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by Benjamin A. Claveria
Until now I do not know whether this story told by my uncle, Eulogio, who was an elder brother of my father, and whom everbody in Buhi called Kiyo, is fact or fiction. But till his dying day, Uncle Kiyo would swear with his index fingers crossed to symbolise the cross on which our Savior died (this is the local equivalent of swearing on a stack of Bibles) that his story was the truth and nothiing but the truth.

Uncle Kiyo must have told this story a hundred times. I first heard it from his lips when I was a very small boy. I watched him tell it to my own open-mouthed youngsters many years later. He was a very old man then, and when someone questioned the veracity of the story, he said, "this is a true story. I am an old man now, why should I tell a lie to you?" Which reminded me of Sohrab and Rustum and the mortally wounded Rustum's reminder to his newly found son, Sohrab, that "truth sits upon the lips of dying men."

This is the story as told by Uncle Kiyo in Boienen translated as faithfully as possible into English.

Although my family had always lived in San Buena, I used to spend most of my time in Sapa, where I planted palay, peanuts, tomatoes and a few other crops and where I had built a hut. Besides being a farmer, I was also a fisherman. I caught plenty of fish by panki or dip net, hook and line, tambong, and especially by talangob of which I had more than a hundred. A talangob is a trap consisting of a rectangular bamboo structure with a wooden door in front. When the trap is open, the door is held up by a bamboo lever that protrudes inside. Then when one or more fish enter the trap and the lever is touched, the door drops down trapping the fish which can then be caught by hand through a hole in the roof.

One moonlight night I made the rounds of my talangob. I had a good catch and the piece of string on which I had strung the talosogs or mudfish I had caught was almost full. As I was walking toward my hut to put the fish in the shallow well to keep them alive, I heard a noise like that made when a blanket is shaken out vigorously. I looked up just as an aswang dressed in purao or abaca cloth and with white hair streaming behind her swooped down on me and gave me a hard kick between my shoulder blades, as I stumbled, I unsheated my bolo and shook it at the aswang cursing her and daring her to come down. The aswang just laughed and, crying "Kak-kak-kak, Kak-kak-kak, kak-kak-kak," continued flying towards Mayon volcano.

To be very honest, I was trembling violently in fear and suprsise. Most of the fish I had caught had been lost but I was too terrified to try to retrieve them. I ran to my hut and barred the door.

After a while I heard somebody approaching the hut. Fearing that the aswang had come back to get me, I stood by the door ready to defend myself with my bolo. Then somebody shook the door and shouted, "Tay Kiyo, Tay Kiyo."

I recognized the voice of Donio, my helper who had gone out in a banca to catch fish with his pangki. I let him in and barred the door again. Breathing hard, for he had been running, Donio told me that while he was fishing, he had seen an aswang flying overhead. So he had paddled his banca as fast as he could to the thick anginglit reeds by the lakeshore and hidden there until the aswang had passed out of sight. He asked me if I had also seen the aswang and I related what had happened to me.

We did not leave the hut till morning. The next day we heard that a woman in Itbog, a neighboring sitio, had almost been carried off by an aswang. Luckily for her, she had the presence of mind to drop down flat on the ground as soon as she saw the shadow of the aswang in front of her, and an aswang cannot carry away a person in that position.

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



The Claverias 1998-2002. All rights reserved.