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The Bandit Who Banished the Aswangs

YOU NEVER FELT so secure before…. Hovering above the now-unshackled pristine and fertile triangular island of 1566 Bamban were familiar crimson cumulus clouds. Fresh off the ships, the towering yet mapuraw bangús-white people—with broken Bisaya—claim that the Sicily-like land, brimming with oyster shells and honey, is easily the richest in the Pearl of the Orient Seas.

Within this island, you’re standing around the outlandish stone-built Paseo de Evangelizacion at the center of Kapid’s quaint town plaza swarming with a crowd. He’s there with you, too, standing firmly with overflowing modesty. Not tall yet not small, not plump yet not slim, pitch-black (not gray) hair, his glorious war-painted dusky skin, and intense gazing almond eyes.

Suddenly, he traverses towards the center—the crowd parting like the Red Sea—with a clenched, raised fist. He declares: “My dear fellow Kapidnons, never fear again, for I am here with you. In seven days, I will exterminate the remaining pests who once besieged and plagued our once pitiful town and the rest of Mother Island. No more fear, lest you’re an aswang!”

Ever since that moment, the crowd believed that they would be eternally safe from the shape-shifting bloodthirsty Saragnayan’s spawns. Like you, they are not fond of what is different and what they could not understand—except when they are beneficial or just plain visiting pious pale aliens.

So all of you resoundingly applauded the beloved Bandit—so much so, it drowned the crackling thunder of what-could-have-been a deluge.

Finally, you have a datu, after eons without one—at least a human one. You thought The Bandit was never unlike the people. During the town’s ritual feasting. He heartily laughs, casually, eats with bare ferrous hands, playfully curses, and mischievously lusts—especially after the frail sun-starved binukots. He always wore banality well.

Just like you, He is not different at all.

Except, however, whispers from His former town in the unfamiliar South say that He once made a dark, big-eared, and long-tailed goat-like sigbin—at bolo-point—sip her mucky blood and swallow her own nauseating tiny heart.

Within the next six long days, killings of the terrifying aswangs pervaded Kapid from dawn to dusk. A long bloody war within a newfound stifling peace. Thankfully, the fierce and adept mercenaries of the beloved Bandit—who resemble His war-inked skin—can easily slaughter them with their flimsy golden bolos embossed with His image.

On the very morning of the first day, the mystical and silver-haired babaylans were made to kneel before the hagged aswang who cursed and sapped them to death.

Since then, the aged hexing aswang became known as the mangkukulam.

Thankfully, the Bandit’s mercenaries avenged the revered babaylans.

You all applauded the beloved Bandit.

On the very morning of the second day, the distant yet nearby people of the northern town of Akean—the Akeanons—mysteriously disappeared into the daybreak. They share the same features with the Kapidnons—similar to the Bandit—yet their diverse geography of high mountain peaks, pure white sandy beaches, and a boiling river secluded them. The envious monkey-like aswang, they said, mauled the Akeanons to death.

Since then, the jealous hairy macaque-looking aswang came to be known as the amomongo.

Thankfully, the Bandit’s mercenaries avenged your peculiar neighbors. Their fecund town, benevolently absorbed by yours.

You all applauded the beloved Bandit.

On the very morning of the third day, the moon-haired and wisdom-crumpled elders of Kapid were sighted bloodless at the tribunal. An albino bat-like aswang, they said, wreaked havoc in the court and seized the illustrious ansiyanos’ gavels.

Since then, the blood-sucking aswang that resembles a pallid fruit bat was christened the mandurugo.

Thankfully, the Bandit’s mercenaries avenged your noble elders, too.

You all applauded the beloved Bandit.

On the very morning of the fourth day, lifeless bodies of the unpretentious Sulods were recovered down from their bounteous mountain abode. A greedy aswang in the form of a dark wild boar, they said, devoured the eccentric natives and stole their lush inherited lands more alluring for housing than farming.

Since then, the gluttonous aswang with a semblance of black swine was infamously
known as the awok.

002_Illus2_bandit2
Illustration by Jimbo Albano

Thankfully, the Bandit’s mercenaries avenged the idiosyncratic Sulods, too.

You all applauded the beloved Bandit.

On the very morning of the fifth day, the once-booming yet flowery mouths of the watchful umalohokans found shut forever. A secretive many-faced aswang, they said, suffocated them; an aswang who doesn’t want to be exposed by their vigilant howling of tidings and warnings.

Since then, the aswang who can copy her victim’s face was named hunyango.

Thankfully, the Bandit’s mercenaries avenged the haribon-eyed town criers, too.

You all applauded the beloved Bandit.

On the very morning of the sixth day, some of the Bandit’s mercenaries themselves were laid to waste. Ambushed by corpse-thieving ghoulish aswangs, they said, who don’t want to be stabbed anymore by their flimsy golden bolos (especially behind their backs).

Since then, the aswang who—mumbles say hailed from the King Barangay of the South heartily consumed all the bodies since the first day of the killings was dubbed the busaw.

Thankfully, the remaining ever-loyal Bandit’s mercenaries avenged them, too.

However, the skeletons within the busaw’s ligneous closet were still nowhere to be found.

On the entire seventh day, almost no one could applaud the beloved Bandit.

For the pristine and fertile triangular island lies resting. Alas, no more war, just stifling order. The close soothing sound of a long-tongued Tik-tik blaring (the menace, finally away; or at least distant). Below the scarlet clouds that mirrored every barangay in Bamban, within his humble wooden palace, under the refuge of His net-like kulambo, the beloved Bandit was peacefully sleeping—for even gods sleep on Sundays.

His looks, unchanging, still indifferent. Loudly snoring with overflowing modesty. Still not tall yet not small, still not plump yet not slim, still has a pitch-black (still not gray) hair, still has a glorious war-painted dusky skin, and still has intense gazing almond eyes sealed by their lids.

Just like you, He is not different at all.

So you spread your onyx gray bird-like wings, floss your ghastly teeth (especially your ivory-white fangs), and then leave your endeared supple another half (so that you’re never completely gone). Left the fertile ground to hustle and haunt and hover above the now-more-fertile island. Ever-diligent, you waned into the Bamban crowd and hushed a prayer of gratitude to the beloved Bandit…

Because you never felt so secure before him.

Kristjan Carlo M. De Leon
Kristjan Carlo M. De Leon is a student at Department of Political Science, College of Social Science and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman.

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