In the scary tales of our childhood, the manananggal was a bisected monster with an insatiable craving for human bopis and dinuguan. In the daytime, the manananggal assumed the guise of a woman who lived alone in a hut in the woods. At dusk, she would rub herself with magic oil that caused batwings to grow out of her back, talons to grow out of her fingers, and her upper body to detach from her trunk. Then the upper half would fly around villages in search of fresh human viscera. She was said to be especially fond of fetuses, which she would slurp straight from their mothers’ wombs with her extremely long tongue.
To kill a manananggal (not the title of a third novel from Harper Lee), you had to find the monster’s trunk and sprinkle rock salt in it. This prevented the upper half from returning to its lower body so it was forced to fly around until sunrise, when it would be vaporized by sunlight.
The manananggal story reveals what Filipinos of the past were really afraid of: single women who lived alone. They were suspected of being grotesque hell-creatures who were out to eat other people’s babies.
What if there were manananggal in our midst, living in the city and hanging out with people? They might look like Manananggurlash by Jason Moss, sculptures in metal, ceramic, resin and other materials. Hey, is that Anna Wintour?
Manananggurlash is currently on view at Secret Fresh Gallery, Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills, San Juan. Telephone +63 2 570 9815. The gallery is open from 10am to 7pm everyday except Monday.