CW: Gore, horror, homophobia, violence, assault, sex, sexuality. As always, if I missed anything, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list.
A while back, someone asked me to write about manananggals. I’ve been holding off on this topic because I always want to go a step or two deeper than a simple explanation of what a thing is. As a result, I’ve been thinking about Manananggals in the back of my head for about a month and I think I finally have something. Of course, I’ll still have to do some explaining to get to my point so here goes.
You’re going to need to know what a cryptid is for this article to make any sense. The Oxford dictionary definition of a cryptid is, “an animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.” Some well-known cryptids include Big Foot, the Lochness Monster, the Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, etc. Many people define it more loosely to also include classic horror monsters that we 100% know don’t actually exist such as werewolves, living mummies, zombies, and vampires. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the more inclusive of the two definitions.
The manananggal is a cryptid from Filipino folklore. It is depicted as an incredibly ugly humanoid being, usually a woman. Manananggals are capable of sprout giant bat wings out of their backs and severing their upper-torsos. Their upper half flies into the night in search of victims while their lower half remains, standing upright, where the monster left it. They have a straw-like tongue that can suck your blood the same way a mosquito does. They, most frequently, target sleeping, pregnant women. Their favorite meals are human blood and the hearts of unborn fetuses. Do any of these details sound familiar?
The answer is, “yes, it sounds like a very popular cryptid in western culture.” You know what vampires are so I’m not going to explain them to you. Vampires are also humanoid beings that can become bat-like and suck your blood. They are even depicted as ugly (though obviously not always) on occasion. On top of that, their victims are usually women. While there are some distinct differences, the two are close enough to make one ask themselves questions like, “which came first?”, and, “which one is the ripoff?”. The answer is that neither is ripping off the other. Both ideas were developed independently.
This cute little guy in the above picture is a type of bat, native to the Philippines, called a flying fox. It is the largest known species of bat and sports an average wingspan of about 5 feet. Apparently, unlike most animals, bats get cuter with size. Despite how adorable and harmless (their diet is strictly vegetarian) they are, they are still friggin’ ginormous and it’s probably scary as hell to have one fly past you at night. It’s easy to see where the idea of the manananggal likely originated. But how about vampires?
The word, “vampire,” comes from the Russian word, “upyr.” They were originally understood to be undead wizards and sorcerers. This does not reflect our current, western understanding of vampires. So I’m going to focus on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While our image of vampires has changed here and there over time, that book is the earliest example that truly represents what we think of when we hear the word, “vampire”. Dracula was published in 1897 and was reflective of the fears held by the people of England at the time. Back then, most people were scared of sex and gay people. People were encouraged to live modest and chaste, heterosexual lives. The act of sex and homosexuality were considered to be especially taboo topics at the time and Dracula played on these fears more than any other. Resisting and giving into temptation are the biggest themes in the book. It’s easily one of the most homoerotic things I’ve ever read. I still don’t know where all the bat shit came from in Dracula’s case but there you go.
The two monsters being so similar is a total coincidence. Both legends were born of entirely separate but equally harmless sources but that’s the only thing their origin stories have in common. Manananggals exists because there are giant bats in the Philippines and Dracula/the modern-day vampire exists because of Bram Stoker’s beliefs the gay people and embracing your peepee are scary. I’m still not sure this article got any deeper than, “thing exists,” and that bothers me so I’m gonna end this article with a literary/historical hot take. I think Bram Stoker was a closeted gay man.
But what do you think? Was Bram Stoker gay or just an incel? He was definitely at least one of the two. Maybe both? Please let me know in the comments, below. Also, don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thanks for reading.
- Payne J., Francis, C. M. and Philps, K. (1985). A field guide to the mammals of Borneo. The Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
- Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
- Podonsky, Amanda M. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Reflection and Rebuke of Victorian Society.” Inquiries Journal, Inquiries Journal, 1 Feb. 2010, www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1678/bram-stokers-dracula-a-reflection-and-rebuke-of-victorian-society.
- “Manananggal.” Cryptid Wiki, cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Manananggal.
- “Vampire.” Cryptid Wiki, cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Vampire.
- “Cryptid | Definition of Cryptid in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cryptid.
- Davis, Christine. “The Bleeding Truth about Vampires, Soucouyants and the Undead.” KU College Stories, KU College Stories, blog.college.ku.edu/the-bleeding-truth-about-vampires-soucouyants-and-the-undead/.