Aswang are a specific kind of mythological creature. They are actually human, but gain miraculous powers by eating human liver (Gardner 193). During the day, they look like phlegmatic individuals, thin and sickly, but appearing perfectly ordinary. At night however, they transform, their mouth salivating, and their fingernails sharpening into claws. Beyond this inhuman form, Aswang are said to be shape-shifters, turning into things like cats, roosters and water buffalos. These animals are bigger than usual, and are completely black. It is said to begin hunting at 6:00 pm. It listens for the sounds of mourners crying, using rice mortars, empty wells and specially dug holes in the ground to magnify sounds for this purpose. It feeds on corpses, using its sharp nails and tubular tongue, taking it home to feed his family with it. It is said to be fast enough to snatch a corpse from under the watch of the mourners and replace it with a banana trunk, using a spell to keep anyone from noticing the substitution. The substitution can be noticed by the ‘corpse’ subsequently lack fingerprints (Paraiso 29). Aside from these qhoulish activities, Aswang also like to victimize little children, waiting under the house of a pregnant woman waiting for the birth of a child so he may steal the baby. Merely seeing an Aswang could cause a miscarriage. They also vandalize gardens (Ratcliff 259). Despite all this, Aswang are said to never victimize their neighbors, and it is considered lucky to have one as a neighbor for this reason. An Aswang can be identified by looking them in the eye. The reflection of someone in the yes of an Aswang will be upside-down. Their toes also point upward, and there is no philtrum on their upper lip (Paraiso 30). An Aswang will run away if you shout his real name. Garlic may also be used to ward them away, and they are mortally afraid of the tail of the stingray. When a child is born or someone is sick, people beat at the air and ground with these stingray whips to drive away Aswang. A European saber may also be used for this purpose, but bolos/machetes are regarded as useless against them (Gardner 194).
A person may be cured of being an Aswang by tying him hand and foot and placing him by a vessel of water, which must be perfectly clean and clear. This causes worms, beetles, lizards and the like to issue from his mouth and nose, after which he is cured (Gardner 194).
The depictions of an Aswang vary, ranging from monstrous creatures who are outwitted by observant people, usually by the spouse of a lackadaisical person, to bogeymen lurking in the woods who prey on pregnant women.
The original Aswang is possibly derived as a sort of metaphysical stand-in for annoying or somehow unacceptable members of the community. There appears to be no stigma attached to being related to an Aswang, beyond the problems caused by the Aswang themselves. Given their depictions, it is likely the Aswang is an early form of racial stereotyping. They are socially unacceptable members of the community.