Ep 12 – Step 1 Avoid Cemetaries

INTRO: (Mirai is on the bus, quietly talking to Junpei on the phone.)

MIRAI:

Soo, Junpei. I’m still listening to the files. Alina said it was okay! I wanna know what is going on in this story. And also I can’t believe I forgot to ask this, but who wrote it? I doubt you did all this.

JUN (through the phone):   

No one wrote this, and what do you mean what’s going on in the story?

MIRAI:

You got bit by a creature! You always said it was dumb to romanticize being bit by one and now apparently you’ve been bit!

JUN (through the phone):

And I still stand by that! It hurt! Let’s see you take on a night creature you pipsqueak, you wouldn’t last a day in that park. And would you believe that wasn’t even the worst night? Anyways, where are you right now? Sounds like you’re on a bus.

MIRAI:

That’s because I am! You guys were all pressuring me to find Jun-nii so I actually am. We’ve been on the road for about 15 minutes now? Anyways, don’t change the topic! What do you mean no one wrote this?

JUN (through the phone):

Ugh, just… keep listening to the files! You already are anyways. Believe it or don’t, I don’t care.

MIRAI:   

Fine! Be that way!

SCENE STARTS: (“Proserpina Bops” plays as we return to the night of the Aswang attack. Everyone is now at Alina’s place to talk.) 

ALINA:   

Ahh, what a day!

JUN:

Thanks for letting us stay over, the hole in my neck would have been hard to explain to my mom.

ALINA:

(laughs) Yeah… watching you explain at the hospital once was more than enough.

JUN:

The way I thought the injury looked, it made complete sense that I was trying to make dinner, the knife slipped out of my hand, causing it to land on the ceiling, only for it to fall back down and nick my neck!

DREW:

I thought Jun’s explanation was hilarious.

ALINA:

Uhhh… there were probably less complicated stories that you could have told. Anyways, we need to talk about tonight. We can’t let that happen again, that was terrifying.

JUN:

As the person who was bit, I wholeheartedly agree.

ALINA:

Dog, can you tell us more about the Aswang? Or any other creature we may meet? We need to prepare ourselves if this is what we’re up against now.

DREW:

We’re carrying a pound of salt each if this is going to be a recurring thing…

DOG:

Honestly, that might be a good idea until we find a better solution. If we’re talking about Filipino mythology, there are many different types of Aswang. The one we met today was probably a Mandurugo, though with the backwards feet it’s hard to tell. 

It’s a type of female viscera-sucker, meaning instead of Count Dracula and his pointy teeth, we get a very agile tongue, as I’m sure you all noticed today. It’s slightly different from other kinds of Aswang who might instead use a human’s opening to take blood or life force— 

JUN:   

Okayyy, I don’t even wanna know what kind of openings you’re referring to.  

DREW:   

You’d rather get all cut up like tonight?

JUN:

I— (thinks about it) depends on the opening.

DREW:    

What?

SOUND: (Church bells ringing at a distance.)

DOG:

Well the Mandurugo typically catch their prey by marrying them. The most famous story is where a young beautiful woman gets married only for her husband to mysteriously die barely a year into their marriage. But life happens and nothing seems too out of the ordinary besides the fact that she gets married again and her husband dies again. Three times in a row. (SOUND: Guess who’s getting married? Again, and again, and again…)

DREW:

And no one was suspicious of her for this? No red flags?!

DOG:

Well her fourth husband-to-be was worried about her past and for his life but in the end he still married her. SOUND: (Welp, she’s hot so I’ll take my chances.) He would wake up to cuts on his body until one day, he decided to start sleeping with a knife in his hand. One night, he feels his neck get pricked and he immediately attacks whoever is there in the dark, hearing only a scream and wings flapping away. The next morning, he finds his wife dead with his knife in her chest.  

ALINA:

Well, I don’t know about stabbing first and identifying later, but I guess it got the job done for him… 

DREW:   

I’m surprised there is no witch hunt for these creatures.

SOUND: (A town full of people in the background.)

DOG:

Oh, there definitely were. Especially since that’s not the only type of female Aswang. There’s a specific creature called the Manananggal, who just like the Mandurugo, hides within society disguised as human women. They target pregnant women to eat their fetuses, thus why it’s believed they were the cause of miscarriages. (SOUND: a baby crying.)

