Pregnancy and abortion in the Filipino psyche: tiyanaks, aswangs, and the Reproductive Health Bill

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.


About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

11 Responses to Pregnancy and abortion in the Filipino psyche: tiyanaks, aswangs, and the Reproductive Health Bill

  1. just my opinion, how come that preventing the pregnancy of someone is illegal while in the states it isnt. proper actions and law should be applied for some circumstances. for example, if the women have been a victim of rape, and dont want to carry the child anymore, was that illegal and would she have a punishment for that? or if the mother knows already that her baby is not going to be normal, would she still risk its life? knowing that it has a smaller chance of of living a normal life? i guess, we should see the different views. not just a single angle. i am a catholic, and i agree with what you qare saying. but i also believe that, we should consider all the cases and possibilities.

  2. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    What is right under human legal law is not necessarily right under Christ’s moral law. Abortion may be legal in US as human sacrifice is legal in Ancient Mexico, but both are morally wrong. A child is a gift from God and not a right we are all entitled to, because some are Eunuchs by birth (c.f. Mt 19:12). In cases of rape, the resulting child may be given up for adoption. This is a win-win solution because the child is alive and the mother is spared of rearing the child. If the mother knows the child will not be normal, she can still give up the child for adoption. The abnormal child did not commit sin: God allowed some men to be born blind, mute, or lame in order that the works of God might be made visible through them (c.f. Jn 9:3). The child in the womb are weak and defenseless. Whatever we do to them, the least of our brothers, we do to Christ: if we feed them, we feed Christ; if we clothe them, we clothe Christ. Indeed, this will be our only test in going to Heaven–or to Hell. (c.f. Mt 25:21-46 ). And since you are Catholic, you cannot define for yourself what is good and what is evil. This is the very temptation the Serpent posed to Adam and Eve (c.f. Gn 3:5). Only God defines what is right and wrong. The Fifth Commandment says: “Thou shall not kill.” And this includes abortion, for God also commanded us: “You shall not offer any of your offspring to be immolated to Molech, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord.” (Lv 18:21) “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.” (Dt 30:19)

  3. I think abortion should not be legalized here in philippines..

  4. Carrie says:

    Quirino M. Sugon Jr , I really like your response to the post. It touches all the great points about this subject. I’m glad that there is someone out there that will state what he/she believes. Thank you for putting the Word out there.

  5. Wants to Be Anonymous says:

    My friend Monk’s Hobbit,

    there are some points that I would like to disagree with you, unfortunately I only have time to bring up one now:

    I am in general agreement with you regarding the moral issues of abortion. Nevertheless, I think some of your comments (and implied comments from reading between the lines) regarding sins, parents (or in this case, mother) and child, are somewhat shaky, I would like to remind you that one of the current accepted theologies/interpretations regarding Jesus’ words in John are:

    [14] While the cure of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 is associated with the forgiveness of sins, Jesus never drew a one-to-one connection between sin and suffering (cf John 9:3; Luke 12:1-5), as did Ezekiel 18:20.

  6. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Wants to,

    I think your question is still in the context of original sin. I have answered it a while ago and you may like to look at it. It is true that after Adam, one cannot draw a one-to-one connection between sin and suffering. This only refers to actual sin and not original sin. In fact, suffering can become salvific as the suffering of Christ shows us. But for the case of Adam it is different, his disobedience affected the whole humanity: Suffering and death came into the world. God fulfilled his warning:

    “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” (Gen 2:17)

    If you want to know more about the relationship of Original Sin to mankind’s suffering and death, read a summary of Book III of the City of God by St. Augustine of Hippo:

  7. I’m a weekly columnist with Fil Am Mega Scene newspaper in Chicago. I’m doing a mini-series of filipinas and abortion. I want to know what they think of it and their experiences with abortion if they had one. \Please contact me via my email listed with this message.

  8. ran says:

    aswang are called reptilians in the US…

  9. ran says:

    i believe the aswang bloodlines are the descendants of the Jesuits who raped the women from history.

    also, those jesuits are the most controversial antichrist described by Leo Zagami.

    in my understanding these jesuits are descendants of the nephilims; note that there are also non-jesuits that are reptilians.

    yes, unbelievable — was shocked myself until…

  10. ran says:

    and… i am against RH bill… keep the faith… much love!

  11. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Unbelievable, you and I can be reptilians, too! I have to check my anatomy.

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