In Capiz, garlic not for ‘aswang’ but ‘sawsawan’By Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ROXAS CITY—Whereas before some visitors would bring garlic for protection against the aswang, Capiz officials now could remind them not to forget to bring garlic to spice up their sawsawan (sauce) for seafood.
Not that Capiz does not have enough garlic to make sauce, but that the province is losing its reputation as aswang country.
There is no precise English term for aswang, but those who like to translate it offer “nocturnal monster,” which almost immediately flops as it doesn’t capture the ghastliness of this mythological creature.
We won’t try, but think of a pretty girl, the belle of the town by day but turns into a winged hag by night and sucks babies from their mothers’ wombs with her garden-hose-long tongue. Or of a grandfatherly variety-store owner who turns into a dog at night and prowls the town for human prey. There’s a female version of this senior-citizen monster who turns into a pig at night and whose favorite fare is human liver.
Aswang festival nixed
Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco remembers the time years ago when the myth affected the provincial government’s efforts to attract tourists.
According to accounts, some hotel housekeeping staff would find garlic, popularly believed to scare off the aswang, under the pillows of guests.
Tanco laughed as he remembered those days during an interview with reporters in his house here on Thursday.
Somehow, Capiz became associated with the aswang, with some locals blaming the popular press for the perpetuation of the false belief that the monsters hailed from the province.
At one time, Capiz tried to capitalize on the myth by holding an annual aswang festival to attract tourists, but the Catholic Church harrumphed and the province dropped the project.
In recent years, Capiz has been trying to rebrand its tourism industry, and has focused on its best asset, seafood, to attract visitors. The province now pitches itself as the “seafood capital of the Philippines.”
But Tanco said that to this day, he still has to assure visitors that there is no aswang, certainly not in Capiz.
Reward for aswang capture
“We’re trying to erase that [image of the province as an aswang country],” Tanco said. “Every time we have visitors, the first thing I tell them is we are not what you think we are.” Aswang, that is.
Tanco has a long-standing offer of a reward for anybody who can capture an aswang in pictures or identify an aswang in Capiz.
No one has come forward with a photograph or a charge against anyone.
Come and eat
“Our main pitch is come to Capiz just to eat,” Tanco said. “We are the seafood capital of the Philippines, that’s why many people come here,” he said.
Tourism development has become the provincial government’s priority, Tanco said.
“We have already graduated to the top 20 domestic tourism locations in the Philipines,” he said. “That’s quite an achievement for us because, as you all know, Capiz is linked to you know what.” Aswang, of course.
He said most of the seafood that goes to Manila every day comes from the coastal towns of Capiz.
“We’re very proud that our waters [have always been free of red tide],” Tanco said. “We monitor for red tide weekly.”
And since the economy of Capiz depends mostly on agri-fishery, “mining is banned here,” Tanco said.
Capiz also has natural attractions such as caves and waterfalls, as well as old churches.
Tanco said Capiz was also promoting ecotourism, and the indigenous people of the province are part of his government’s ecotourism campaign.