Pregnancy and abortion in the Filipino psyche: tiyanaks, aswangs, and the Reproductive Health Bill
April 20, 2009 11 Comments
In Filipino culture, when a married woman craves for a specific food, she is termed as “naglilihi”. This by itself is only a sign of a greater reality: the woman is pregnant. In Filipino, the woman is described as “nagdadalang-tao” or to be in a state of carrying a human being. Because “paglilihi” happens shortly after conception when the man’s sperm fertilizes the woman’s egg, then the Filipino views conception as the formation of a truly human being.
The Filipino word for abortion is “nalaglag ang bata” meaning “the baby has fallen”. If the abortion was done deliberately by the mother, this is described as “ipinalaglag niya ang bata” meaning “she let the baby fall”. Notice that abortion is the opposite of pregnancy. In pregnancy, a baby is already considered a human being after he was conceived, even though he was not yet born. To be pregnant is to bear a child, as if holding the child with both hands. To abort the child is to to remove the mother’s support for the child, so the child falls and dies.
In Filipino mythology, a woman’s pregnancy is endangered by creatures who want to take the life of the child. These creatures are called aswangs. The word aswang may be rooted in the word “aso” meaning “dog” for two reasons. First, because the howl of dogs at night warns the approach of the aswang. And second, aswangs can take the form of a big black dog. Some aswangs grow bat wings and fly with the upper half of their body. To them pregnant women smells like ripe jackfruit. Aswangs go to the house of the pregnant woman and stay below the bamboo floor or above the nipa roof. They then let their strandlike- and tubelike tongues enter the woman’s vagina and suck the baby’s water. The baby then dies.
To prevent these attacks by aswangs, the husband sleeps beside his wife. If he sees the aswang’s tongue dangling on the roof, he pulls it down and cut it. The next morning the aswang will be known because he cannot speak: his tongue has been cut. To prevent attacks from the bamboo floor, the husband inserts a bolo on the slit with the pointed end downwards. Aswangs are afraid of metallic objects. And if they dare go underneath the woman, they may hurt themselves. The next morning the aswang will be known because of his bolo wound on the face or on the back.
Aborted babies, being unbaptized, are also believed to be posessed by demons, resulting to a creature called tiyanak. Tiyanaks appear like a baby wrapped in a skin–perhaps its own dried placenta. Tiyanaks know that the Filipinos are natually compassionate to the helpless, especially to a helpless baby crying for food and comfort. Tiyanaks are usually found in the jungles, where a woman would likely throw an unwanted child, there to lie hidden and rot, lest the neighbors know of the heartless deed and the illicit affair, resulting to a loss of honor in the village and subject to endless stories and gossips. When a man or woman finds the tiyanak-baby and carries it on his arms, the baby’s face transforms to that of hideous demon, and creature bites the victim’s neck.
From this analysis, we can see that Filipinos value children, even before they were born. Filipinos uphold the dignity of a pregnant woman and the responsibility of her husband in taking care of her and her child. Those who want to kill the child in the womb are classified as aswangs. For Filipinos, it is an insult to be called “hayop ka!” or “you are an animal”, “puta ang ina mo” or “your mother is a whore who does not take care of you (that’s why you grow up unbecoming of a man)”, or “demonyo ka!” or “you are a demon”. To be called an “aswang” results to an excommunication from the villagers: nobody talks to you and you are always under suspicion.
Today, in Philippine cities, there may be no more aswangs flying with batlike wings and running like black dogs. But they now take in a more human appearance but with an inhuman heart: the abortionists and the politicians who support them. Though they do not at present openly support abortion, they are supporting a Reproductive Health Bill with the following clause in its Sec 3 on Guiding Principle:
m. While nothing in this Act changes the law on abortion, as abortion remains a crime and is punishable, the government shall ensure that women seeking care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.
If this bill is passed, I will make the following prediction: another bill will be filed that will be worded as follows:
the government shall ensure that women seeking care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner
With Pres. Obama now at the helm of the U.S. government, the Philippines will soon kneel before the abortion lobby and finally make abortion into a right. Abortion is foreign to the Filipino world view. For Filipinos, abortion is a wrong that can never be a right.