Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Grave Eaters

Right after the turmoil of WW2 and the reclamation of the Philippines by the Allies from the scourge of the invading Japanese forces, Christian Missionaries that had fled during the War finally came back to the islands to tend to the flocks that they had left behind.

Indeed there was an influx of Missionaries, because many who had been attending College and Seminary during the war years and had missed out in service during the war felt an obligation to reach out with love and healing to those who had suffered so much in those years of turmoil.

The Maknamar’s were of such ilk who had decided to dedicate their lives to heal the wounds that war had inflicted on the innocent no matter what the cost. And to them the cost was very high. Both Dennis and Marian had been raised in pre-war suburban America. They were not gilded by possessions as those who dwell in suburbia in our modern age.

They had suffered through the great depression.

Although times were tough it was not as bad for them as it had been for others. They had not lost anything in the crash of the stock market but the ramifications of the fall of 1929 echoed into the heartland where they grew up. To be truthful their lives were more severely impacted by the war rationing of WW2 than that of the Great Depression itself.

While in Seminary the common meal was greasy pan fried potatoes and onions. Meat was a commodity they neither could afford nor find. Instead it went to the troops who valiantly went forward to safeguard the earth from the Axis threat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. They did not complain by doing without, they were grateful for those brave young men who served and gave their lives to secure a world free from such oppressive dictatorships. And in their deprivation of luxuries they felt camaraderie with the fighting men of the US military. It heightened their resolve to help those innocent victims who were feeling the desolation of War, those who neither had potatoes nor onions. Those thrown out into the jungle and who were lucky to find a pan let alone a fire to cook by.

So when they were able to serve they jumped at the chance. In their resolve to serve they chose most remote and hard hit locations they could find. When word came down from the headquarters of the Missionary council they were not disappointed, they were called to serve in the hard hit and impoverished town of Buangong several miles from the major city of Cagayan de Oro in the southern Isle of Mindanao.

The Maknamar’s family had descended from mountain folk from Western Pennsylvania, good and hearty Pennsylvania Dutch from the heartland of Germanic mountains. They knew how to survive off the land. They knew how to make do. With personal tragedy and experience they meager means they knew how to make do without the basics. They knew how to live and be thankful when others might grumble and complain.

They knew how to survive in the tough times.

But nothing prepared them to face the experiences they would encounter while at the Missionary station in Buangong all those long years ago.

One of Dennis’s duties was to help out in the funeral rites when a local passed away. Although the indigenous Pastors were the ones who presided over the services Mr. Maknamar’s assistance in prayer and support was expected and greatly appreciated.

It was during the funeral of an elderly grandmother that he heard some of the family murmering about their fear for the body if it were to be buried on the hillside graveyard where the family had plots. There was something disturbing the graves, and parts of bodies were missing from those newly buried.

They were sure that an Aswang was at work. And they feared the body of the grandmother would be its next victim.

A bit confused and unfamiliar with the term he asked the family why the police could not stop the grave robbers.

With whispered voices they corrected the young Missionary that they were not talking about mere grave robbers. The Aswang was a demonic spirit who lived off the rotting bodies of the dead. It would feast on the newly buried in order to maintain its hold in the physical world. Later after it had finished its gory meal it would replace the body with sticks and leaves from the nearby forest. There would be literally nothing left of the corpse after it was consumed, there was no waste. The dead body would replenish the Aswang’s physical form until its unholy hunger began to once again make it ethereal.

It seems the local cemeteries had been plagued for years with the terror of at least one Aswang. Some were completely abandoned for new burials, but when the families went to other cemeteries after a while the graves were found disturbed as well and when disinterred they found the familiar twisted foliage that the demonic spirit would leave behind after a meal.

It had struck twice in the last month at the hillside cemetery in which the grandmother was suppose to be laid to rest. In fact the creature was sighted late one evening running into the thick underbrush carrying off a gruesome morsel to sustain itself.

To Mr. Maknamar this was all a bunch of superstitious nonsense. He had been in the church for years and had never seen anything supernatural. He even doubted the miraculous, for he was raised in a church that believed miracles and supernatural events in a life of faith died along with the last apostle thousands of years ago. This was a different era, one of reasoned faith not of superstitious beliefs and fairy tales.

