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Who Cares About Elections When Vampire Is on the Loose?

May 7, 1992

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Filipinos will choose a new president and thousands of elected officials next week. But in the squalid barrios of the capital, the big news is there’s a vampire on the loose.

For weeks, the slums of Manila’s Tondo district have been abuzz with rumors that a ″manananggal,″ a supernatural creature similar to a vampire, has been terrorizing the area.

According to Filipino folklore, a ″manananggal″ (pronounced Ma-na-NANG- gal) appears as a woman who can cut her body in two. The top half flies around at night searching for babies to devour.

The top half must return before daybreak to rejoin the rest of the body and move around like regular folks.

Occult activities, including faith healing, fortune-telling and rampages by spiteful ghosts, enjoy a wide following in the Philippines and are often taken seriously.

No one knows how the latest rumor got started, but it was picked up by most of the tabloids, which titillated readers with the demon’s latest exploits.

Soon, the manananggal had replaced the May 11 presidential election as the hottest topic of gossip in local public markets, where housewives and vendors trade stories.

″It’s scary,″ one housewife told a vendor in the crowded Divisoria market as she paid for fresh fish. ″That’s why I don’t sleep alone at night.″

The largest circulation tabloid, People’s Journal Tonight, even published what it said was an interview with Martina Santa Rosa, who purportedly battled the demon last week.

″She attacked me,″ Ms. Santa Rosa said. ″I was just lucky I was able to get free. I saw half of her body. It was naked. She had long, scraggly hair, long arms, nails and sharp fangs.″

The newspaper reported that the woman’s account was ″corroborated″ by her neighbors. One, Alfonso Bernardo, insisted the account was true.

″We saw it fly away from her house,″ he told the newspaper.

On Wednesday, about a dozen young men, accompanied by a television crew, barged into the home of Teresita Beronqui to investigate rumors that she was the dreaded manananggal.

ABS-CBN television showed a terrified elderly woman trying to explain that she was not the manananggal. Actually, she said, she herself had been attacked by the demon. As proof, she showed that her foot was missing several toes.

″But vampire experts in the neighborhood said the woman was lying,″ the TV reporter told a nationwide audience.

That was followed by an ″explanation″ from an unidentified expert that the woman was indeed the manananggal and had already changed back into human form, albeit without some of her toes.

To resolve the mystery, the reporter, Cesar Soriano, produced a dried tail of a stingray and asked the woman to touch it on camera. Manananggals, or so the experts say, are repulsed by stingrays’ tails.

The woman touched it to the satisfaction of all concerned.

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