Filipino Folklore in a ‘Weird Fiction’ Piece

Of the twenty five kills that took place in the port city of Siargao, eleven were young men between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, ten were young girls between the ages of twelve and sixteen, and four were young women between seventeen and twenty years of age. All victims shared one common denominator: they were virgins.

That’s from Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s short story “Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litkok-litok and their Prey,” online at the Weird Fiction Review blog site. It’s a very short story within a story that takes its inspiration from Filipino monster folklore.

I’m not sure, but I believe she made the Liwat’ang Yawa up, though it is similar enough to actual filipino folklore to sound plausible (at least to me). I’d never heard of the Litok-litok, either, but its description fits that of a familiar Filipino mythical creature.

The story’s Liwat’ang Yawa (“yawa” means “demon”, I think) is a human looking monster that feeds on virgins. He is accompanied by a bird called the Litok-litok, which is a classic viscera-sucking style monster that eats unborn babies from out of their mothers’ wombs.

In the Philippines, viscera-suckers are called aswang or manananggal; they are usually in the shape of a woman. A similar monster called a penanggalan exists in Malaysian folklore. In some parts of the Philippines, there is a demon-bird called the tiktik. It’s said to be the companion of the aswang: it guides the demon to its prey. It you hear the tiktik’s call overhead (I assume the sound is, well, “tik-tik”), then the aswang is nearby. Sometimes, the term “tiktik” is used as a synonym for aswang. I have a post about the aswang here, if you are interested.

NewImageThe Plaintive Cuckoo, or Sewah Mati Anak (“mati anak” means “lost a child” in Malaysian).
Walter Skeat, in Malay Magic (1900) said that the mati-anak was supposed to be the child of the penanggalan and the langsuir, a kind of owl demon.

Anyway. Loenen-Ruiz’s story is more of a mood piece than a narrative. Given the subject matter, there is inevitably some gore, and I don’t usually go for that. Still, I was especially struck (in a favorable way) with a metaphor that the author uses the hunt scene, of the human heart as fruit. And I’m always interested in seeing Filipino folklore woven into literature.

This is the only story by Loenen-Ruiz that I’ve read, but now I’m curious to find more. In another article she wrote for the Weird Fiction Review blog she mentions her Ifugao background, and her memories of the storytelling traditions that she remembers from her childhood. I’d like to see how (and if) she incorporates her folkloric memories into her fiction. Not just the monsters and demons, either, but the myths and legends as well, like Bugan and Wigan (the Ifugao “Adam and Eve”).

Check it out.

This post is part of my Peril of the Short Story, for the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P) VII reading event. It is also part of the The Short Story Initiative ongoing reading project.

13 thoughts on “Filipino Folklore in a ‘Weird Fiction’ Piece

  1. I enjoy FIlipino folklore! And I can confirm that yawa is demon because in Cebu where I live, we use that term to refer to its English equivalent. (Another theory is that) Litok-litok could possibly also refer to the clucking sound a mananaggal makes before she attacks her prey (the kind of sounds pregnant women until now–those I know, that is–still hear). Filipino folklore and mythology is really rich in stories. Sad that many kids I know today don’t even know what a tikbalang is. Thank you for sharing. I really really enjoy this post.

    I would like to share this story to you: The Beast and the Beart by Ethel Rohan – (It’s not Filipino folklore but it acutely reminds me of old weird news in the Philippines about women giving birth to fishes and snakes. Ever heard of these kinds of news?)

    And congratulations for being featured on Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    1. Cool — thanks for filling in some gaps. I actually didn’t know what a tikbalang was either; I had to ask my parents, and even they had to think about it 🙂

      Thanks for pointing me to the story — will check it out! I’ve heard some of the fishes and snakes stories; I think that might be the subject of a future post, after I get a chance to do some research …

  2. Thank you for reading the story. I’m glad you liked it. And yes, I did make up the name, although it is based on various versions of the aswang. Nancy is spot on with what she says. 😀

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rochita! And thank you for pointing to my review on your site, as well. I enjoy your work and look forward to reading more of it.

    1. Oh, that was cool! And it’s partially set in Oakland, California, which is near where I grew up — so double bonus! Thanks for sharing with me.

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