Although he did not believe in the Aswang, Dennis Maknamar knew that someone or something must be behind the grave robberies and he felt it was his duty to break this bondage to superstition that held the indigenous people in fear.

So he volunteered to camp out at the graveyard at night for a week, to confront this ‘demon’.

The family was in awe of the fearlessness of the young Missionary for there had never been anyone who dared confront an Aswang before. The Filipino pastor’s of the area volunteered to help out by prayer and fasting as the headstrong American confronted the monster in its lair.

So Dennis Maknamar pitched a tent next to the grave of the old Filipino grandmother, and waited to see what awaited him as he preformed his morbid vigil in the still of darkness. He did not, however, come unprepared. He brought along a military issue pistol that his brother had gave to him as a gift after he had returned from the European theater just the year before.

The first two nights went by without incident.

But at around 2 in the morning on the third evening watch Mr. Maknamar was awoken from a light sleep by a strange noise.

It was a slobbering wet sound.

As if someone without teeth were trying to eat thickly sauced spare ribs.

Removing the pistol from under his pillow Dennis pulled the hammer back and pushed open the tent flap.

All he saw at first was nothing but darkness. And the sickening slobber in the night stopped.

Then he heard the rustling of the underbrush and saw the thing dash into a thicket. Although its full shape was hidden in shadows he saw a small hunched back creature that resembled a twisted naked body of an old man. Except the color was different, it was not the color of any flesh he had seen, for it was light and almost translucent. As the creature bent to duck under the thicket it looked back at the young Missionary and he saw a dull green glow reflecting in the eyes of the thing as if from some unseen fire. And it the creatures mouth there was a half eaten arm.

That was when he quickly raised his hand and fired the pistol straight into the creatures face. He saw the thing’s head real back from the impact and the arm fly out of its mouth.

Then it was gone.

A few of the praying pastors ran up the hillside from their post at the gravedigger’s house to see what had happened. But there was nothing to see but a disturbed grave and a shaking American man holding a freshly fired pistol at the dismembered arm of the recently buried Filipino grandmother.

It took Dennis a few days to truly regain his composure, and he was sure of what he saw. He had just taken a step into a larger Universe. He had no idea what to do about the Aswang, but he knew that whatever was to be done about the creature he was ill prepared to deal with this otherworldly abomination.

So eventually they called in a Catholic Priest from a neighboring Providence who knew how to deal with demonic forces. He cleansed and reclaimed the graveyards and the ghoulish activities soon ceased.

Things eventually returned back to normal, and after the decades rolled on few locals remembered the incidents that happened in graveyards of Buangong. But Dennis Maknamar would never forget what he encountered that dark evening. For from that time on he could never again dismiss the supernatural as mere folk tales and superstitions. And his world would never be the same.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

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Randy said...

Bizarre and scary. At least the missionary had the good sense to bring some sort of protection with him on his vigil, or he could have become the aswang's next meal!

It seems that every culture has some sort of carrion eater legend, just like ghosts, vampires and shapeshifters are a world-wide cultural phenomena. That's what leads me to think that there may be more truth than legend in these stories.

Thanks for sharing this tale and keep 'em coming!

Daniel said...

Pastor Swope,

Cool story. By the way, Aswang don't just eat the dead. Pregnant women in he Philipines would be wise to keep the windows locked and garlic near their bed because Aswang are said to have a long Proboscis like tongue that they use to eat an unborn baby right out of the sleeping other's womb. Yikes!


Lilith Silverfyre said...

Fascinating and gripping story, thank you for sharing.

I had never heard of an Aswang before, but their qualities would link them to vampires and other kinds of 'parasites'.

Stories like this make me wonder what more threats to our safety lurk in our 'safe' surburbia...

L. Silverfyre

Anonymous said...

This reminds me very much of the story "Jikininki" in Lafcadio Hearn's "Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things". The Jikininki are believed in Japanese Bhuddism to be the ghost or reincarnation of a greedy person.

Anonymous said...

The Aswang was the object of a search (unsuccessful, of course) on Destination Truth. As of today (Jan. 10), that episode is still available on scifi.com.