At night, they would literally detach their torsos and fly around looking for prey. You can’t do anything against the upper half, but without her lower half, there’s no way for her to survive. So the best and safest way to kill one was to find the lower half of their body and smear salt or garlic over the top and wait for sunrise, when the Manananggal would die from exposure. (SOUND: a body detaching (its velcro) and wings flapping in the distance.)

DREW:   

Well… something seems… concerning here.

ALINA:

Wait, the lower half of the body would be the creature’s… downfall and the reason for miscarriages? This creature wouldn’t have anything to do with restricting women’s bodies would it?

DOG:

Yes… at the time, Spanish colonists had arrived and started enforcing certain conservative Christian values on the Filipino community. 

JUN:

Okay wait, but can you imagine just like half a person flying around? How do their guts not just like fall out? 

ALINA:   

I think at this point, we just gotta accept some realities in mythology… 

DOG:

There are a few other kinds of Aswang, such as the weredog, the witch, and the ghoul. The Weredog Aswangs are actually pretty much what you think. They prefer to shapeshift into animals instead of maintaining a human look, making it easier for them to creep up on people when they’re, say, just a cute little dog. (SOUND: Dog barking.)

JUN:

So we can’t even trust dogs in the park? What can we trust then?

ALINA:

Jun, have I ever told you the story about the Black Dogs?

JUN:

No, why?

ALINA:

Just you wait my friend.

DOG:

Anyways, the Aswangs who are witches were actually originally human, outcasts who knew dark magic or what they called kulam, and if they succumbed to the darkness, they would become an Aswang. The magic they’d use is basically voodoo, you know, attaching something from their victim like hair to a puppet and then torturing or killing them. It caused a lot of paranoia back in the day.

And finally, the ghouls. These creatures only stay near cemeteries, always waiting for new burials to appear to have fresh meat to eat. Families of the deceased would always have to put in a lot of effort to create noise and scare away the creatures during funeral processions.  

DREW:

Oh boy, sounds like time to make some flashcards… 

ALINA:   

Why do the Philippines have so many different Aswangs?

MUSIC: (“Creatures of the Night” plays.)

DOG:

There are many reasons. First, the easiest one to answer is the weredog. Being attacked by a dangerous animal late at night is not uncommon. (SOUND: A dog growling and barking.) Using the Aswang as a warning for late night travel is obvious and similar to other boogeyman types. Second, regarding the various vampires  in the Philippines, well, there’s a reason why they all attack using the tongue instead of fangs. I mean, doesn’t the long thin tube like straw remind you of a certain animal that also drinks blood and would definitely be found in a hot and humid island?  (SOUND: A mosquito flying back and forth.)

JUN:
(shudders) mosquitoes

DREW:   

I’m so glad we only get mosquitoes for a few months of the year.

DOG:

Exactly. Add in the Christian influence on female purity and witch hunts and these creatures turned into human shape-shifting demons and witches.

ALINA:   

What about the Aswangs who are ghouls?

DOG:

This one was also probably due to hungry animals looking for a meal. Family members didn’t want their recently buried loved ones to be eaten, so stories about monsters were told and traditions were created. I mean, there’s always a graveyard monster in every culture. After all, don’t humans still get that creepy-crawly feeling going to cemeteries at night? 

JUN:   

Yeah, that’s true.

ALINA:

All these monsters with different origins…  Ugh remind me not to visit the Philippines anytime soon. 

DOG:

Well the term Aswang is just an umbrella term for night creatures. I mean, I bet we can all list ten of our own here. It’s all basically the same thing. 

DREW:

But how are we going to figure out who’s nice and who isn’t if they’re all shapeshifters?

DOG:

Well, one bit of good news I will say is that most of these creatures, besides the ones that go to town and get married, usually only stay by cemeteries and attack at night. And a cemetery is one of the few things the park does not have.

JUN:   

Oh well, actually that does make me feel much better.

DOG:

But because you are familiar with the park and mythical creatures, I’d steer clear of cemeteries in general for now. The ones that lurk there… well they might be the last thing that you’ll ever see. And not all of them can be scared off by some fancy water. 

