FFE Magazine

Philippine Myths & Legends: Manananggal

A woman with a severed torso and leather-like wings who also likes to feast on fetus? It couldn’t get any scarier than this!

The ‘Manananggal’ is one of the most famous mythical creatures in Philippine folklore. Almost everyone have heard about the Manananggal, either from stories by older relatives or seen them featured in movies and television shows.

The name Manananggal comes from the Tagalog word “tanggal” which means detach. Manananggal literary means “one who detaches.”

In the Philippines, the Manananggal is often believed to mainly reside in the Visayan provinces of Capiz, Iloilo and Antique. It lives on the mountainside of these provinces but dwells with people in the day.

There are folklore creatures in neighboring countries that resembles the Manananggal. Indonesia’s Penenggalan, the Krasue of Thailand, Ap of Cambodia, and the Kasu of Laos are a lot like the Manananggal in appearance.

The Manananggal also reminds you of the vampire in Western myths for they are man-eating monsters with a weakness for garlic and daylight too.

Physical features

The Manananggal is often depicted as a beautiful woman. It dwells with country folks in the day to look for a prey but at night, transforms into a monster. It first applies special oil on its body then develops a pair of bat-like wings and a very long hollow tongue that can tear through human flesh.

Real or Photoshopped? Viral photo of an alleged Manananggal.

Then the Manananggal’s torso detaches from the rest of its body and flies towards its victim’s house. The Manananggal is said to leave the lower part of its body in a bamboo or banana grove where it can disguise as a tree stump or a young clutch of bamboo.

The Penanggalan of Indonesia is similar to the Manananggal but the Penanggalan only detaches its head from its body, bringing with it its lungs and intestines.

Southeast Asian movies that feature the Penanggalan.


Source: experimenttle.deviantart.com

It is said that the Manananggal often targets pregnant women for their unborn babies. Once the Manananggal finds its prey in the day and tracts where the mother lives, she flies to the victim’s roof and patiently waits for everyone to fall asleep. Afterwards, the Manananggal creates a hole in the roof with its sharp hollow tongue and uses it to suck the fetus out the mother’s belly. The tongue is also used to suck the blood and entrails of its victims.

It is believed that the Manananggal has a bird companion called tiktik that heralds the approach of the Manananggal. As a way to confuse the Manananggal’s victims, the tik-tik’s loud birdcall means that the Manananggal is still far away, and will grow fainter as the Manananggal gets closer.

Photo source: Flickr

You can repel a Manananggal by hanging garlic around your house, especially on doors and windows. Superstitious Filipinos, especially in the Visayan provinces, still practice this ritual.


There are different stories involving the Manananggal’s origin. Some say a black chick is living inside the Manananggal and it is passed on from one relative to the other, a sort of a family heirloom, when the current Manananggal is in its deathbed.

 Another story says any human can turn into a Manananggal if they drink the blood of a Manananggal, similar to vampires, only the blood- sucking is the other way around.


The Manananggal’s lower body is its most vulnerable part and is also the key to defeating it.  Pouring salt, garlic, or holy water on the stump of its lower body will keep the Manananggal from reattaching itself together. The Manananggal will then die if it is unable to bind its body together by the time the sun rises.

Media appearances

The Manananggal is featured in a number of Filipino horror movies. In fact, the first ever horror movie in the Philippines is a silent picture that stars Mary Walter as a Manananggal. This movie directed by Jose Nepomuceno in 1927 is, as a matter of fact, titled Manananggal.

The 1975 movie Pagsapit Ng Dilim is a story of a mother who turns her daughter, played by Gina Pareno, into a Manananggal as a part of her coming of age rites.