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‘Maleficent’ and the ‘manananggal’ connection

By Saberra Cruz

Outside the movie house showing Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” I overheard an awesome conversation between a mother and teenage daughter.

Daughter: I wonder if there’s a Filipino version of this movie. 

Mother: There is. And the story is older than the Hollywood version

Daughter: Really? What is the title? Must be interesting like this.

Mother: It’s not just a title, it’s a series of stories, and its originally Filipino.

I was thinking. Yes, I have heard of them. It is the “Manananggal” stories. Maleficent could be the American version of the dreaded evening creature we have heard about and so much scared of. It fits every urban and rural stories we all grew up with.

I remember an old Pinoy manananggal movie in the 70s I saw produced by Sampaguita Pictures that  starred the young Susan Roces. There were other versions that followed and the audience love it to death, fang (tango), wings and all. A vampire-like mythical creature, the Manananggal is the mistress of the Philippine night. So who says the story of men and women flying creatures originated in foreign shores? No sir, the Filipino imagination and creativity did it first.

But the Malificent sequel is the most universally known and later most loved because after all she is, well, half human, and being different and weird sometimes. Turns out the woman is no evil but heroine. In the end, it’s us humans who are the creatures of the other side—always misjudging, righteous and always wrong.

The Manananggal has the same unfortunate fate. Like Maleficent, she is forever demonized and pictured evil. You cannot blame humans, they cannot imagine half-human, half bird flying out from the roof with cut bodies and internal organs hanging with eyes razing ready to devour.

Such rich imagination indeed. But the question is, has anyone ever sees them? In the long run, who the hell cares? After all, we love a good scare, truth or imagination. Leave it to the Pinoys to venture the night.

Artwork courtesy of

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