ALINA:

This is going to be impossible if each and every night creature has a different weakness. We’d be dead looking for the correct weapon of choice…

JUN:

Let’s just take it one step at a time. Don’t go into cemeteries. Easy step 1. Our ancestors will understand us missing a few visits.

DREW:

Yea, and at least Dog made a good point about vampires and werewolves and what not. We’re actually pretty familiar with those creatures. We might not have all the information, but hey,  you tell me something is a vampire, I at least know to pack some garlic knots or something.

JUN:

Ooh, we could each have our own bag of expertise, like someone carry a bunch of silver, someone else a bottle of holy water, and… wait what stops zombies?

ALINA:

I don’t think we need to worry about zombies if cemeteries don’t exist in the park. 

DOG:

Well… we can’t be too careful. We should pack a few things from now on, so we can at least work with something. 

DREW:

So many new things to worry about… And it seems like that Aswang only came out because Sam is gone. Doesn’t that mean if we ever go back to the park again, others like her will definitely show up? 

DOG: 

There’s always been a sort of power balance in the park. Night creatures have always had an upper hand seeing as fear is such a strong emotion to humans. But Sam and Cerberus were kinda like guardians in the park, seeing as Cerberus is such a familiar icon in mythology, it’s pretty tough to beat. 

ALINA:

Sam said… that mythology was created to warn people of the past what not to do. Why do creatures like vampires exist then? Why create such a strong creature?

DOG:

Unfortunately, fear and mistrust are also what creates mythology. It’s true, stories were created to try and explain things like why the sun and the moon travel, or why the seasons change, but that also means stories about sickness and the unknown reality of death. 

That could mean taking the heart out of the dead to ensure that they don’t rise or burning “witches” at the stake to protect a village. In our age of understanding and science, we don’t have an ounce of fear about those things, well for the most part, but back then, how else could they explain why their bodies were ill or doing things unfamiliar to them? 

DREW:

Yeah, but what do we do now? I’d say we should still look for Sam. He seems like he’d be able to help us, but if he hasn’t been going to the park, there’s no way for us to track him down.

ALINA:

Like I said, I’ve been messaging him all the time, but they always go unread… I don’t know if we can rely on him for now. 

DOG:

I’m glad that we’re all still excited to return to the park. But let’s set some rules. One’s that we’ll actually follow this time, Alina. (Alina: Hey!) We already said no cemeteries but also, we should never go to the park alone, and only go during the day time, so on the weekends, yes?

JUN:   

(Gasp) We should get our own beast!

ALINA:   

Jun… what?

DOG:

No… actually, that might be a good idea. And I think I might know a creature up to that challenge. 

ALINA:   

Oh, who is it? DOG:Let’s focus on resting tonight. We’ve discussed a lot and it’s late. Next time we go back to the park, we’ll have to be prepared. 

OUTRO: (We return to Mirai. “Proserpina Bop” plays as the sound of the bus comes back in.) 

MIRAI:

There’s so many rules they have to follow just to visit the park now… Is that worth it all? I can just read about adventure, I don’t actually need to participate in it, especially if that means being a meal for someone else, ugh. I hope Alina and everyone are prepared for all this.

And I guess Sam’s some kind of guardian of the park if his absence is the reason why all the baddies are out now. He practically is a demigod if this is what he was dealing with all the time.

Monstrous Agonies

[Background music – Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts, slow bluesy jazz. A series of voices, clipped from longer recordings, speak in turn.]

The Letter-Writers

I hope it’s alright for me to write to you — Me and my friend have known each other since uni — I’ve got this one cousin — is an obligate carnivore — situation is being complicated by her thrall — I’ve got lots of friends who are creatures — which Muppet is the sexiest — but I’m so lonely — rubbing themselves clean, their arms, their face, wiping over every part of themselves — My cabbages! — I kissed her under oceans, among the stars — Yuck! — There’s no sugar-coating it. I died — I don’t want to get the council involved — How can make amends to her — How do I close this distance between us — How do I stop feeling like this — But isn’t there anything I can do — What can I do — What should I do — Please help!

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies. Weekly advice for creatures of the night. New episodes every Thursday. Listen online at monstrousagonies.co.uk, or wherever you get your podcasts.

[Music fades to silence]

–END TRANSCRIPT–

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