8 Pop Culture Appearances of the Manananggal You've Probably Never Heard Of
If you are a child of the 80s growing up in Manila like me, Manananggal lore was as ubiquitous as your neighborhood sari-sari store carrying Haw Haw Flakes (mmmm Haw Haw Flakes). All your friends and their tito had at least one or more family stories about how someone from the other village or baranggay had heard/seen/hunted a Manananggal back in the day. But did you know that this ubiquity reached much farther than you (or at least I) expected?
But before we jump in, let’s have a refresher for the newbies. The Manananggal (pronounced mah-nah-nang-GHAL) or Magtatangal (good luck) is one of the most famous monsters, or aswangs, in Philippine Mythology. The Mananaggal is usually a lady but is sometimes a guy, who, at the onset of dusk, splits her body in half at the waist, sprouts bat-like wings, and flies off into the night to pursue her next prey. Where I spent my summers, in Batangas, she was known to eat babies out of mother’s tummies. Still, in many other regions in the Philippines, she would entice grooms-to-be and drink their blood, rendering them unable to show up at the altar since she herself was jilted at the altar as a youth. We talk about the Manananggal at length during our first ever episode: EPISODE 1: SHE EATS BABIES FOR BREAKFAST | The Manananggal (The Blood-sucking Monster of Philippine Mythology).
However, because of all these stories, the Manananggal has made it into pop culture here and around the world! So, suffice it to say, I’ll be enumerating here films and references made outside of the classic 80s/90s Philippines cinema, i.e., ones you may not have ever heard of. So, here are 8 Manananggal Appearances (not in real life) that you may not have ever heard of!
1) Manananggal vs Schoolgirl. Banzai Girl is a 2002 graphic novel series created, written, and drawn by Filipino artist and model Jinky Coronado. Its main character (also named Jinky Coronado) certainly has some serious Buffy vibes. Jinky thinks she’s just a regular school girl with weird creepy connections to worlds outside our own. Eventually, when these worlds come to a head, she is forced to battle monstrous beings, including the Manananggal.
2) Manananggal in Marvel. Everyone’s favorite daywalker, Blade, has an encounter with a mutated Manananggal in Episode 5, "Island Lights" (The Island of Fire) of Marvel Anime: Blade (2011). In this episode, Blade travels to the island of Siquijor -- a province steeped in rumors of sorcery and witchcraft -- to hunt Deacon Frost (another Marvel baddie) and fights the Manananggal along the way.
3) Manananggal the Documentary. A familiar name to Philippine Mythology buffs is Jordan Clark from the Aswang Project. In 2011, he produced a documentary called The Aswang Phenomenon that digs into the history, anthropology, origins, lore, and modern perspectives of the different monsters of the Philippines.
4) Manananggal and Gardo Verzosa. In 2012, the muse of this podcast, Gardo Verzosa, appears as the mananangal leader of the Aswangs of the Wind in the TV show “Aso ni San Roque” (or Dog of Saint Roque) about a blind girl with a heart of gold who is the child of a mortal and a manananggal. Her fate is to end the evil reign of the manananggal with the help of her doggie sidekick Anghel, a dog statue companion of a San Roque statue who miraculously comes alive. This is convoluted, I know. You had to be there. But look -- Gardo Verzosa still kicking it at 50!
5) Mananaggal on your Phone. For the gamers out there, in 2014, Jigzen Game Studios launched an android Flappy-bird-like game called, wait for it, MANANANG GAME. GUYS. The Filipino pun game is strong. From what I can gather from the gameplay videos, you, the player, control a manananggal hunting prey like chicken legs and chubby little boys. Or is the chicken leg bait for the chubby little boy? If you’ve tried this game out, let me know!
6) Manananggal on your PC. Another video game, Nightfall: Escape, was launched on Steam in 2016. It’s a first-person survival horror game where you play Ara Cruz, a field journalist sent to investigate a haunted mansion after a series of mysterious disappearances. In the game, the final baddie is a Manananggal.
7) Manananggal vs American Cops. In 2014, the hit supernatural TV series Grimm premiered an episode called Mommy Dearest wherein a pregnant childhood friend of the Fil-Am cop was plagued by a Manananggal who turned out to be, *gasp* her own mother. Um, the title is a bit of a spoiler, ‘no? While the episode itself was not scary, the fake Filipino accents were quite horrifying.
9) Manananggal, FLOTUS. And finally, my favorite, in 2018, J.D. Boehninger wrote a novel entitled Melania: Devourer of Men. Yes, THAT Melania. I can’t even with this Amazon description:
“Her husband gets all the attention. But she has something to hide, too. Melania Trump had it all. A former model living luxuriously high above New York City, she had her every whim catered to and her every want met, far from the public eye.”
We have it in our Kindles, but we haven’t begun reading it yet. Apparently, there is something raunchy about FBI Director James Comey in there, but I won’t give anyone any spoilers.
These are some of the dozens of Manananggal references we’ve come across. Let us know if you’ve heard of more! And if you want to hear us dish about all things Manananggal, listen to our first episode: EPISODE 1: SHE EATS BABIES FOR BREAKFAST | The Manananggal (The Blood-sucking Monster of Philippine Mythology) wherever you pod.
Written by Anama Dimapilis-O'Reilly, co-host of The Gods Must Be Crazy Podcast