Vampires. The world has seen quite the evolution for the blood suckers in pop-culture, from Dracula to Interview with a Vampire all the way to Twilight, though one thing remains the same: they were humans turned into fanged, undead versions of themselves. However, the idea that vampiric creatures exist has been a part of cultures around the world for centuries in different forms. From the Adanbosam of West African myth — with their long legs they dangle from trees to entrap their prey — to the Vetala of ancient India — ghouls who inhabit corpses and hang upside down from trees. Today, however, we will be taking a look at the Manananggal.
The Manananggal is a vampiric creature that comes to us from the Philippines. During the day, the Manananggal is a woman — said to be beautiful — who separates her body in half and preys upon pregnant women and their unborn children by night. According to legend, the Manananggal will detach herself around the middle, hiding her lower half as bat wings grow from her back. She will take off in search of prey, perching on the roofs of houses and using her elongated tongue to suck the blood from sleeping pregnant women and their unborn children.
Though not much is known about the Manananggal, some people speculate that this creature of myth is based on an actual creature residing in the Philippines: Flying Foxes. Flying Foxes are in fact fruit bats, and not only could Manananggal be seen as originating based on these creatures, but so can several other creatures in Philippine myth and legend according to Tammy Mildenstein of SOS — Save Our Species project Filipinos for Flying Foxes — who has encountered these stories as she works with their herbivorous cousins. However, that is not to discount the people who actively believe these creatures to exist. In fact, on the opposite side of the spectrum, there have been multiple eyewitness accounts of people who claim to have seen the Manananggal still living in the Philippines to this day.
In any event, the Manananggal is simply a fearsome, vampiric creature who can blend in with humans by day, transforming herself by night. The thought is quite terrifying — pregnant women and their unborn charges being attacked while asleep by a woman with half a body and a tongue that slips into their bellies. One thing is for sure: if you ever see half a body abandoned somewhere, know that the Manananggal just might be nearby.
Manananggal in popular culture: Although the Manananggal hasn’t officially made its debut in popular culture herself, it is definitely worth mentioning that in 2016 independent director Prime Cruz released a romantic/gore film in the Philippines titled “Ang manananggal sa unit 23B” — which won two awards at the QCinema International Film Festival in 2016 for best director and best supporting actress — in which he portrays the Manananggal as a protagonist rather than a villain.
For more reading on the Manananggal (sources):