meal his wife was then preparing.

In the meantime, they were shown into a small room to rest. After a while, Perto felt the need to relieve himself and went down and looked for a suitable place as the house, like most houses in those days, did not have any toilet. As he was returning to the house, he saw a small shed. He peered inside and saw hanging from a rafter what he thought at first was the leg of a pig. When he looked more carefully, however, he was shocked to find that it was in fact a human leg. He told his cousin what he had seen and they realized that they ware in an aswang's house.

When they were called to supper, they found out that the meal consisted of boiled rice, a big plate of delicious looking adobo, gabi leaves with pepper cooked in coconut milk and latondan bananas. But they noted that the meat was lighter in color and finer grained, and the skin thinner than in the usual pork adobo. Their host smilingly informed them that they were lucky a hunter in their barrio had caught a wild pig in his atbong or pit trap and sold them two kilos of the meat which his wife had cooked into adobo.

Ente said they were very sorry but they have made a promesa or solemn vow to the Virgin not to eat any meat until they have returned to Buhi. The couple were disappointed but accepted their explanation for not touching the adobo at all. Early the next morning, the cousins took their leave and went on with their journey, very thankful, that a chance discovery had saved them from becoming cannibals.

Bad luck continued to plague them, however. Shortly afterwards they encountered bad weather again and had to stop. They were able to resume their journey only late in the afternoon, then had to stop again at the next barrio after covering a short distance.

Once again they went to a house to seek shelter for the night. The owners asked them where they had come from and when they answered that they had slept in the next barrio the previous night, the owner seemed to hesitate before granting their request for shelter. Again they were prevailed upon to share the family meal after which they were shown to a small room whrein to sleep.

Just as the two were about to fall asleep, they heard whisperings in the next room. Then through the interstices of the bamboo floor, they saw a small fire under their room, and the smell of burning feathers assailed their nostrils.

Perto remembered the common belief that an aswang cannot help giving the characteristic aswang cry after smelling burning feathers and whispered to Ente, "I think our host suspect us of being aswangs. We should not have told them where we slept last night. But let us play a joke on them and pretend that we are what they suspect we are."

Ente thought it was a capital idea and the two started to cry as shrilly as they could. "Kak-kak-kak,kak-kak-kak,kak-kak-kak."

There was a commotion in the next room, and when the cousins looked outside they saw the couple running away from the house as if being pursued by devils. The two cousins began to regret having made their foolish prank. But before they could decide whether they should go away or not they saw a group of men with torches rapidly approacing the house. Many of them were armed with bolos and clubs. They surrounded the house and one who appeared to be the leader shouted at Perto and Ente to go down if they did not want to get killed. The two had no choice but to go downstairs fearing the worst.

But when the leader who happened to be the teniente del barrio saw them, he burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. These are two naughty friends of mine from Buhi who love nothing better than a joke. I lived in their town for some time and I know them, this calls for a celebration.

They all went back to the house of the teniente del barrio. Soon there was a guitarist and a violiinist playing lively tunes. They had an impromptu dance and linobak party till almost morning. The men exhausted the supply of fermented tuba in the barrio. And the two bogus aswang could resume their journey home only after lunch the next day, and had a quiet trip the rest of the way to Buhi.

Aswang: Introduction
The Aswang and the Paratagak
Iblas and His Aswang Neighbor
Aswang, Genuine and Bogus
Uncle Kiyo and the Aswang
The Aswang Bride


 

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