Mananangal are closely related to Aswang, with many sources actually saying they are the female of the species to the Aswang’s male. They are attractive in appearance, with fair skin and long hair. At night, they detach from the lower portions of their bodies, their upper bodies flying independently (Ramos 114). The particulars of their particular self-segmentation are varied. In some sources, the women have to apply an oil or potion to their upper-bodies or just their arms, and in some, not (Paraiso 33). It also varies whether they fly by turning their arms into wings, whether they do so by sprouting wings from their back, or merely defy gravity regardless of wings (Eugenio). What they do when they fly out at night is not always mentioned, just that they do, but some sources say it is for them to hunt. Mananangal posses thin, thread-like tongues, as thin as a strand of a spider’s web in appearance, which they use to suck out the entrails, sputum and fetus of their victims via the mouth, anus, ears, eyes, nostrils, navel and other openings. They are also said to suck up discarded phlegm from the sick, and consume the livers, lungs, intestines and hearts of adult victims.
A Mananangal also turns into one after swallowing a mysterious, evil black chick, which emerges from the throat of another Mananangal to old to hunt anymore. The Mananangal cannot die of old age until someone replaces her. The chick which causes the change into a Mananangal in this depiction can be expelled from the affected one by lashing the victim to a tree up-side down and fumigated. The afflicted may also be seated on a swing and the ropes twisted around to swing her until she gets dizzy and expels the chick. The chick should then be caught and burned to destroy it.
Mananangal are afraid of salt, light, garlic, spices, vinegar, daggers, and the tail of the stingray (Ramos 114), while steep roofs prevent them from landing on the tops of houses (Paraiso 34). While some are said to live in the trees in the jungles, most are rural and even urban, living in houses as normal people.
To kill a Mananangal, you must thrust as sharpened bamboo spear into its back. Other ways are moving the lower portion of their body that they leave behind so that they can’t find and return to it. Sprinkling salt, vinegar, ashes and spices on the wound of the separation also produces the same effect, as does changing the places of the legs of several Mananangal so that they cannot find their own. Should they be unable to reunite with their lower portion by sunrise, they die.
Oddly, there are two extremes in portraying Mananangal. In one depiction, they are merely play the roles of female Aswang, preying on the sick and pregnant. They are usually defeated by the observant mother or father noticing their thread-like tongue and cutting it, leading to their finding a dead woman with her tongue cut off in the morning. In the other extreme, however, they are also depicted as being the perfect wives. A common story is for a man or group of men to stay at a strange house, owned by a mother and her daughters or a group of sisters. They are revealed to be revealed to me Mananangal, and the men hide their lower portion to keep them from restoring themselves, not revealing where they have revealed the legs until the desperate Mananangal relent to become their wives. It is inevitably a happy marriage, and the women are seldom made to stop being Mananangal.
While maintaining that Mananangal are female, their portrayal has changed from victim to predator, and they are no longer beautiful. Like the Aswang from before, they still retain the ghoulish focus on children.
Mananangal are likely the female equivalent of Aswang, made for the same sort of foreigner racial stereotyping. Given the stories of men marrying Mananangal, they are likely meant as an allegory both about how foreign women (Capiz specifically, in stories naming a place of origin) can become good wives if ‘tamed’, and how foreign women are monsters and should be avoided.