Before Halloween became Americanized in this country, I used to look forward to All Saints’ Day because of two things.
First, it gave me the chance to play at the cemetery. The maternal side of my family maintained a three-storey mausoleum at the La Loma Cemetery. The ground floor is where the tombs are, the second floor serves as a small chapel of sorts while the third floor is set up like a small flat–with living, dining, and sleeping spaces. One of my older relatives lived there and come All Saints’ Day, the whole mausoleum would be decorated with flowers and lights. As a boy, I didn’t have to venture far to get my supplies for my candle-ball. There were about 10 tombs in the mausoleum so I had all the candle drippings a boy could want. Good times.
Second, because of the movies and specials on TV during this time. As a boy I would watch Filipino classic horror films on TV like the Gabi ng Lagim films, Maligno, Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara, the Panday films, and Shake, Rattle and Roll, among others. Comedians like Dolphy and Chiquito often made horror-comedy films like Drakula goes to RP and the Mang Kepweng films. During the 80s, the Halloween episodes of Magandang Gabi, Bayan added to this merry mix. Some of the stories featured here creeped me out more than the films because of the documentary approach, which heightened the realism even if they were just reenactments. This was years before Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
Among the creatures of the night, I was most scared of the manananggal. The first Shake, Rattle and Roll movie scared me out of my wits because its third episode was about a manananggal terrorizing a boy and his family.
When I lived in Cambodia I realized that their culture has a version of the manananggal. Called AP, this creature of the night also segments its body in search of prey. However, unlike our manananggal, only the AP’s head and neck separates from the rest of its body, trailing its innards as it flew. When I first heard about it (and after seeing it in one of the Khmer films) I found the image funny instead of frightening. Why? Because it reminded me of our Christmas lantern. Go figure.
As it turns out, the manananggal appears in other cultures as well. Follow this LINK if you want to find out.