Pastor Swope said...

Just to let the casual commenter know,

In many instances with these Missionary tales the exact location (village, province) has been changed along with the Missionary/Pastor's name. It is one thing to tell these tales to a church audience of 100-500, but it is another thing entirely for a professional in the current state of church politics to let his name be associated with topics that some find 'far fetched' or even 'questionable'.

So if in your research (Mr, Esteves thanks for the comment)you find a concern abut the location stated there is a reason.

BTW the Aswang is the common Filipino 'boogey man'. He is described in terms likening him to a ghoul in one region and as a vampire in another. His appearance and form varies. Much like many other demonic entities.

cryptidsrus said...

Scary stuff, Swope.
I agree that this almost leans towards a "vampire/zombie/ghoul" tale. It is universal. May God deliver us from all evil.
Thanks for the tale.

Selrach said...

This particular encounter sounds much more physical than spiritual.

Reminds one of H.P. Lovecraft's ghouls.

Anonymous said...

Seems like this particular creature inhabits only the Philippines,I wonder why it hasn't been reported elsewhere.

Well told,Pastor Swope.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, with my seriouse postings but I just gotta say it.
Didja notice how the show in search of the truth, or whatever, is reflective of the subtle racism and cultural bias in this country? Sure the host is an friendly affable fellow but the Whole premise of the show is: White Man and his superior intellect and technology will solve the problems of superstitouse people.
Yes, folks the great white American will seek out those pesky little superstitions of other cultures and easily and instantly get at the truth, that has evaded the other cultures for thousands of years. Yeah. Right. Take the Aswang episode. Hero interviews the locals and an educated person who attests fully 84% of the filipinos CLAIM TO HAVE SEEN IT. But of course, what do they know.
Our little gang think they can just drop in and bring home proof positive of an Aswang and if not, they will reassure the village there is nothing to fear. Reassure the village? of something THEY have all already experienced but that YOU failed to experience?
Anytime you have that high of percentaage of people claiming something you can be sure where there is smoke there is fire, wether or not YOUR CULTURE has experienced it.
I watched as the plucky adventurers were warned to expect several things connected with the Aswang: shapeshifting into a cat or strange statuelike white dog, click,click noise, ability to "fly", human like feet to stomp.
All of these things occured while they were filming. The shadow of something resembling a bird was caught on the tape. The explanation:Must be a bug.
The noise was heard, stomping of feet on the roof was heard with no "visible" stomper sighted, a cat strolled out the door as they entered and as they left a white dog sat VERY UNATURALLY as if carved of stone, without expression, tail movement or movement of anykind. EVER KNOW A STRAY DOG TO SUDDENLY APPEAR AND NOT MOVE A SINGLE THING AND THEN DISSAPEAR? Most dogs would show some reaction to the people running about. This one did not.
When done"investigating" they managed to come to the incredible conclusion that the Aswang was not real and the village could relax. Thank you great white expert, I am sure the village did not believe a word you said, because you were unable to cope with the fact that there are strange things in this world, and some of it is tied to specific cultures.
They came to a simular conclusion in Greenland or Iceland concerning the "trolls" though a huge amount of people beleive in them and report experiences with them. If you are not from the culture and have not bonded with the earth signifigantly, it is unlikely that you will be able to see them. Many of these things don't want to be seen. They destroyed and unplugged almost all the cameras that night.
That would be proof enough for me!
We in America must get over ourselves.
We do not have all the answers.
We must respect the experience of other cultures and quit dismissing everyting as superstition just because it didn't happen to you.
I haven't been to Japan and it is not mentioned in the Bible, therefore, using the cultural bias thinking, it doesn't exist!
Time we face it. The Good Lord, the Heavenly Father, loved many kinds of people and thier experiences are not all alike. This does not render them fools and we Americans the all knowing.
Pray,fast, and respect what other cultures may tell you. There is a lot of strange things in this world and not all of it performs for cameras.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Swope I couldn't agree with you more. Just because it has not happened to someone else does not mean it does not exist. I believe all things are possible in this life.
I have experienced many paranormal
happenings in my lifetime.