The Use of Garlic in Philippines Superstitions

As in the West, the use of garlic plays a prominent role in Filipino superstitions.  Filipinos have always been very superstitious and many continue to believe in their validity now.  I recently saw a neighboring family removing branches from the trees around their house because they thought a manananggal was hiding there at night, preying on the family.

A few days ago I saw a braid of garlic in the store and my wife started telling me about how some Filipinos believe it’s useful against manananggal, so I decided to look up as much information as I could about the use of garlic in Filipino superstitions.  It turns out that it’s mostly used as a preventative measure, as a ward against the manananggal, aswang and tiyanak.


Manananggal and Aswang

The manananggal is the Filipino version of a vampire and an aswang is much the same, except that unlike the manananggal, it can’t fly.  The terms aswang and manananggal are often used interchangeably, though some distinctive characteristics of an aswang are that it can also use witchcraft and may be an eater of the dead, replacing cadavers with banana tree trunks.

To prevent an aswang or manananggal from entering your house, it’s recommended that you place braided cloves of garlic and salt at all entry points, such as the windows and doorsteps.  Oddly enough, it’s believed that the odor of burning rubber will serve a similar purpose, but garlic is much easier to come by and more practical than burning tires every night.

A person that believes they may become a victim of these creatures should carry crushed garlic or a mixture of crushed garlic and salt wherever they go.  The smell will prevent the aswang and manananggal from being able to track them.  This is probably effective if you want to prevent anyone from standing too close to you, especially on extremely hot days.

In the event that you’ve seen a manananggal and you want to ‘kill’ it, you have to roam about in the village or surrounding woods, searching for its lower half.  The manananggal’s upper body separates from the lower body when it grows wings to fly about, searching for prey.  When you find the lower half of the body, you should set a trap, usually made of heavy ropes and then sprinkle the lower half of the manananggal with salt, ash and garlic.  This will cause the creature a great deal of pain and the upper portion will return to see what’s going on.  When it does, it can either be killed or have the curse removed by shoving a pint of salt down it’s throat, which will make it vomit up the evil, egg-shaped stone that carries the manananggal’s spirit, freeing the human from its influence.  The stone should be vomited directly into a fire.  If anyone else touches it, they risk being possessed by the manananggal.


The tiyanak, a creature that can take on the form of a newborn baby to attract victims, can also be repelled by garlic along with a rosary.  Another method of driving it off is to turn your shirt inside out, which supposedly entertains it enough to let you go.  Tiyanaks are believed to be born from the corpses of babies whose mothers died while they were still in the womb.  A modern derivative is that they are the souls of aborted fetuses returned to terrorize and take vengeance on those that denied them life.

The Manananggal Demon, A Filipino Superstition

This morning I saw something bizarre going on up the street.  The men of a family were holding machetes and were busy chopping the branches off trees in their yard and shaving them down.


My father-in-law was outside and when I asked him what was going on, he said that they thought they saw a manananggal last night.  He then told me that the manananggal is a demon that comes in the form of a good looking woman with wings.  When it flies, the torso separates from the legs at the abdomen, so basically it’s like a half of a woman flying around bare-chested.

Like western vampires, the manananggal avoids light and garlic.  Additionally, they don’t much care for salt, daggers, vinegar, spices, or the tail of a stingray which has been fashioned into a whip.  Also like vampires, the manananggal likes blood, but prefers to use a proboscis tongue to suck the heart of a fetus still in the womb.  Not quite as watered down as Edward Cullen is it?

There used to be images of manananggal and aswang here, but I had to remove them because they’re apparently too shocking for Google and they were counted as Google Adsense policy violations.

I’m not sure where cutting trees down comes in, but perhaps they wanted to reduce the amount of places that the manananggal could hide, so they could better see it coming.  Either way, it’s an interesting superstition with a lot of parallels to Western superstitions.  It’s just odd to see people so actively taking measures against it.  Most superstitions in the West are only believed by children.

Update: February 25, 2019
A screenshot of Google's policy enforcement violation list for this page.
A screenshot of Google’s policy enforcement violation list for this page.

Who knew a drawn image of a mythological creature could be a violation of Google’s Adsense policies? I wonder if the same restriction is applied to images of Sirens or Medusa?

But what’s really odd about the violation is that it suggests that someone would be sexually aroused by the upper torso of a woman with bat wings, or that the manananggal is intended to be sexually seductive when, in fact, it’s meant to be horrific and terrifying. Maybe some people are into that sort of thing, but intent has to count for more than one person’s perception or we’d never be able to say or do anything about anything.

That being said, the images were kind of shocking, which is a violation of Google’s Adsense policy apparently. But, again, it’s a mythological creature that’s supposed to be scary. How can a topic of this sort not be ok? I don’t get it. We’re not allowed to have scary stuff next to Google Ads? It’s history and it’s folklore and it has a purpose and should be talked about and depicted and remembered.

But, what are you going to do? One person has a problem and reports your page so you have to make changes. So, the images are censored heavily now. Hopefully, the censorship is heavy enough to be ok with Google’s review team.

Update: April 3, 2020

I came back and removed the images entirely. The page was reported again for “shocking content”. I can only assume that’s the images, because God forbid history and folklore should be considered too shocking to be monetized.