HE HACKED her to death, chopped her body up, and buried it to oblivion.

Dolores Macasaet was the only daughter of Hacienda Maria’s caretaker, Mang Lauro. When she turned 19, Mang Lauro decided that she was to marry Antonio, who was older by five years, had ample wealth, and had been eyeing her for quite some time. The bachelor was quite attractive, had a medium build, a high arch on his nose and had salt and pepper hair. Dolores saw their marriage as an opportunity to help her father, who lives in destitution. It was common mentality that an educated man is a good provider.

But there was something amiss about Antonio. Aside from the fact that he had only moved to the barrio just a few months earlier, some say that he always had an earthen pot brewing some strange broth outside of his hut. News of him being married more than once and gossip of him being some sort of aswang were tossed to and fro between the townsfolk. Aling Deliah, the town gossip who was always the source of irrational stories, wasn’t too fond of him. She once claimed that she saw him bury a body in his field and that the reason Antonio was well-off was because he had a pet Sigbin, a horrible monster that fed on children during the Lenten season and often brought good fortune to its owner. Amid the gossip and doubt, Dolores was still bent on alleviating her father from poverty.

The wedding was set in June and though Antonio and Mang Lauro seemed in tune with one another, it was odd that Antonio never invited them into his house, which was located deep in the marshes a mile away from the rice fields. Antonio would also be away most of the time, often for three or four days and would return with a basket full of cut up meat – the origins of which she was never able to determine. She would avoid eating it in fear that word was true, that Antonio was an aswang and that he had given them human meat. As the month of April drew to a close, Dolores got more and more curious of Antonio’s actions and most importantly, his house.

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So one evening, while her father lay asleep on a tattered buri mat, she crept out with a small basket that contained a tiny flask of holy water, three bulbs of garlic, and an old razor, which her father used for grooming. As she journeyed toward the marsh, she remembered Aling Deliah’s visit to their hut a month ago. When Aling Deliah found out about the wedding arrangements, Dolores asked the old lady of Antonio’s house and immediately, like a freshly cut vein, Aling Deliah gushed out the details. She warned Dolores not to go near the path that had patches of camote that led to Antonio’s house for there was talk of bandits waiting on the other end which Dolores never forgot. After an hour or so of walking, she came across a pungent scent, but she couldn’t find its source. Still, she continued trekking into the marsh and saw an earthen pot which let off white smoke. It was then that she realized it was the same pot from the rumors.

Suddenly she heard a loud scream followed by the sound of clanking metals. She knelt, hid herself within the tall grass and instinctively covered her head with her arms. She peered through the grass, and saw the silhouette of a man, bolo in hand, attacking a woman whose arms were flailing as she hit the ground with a large thud. With the moon serving as her light, she caught a glimpse of Antonio’s engaging face. As he was about to slash the woman, Dolores shut her eyes tight and cupped her hands to her ears. She bit her lip as images of a dismembered body flashed through the darkest part of her mind. She then mustered the courage to open her eyes and when she heard the sonorous flapping of what seemed like giant wings she decided to make a run for it.

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In her haste, she tripped and fell into the muddy filth, spilled the contents of her basket and grazed her knee on a jagged rock. She let out a wail, a mistake she thought as she heard the loud whooshing of wings heading her direction. She swiftly reached for the holy water and the razor, now dirty, and lifted herself from the mud. She imped toward a Mabolo tree, but before she could reach it, she heard a loud swoosh. Soon she felt razor sharp claws grab her by the shoulders. As the marsh grew smaller in her sight, she could feel the creature’s grip tighten and sink into her flesh. She screamed while blindly waving the razor above her, and successfully slashed one of the creature’s extremities. The creature screeched, and to Dolores’s surprise it sounded feminine, she looked up and the face seemed familiar. Beyond the hair in disarray, she found that the real aswang was not her Antonio, but in fact, Aling Deliah. Antonio stirred at the sound of Dolores’s scream. The aswang hissed as Antonio approached with a torch on one hand and his bolo on the other. On impulse, Dolores undid the lid of the flask and threw it at the beast’s face, which sent it in a blind rage tossing Dolores back to the mud. Luckily, Dolores landed on a cluster of gabi leaves. As for Aling Deliah, she was shrieking in pain, while her claws grabbed on her burning. Dolores collected herself and made her way toward dry ground while Antonio then seized the opportunity.

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He hacked her to death, chopped her body up and buried it to oblivion.

Dolores had a blank expression on her face. A rooster crowed in the distance as Antonio scooped her up, struggling not to drop her as he headed back and laid her on the bamboo stairs of his hut, he uncovered the earthen pot and it revealed a broth of guava leaves and bird’s eye chillies. He dipped a small piece of cloth and proceeded to treating Dolores’s wounds, he tried to be gentle as she winced with pain. The sun now peers into the horizon and Antonio accompanied Dolores back to their hut, where her father was about to leave to look for her. Antonio told Mang Lauro the truth – that he had been married once and even had children, but all was taken away by a pack of aswangs and ever since, he had been hunting them down. He learned that the aswangs housed their lower halves within the path patched with camote. Antonio grimly recalled how he had successfully destroyed the others by splaying chilies and salt in their intestines, and how Aling Deliah attacked when she discovered him.

As Antonio finished, Mang Lauro shook his head in shock and disbelief but soon after thanked him for saving his daughter. Then it was Antonio shaking his head, saying it was Dolores who saved him – that if she hadn’t distracted the aswang with her cry, he would’ve been mutilated by now – and if it was still alright with him, he would really want to marry her. Mang Lauro shed tears of joy saying he would be glad to leave his daughter to him.

Soon the damp air of June greeted the barrio. And with the lands teeming with fecundity, Dolores and Antonio were happily wed in the local parish, never to be bothered by aswangs again.

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