Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Maranhig

If the West has zombies, here in the Philippines, there is what some locals from the Visayas call the Maranhig (also Amalanhig or Amaranhig), our native version of the undead.

According to Wikipedia, the Amaranhig is an aswang who has "failed to transfer their monstrosity causing them to rise from their graves to kill humans by biting their necks." The description was based on a list of mythical creatures as depicted in "Pedro Penduko," a popular Philippines comic book superhero which had been portrayed many times in TV and cinema.

Usual stories about Maranhig sightings usually fall under the "my-uncle's-cousin's-grandpa saw it" category and are rarely reliable and informative. My father described hearing about it as a child growing up in his home province but he never mentioned seeing anything that remotely fits the description above and otherwise. He says based on accounts of people who allegedly "saw" it. They are more zombie than aswang - undead corpses whose presence is announced by the overpowering stench of decaying flesh.

I don't know much about the Amaranhig and honestly, this is by far one of the most far-fetched mythical beings I've heard about.

Well up until recently, at least.

It so happened that we were doing "free speech" exercises as part of refresher training in the office and this one guy stood out by stating quite matter-of-factly that he has seen a lot of weird things in Mindanao that he doesn't want to see again. By weird, the first thing that came to my mind was senseless violence and killings or irregularities within the ranks, the guy is, after all, an ex-soldier before he joined our call center.

Well I was wrong.

This guy, let's just call him Max, told me that during one of their tense nights camping out in the jungle hunting for rebels, they noticed that his buddy went missing. They combed the perimeter of the camp for hours and finally found his buddy's body, torn to pieces, literally, with most of the organs missing. The first thing that came to their mind was wild animals. You see, even though illegal loggers are making short work of our forests, there are still patches of barely touched greens in certain places like Mindanao, which can harbor animals of all shapes and sizes.

Upon establishing the location of the remains, his comrades tried to pick up what's left of his buddy in order to bring them back to camp but for some strange reason, they can't lift the pieces. In fact, several members of his unit tried to do it but they all failed. Finally, one of his more superstitious comrades approached Bax and told him to talk to the corpse so that they may put his remains to rest. Distraught as he was, Max spoke to the remains as if they were alive, and lo and behold - the rest of the unit was able to pick them up and put them were they belong.

When I asked him what he said to the remains. He said he simply ask for his buddy's permission to allow them to put his remains to rest, as per his comrades advise.

I know hearing is the last sense to go when one dies but that incident pushes the envelope just a bit too far.

Max said he never believed in the supernatural until that incident. That was quite understandable given the fact that this guy has a college degree which is not common among enlisted personnel. Only his build and bullet scars will tell you this guy used to prowl the jungles of mindanao wielding M16 rifles in search of Moro rebels. Everything else about Max tells me he's either a businessman or just a well-bred, well-schooled yuppy with his American accent and modulated voice.

He also related seeings huge, glowing pairs of eyes in the darkness surrounding one of their riverside camp in the dead of night. This would be usually followed by the rustling of leaves and a scurrying noise from nearby foliage, as if a big animal is hiding among the trees. They never had a clear picture of the thing that visited them but they say its profile was about as big as a man, was arboreal and it had lots of body hair.

I don't know if primates have "reflectorized" eyes like cats do but I'm almost certain what they saw was a monkey, a Crab Eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) to be exact. This species of monkey is native to Mindanao and I'm under the impression its diet is one of the reasons it lives near the river.

But the one incident that made me include Max in this post is his assertion that they saw a group of Maranhigs on one of their Mindanao sorties. He said the way these things walk were somehow similar to the way zombies are portrayed in the movies. It was a bright full moon, he says, that allowed them to make out these beings from across a narrow clearing. they were approximately a hundred yards away. with a few trees between them and the strange beings. Based on his description, the Maranhigs were walking quietly in a line. They were naked but rotting flesh and skin hung from their bones like old curtains. The stench was unbearable, he says and to exude a nauseating smell from a hundred yards, one has to be extra lazy in skipping showers, extra dead-advanced in terms of decomposition or extra creative in slathering his skin with all the evilest-smelling substances known to man.

True or not. It was the first time that I met someone who claims first hand accounts of seeing a Maranhig.

By the way, if you're asking yourself why Max retired from active service, it's the same typical answer as what most miltary servicemen will give you: post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's not war, or hardship, however that stressed him to the point of quitting.



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