I’m a big fan of horror and urban fantasy. Books by Stephen King and shows like Supernatural give me life. I like the idea that ghosts and monsters walk among us, ready to pounce and rip the flesh off us frail humans. Okay, so I only like this idea because I believe it doesn’t happen in real life. I hope.
Anyway. The monsters we encounter in horror and UF novels are almost always the usual—vampires, werewolves, Shia LaBeouf, zombies—and as a reader from the Philippines, a non-Western country, I feel that it’s time for our own monsters to get some attention.
Nuno sa punso
The nuno sa punso, or literally “old man of the mound” (because we suck at naming things), has the appearance of a small old man with a long beard and lives in mounds of dirt, or anthills. Of course, we know that it’s actually ants that live in anthills. That’s why we call them anthills and not olddudewithfreakybeardhills. However, superstitious Filipinos believe that the nuno live there, so they are careful not to disturb them lest they incur the wrath of these creatures.
The nuno detest rudeness, as we all do, so children are taught to say tabi-tabi po (please excuse us, just passing through) when they pass by anthills. If you choose to ignore this precaution and, say, kick the mound because you are a trash bag, you will wake up the next day with swollen feet. If you decide to urinate on it for some reason, you will wake up the next day with swollen genitals. I know what you’re thinking right now, but believe me, it’s not worth it.
If a nuno curses you, first let me just say that you deserve it because the nuno wouldn’t do it to a nice person. When that sinks in and you have re-evaluated your life, you can go to an albularyo, a traditional medicine practitioner in the Philippines, or you can go to the nuno and ask for forgiveness or give offerings of food.
Why it deserves to be in a novel: Frankly, I think having a protagonist whose genitals have swollen because he didn’t bother to find a proper toilet would be hilarious.
The tiyanak is similar to the Western changeling, but unlike the changeling—which replaces an actual human baby so it can receive proper parental care—the tiyanak is believed by superstitious folks to be either a) the soul of a baby who died before being baptized or that of an aborted fetus, or b) the spawn of a demon and a female human with a really questionable taste in men. The tiyanak takes the form of a human baby and cries like one to capture the attention of its victim. It usually hangs out in the woods and bawls when a person passes by. When the victim checks it out, they are then lured farther and farther away from their original path until they can’t find their way out.
If you find yourself in this situation, sucker, you can get out of it by wearing your clothes inside out. The tiyanak has a very peculiar sense of humor, apparently, for if you do this, it will literally find your behavior so hilarious that it will stop messing with you. Alternatively, you can just make a lot of noise. Yell at it until it goes away, or at least until you lose your voice and it flipping eats you.
That’s right. The tiyanak is hardly just some bored loser who screws with people to feel something; it also preys on them. If you pick it up, that sweet and innocent (but frankly annoyingly loud) baby will grow sharp claws and fangs and eat the ever-loving crap out of you. No amount of turning your clothes inside out can help you then.
Why it deserves to be in a novel: For me, the scariest beings in horror fiction are evil (and regular) clowns and children. *shivers*
The manananggal is usually a beautiful seductress by day and a fearsome monster by night. It detaches itself from its own lower torso and then, using its bat-like wings, flies off without the lower half of its body, which might just be the grossest weight-loss technique ever. The word manananggal itself comes from the Filipino word tanggal, which means “to remove or separate.”
After separating itself from its lower half, the manananggal flies to the house of the nearest pregnant woman—because it eats fetuses, not because it has a fetish. You’re probably picturing a brutal scene involving things being split open and blood splattering everywhere, and the manananggal would be horrified by your imagination and would suggest that you consult a medical professional immediately. Actually, the manananggal is a bit more sophisticated than that—it uses a straw. No kidding. It has a long, proboscis-like tongue that it uses to puncture the roof of the house and the belly of the mother to suck the… well, you get the picture.
Horrifying though the manananggal can be, it’s not invincible. You can kill it by waiting for it to fly off and then sprinkling salt on top of the part of its body left standing. This prevents it from returning to its human form, and when the sun rises and it’s still in monster mode, it will die. Sunscreen is important, kids.
Why it deserves to be in a novel: It’s scary, unique, and paranoia-inducing. Just don’t let expectant mothers read it.
Of course, there are more than these three, and I’m sure there are monsters from other countries that are also worthy of note. Maybe having them in horror fiction will take us one step closer to the cultural diversity in literature that we are hoping for.