Rumor Has It: Cebuano Urban Legends

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Every cul­ture has its share of urban leg­ends. It is often passed around from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, and each ver­sion changes too, depend­ing on how drunk the sto­ry­teller is. Philip­pines, being a super­sti­tious coun­try, has a lot! As we were grow­ing up, my cousins and I love to lis­ten to sto­ries told by our yaya (nan­ny). She told us these sto­ries to keep us from mis­be­hav­ing.

  1. Lily

The sto­ry of Lily has been around for as long as I can remem­ber. She is an aswang. An aswang is the most feared among all mytho­log­i­cal crea­tures in Philip­pine mythol­o­gy. It is like a vampire/ghoul hybrid. She comes out at night, and preys on peo­ple. Babies are an aswang favorite.Corazon


Lily was known to ter­ror­ize the Visayan islands. Nobody knows how she became one. I can remem­ber the times that there were sup­posed sight­ings of her, which would cause hys­te­ria. Every time peo­ple would go to where she was last seen, she van­ish­es. This was my yaya’s favorite weapon of choice. Every time we don’t take our after­noon sies­ta (nap), she would say Lily will eat us.

From time to time, Lily sight­ings would still come up in the local tabloids.

2. Maria Labo


Accord­ing to the sto­ries, she was an OFW (over­seas Fil­ipino work­er) from Spain, in some accounts, Cana­da. When her employ­er was dying, he passed on a curse to her— she became an aswang. When she came home to the Philip­pines, her hus­band noticed her act­ing strange­ly. One night, her hus­band came home and asked where the chil­dren are. Maria said she cooked and ate them. Blind­ed by fury, her hus­band took a bolo (a large cut­ting tool/knife) and attacked her. Her face got slashed but she escaped. Labo in the Ilong­go dialect means to slash, and that’s how she got her name. Nobody knows what became of her. An aswang can’t die unless they pass on the curse (a small stone or a chick) and some­one will­ing­ly accepts it.

3. Min­da Mora

If you stud­ied in Uni­ver­si­ty of San Car­los (USC), you would know who she is. They said she was a Car­olin­ian (term for a USC stu­dent) who loved per­form­ing. After being raped and killed by secu­ri­ty guards, her body was buried at the USC Cul­tur­al Cen­ter. She is said to haunt the cul­tur­al cen­ter until this day. There was a locked room in the cul­tur­al cen­ter where stu­dents are often told to stay away from. It was a room she used to fre­quent when she was alive.

I am a Car­olin­ian, and of course, I heard that sto­ry. When I was in col­lege, we had this group prac­tice in the cul­tur­al cen­ter. By the way, the cul­tur­al cen­ter is where stu­dent activ­i­ties are per­formed. Our prac­tice end­ed up late. Some girls and I decid­ed to go to the com­fort room togeth­er. There were 3 of us in the com­fort room, and we were noisy. We were talk­ing about Min­da Mora, laugh­ing about how ridicu­lous that sto­ry was. Sud­den­ly, we heard loud bang­ing from the last cubi­cle. We thought anoth­er stu­dent was there and was pissed at us for being bois­ter­ous. “Calm down, sor­ry for the noise,” we called out. It stopped. We were curi­ous who the grouch was and wait­ed for her to come out to have words with her. After 10 min­utes, we decid­ed to check out the cubi­cle. There was no one there! We exchanged looks and ran as fast as we could.

4. The ser­pent in the base­ment

Robinson’s Fuente was an upscale depart­ment store in uptown Cebu. I was in grade school when it opened in the 80’s. But thing was, not many peo­ple patron­ized it because of a rumor — the own­er of the store has a twin who is half human, half snake. The ser­pent takes his vic­tims through the dress­ing rooms. It was said that one of those dress­ing rooms has a trap­door that leads straight to the base­ment, where the ser­pent waits. It even went too far as to sug­gest that a famous actress was almost vic­tim­ized. She was paid off to keep it under wraps. This actress was Alice Dixon.

5. Cat meat siopao in Colon


Before all the big malls came, Colon street was the busi­ness hub of Cebu. It is the old­est street in the Philip­pines. There was a pop­u­lar Chi­nese restau­rant there that serves yum­my siopaos. Then the rumor spread like wild­fire that the meat in their siopao was not pork, but cat meat. I was one of those peo­ple who believed that. I was in grade school, young and gullible. I stopped eat­ing siopao too. It took some time to over­come my aver­sion to siopao.

6. The Man­ta­ga in Kawasan Falls

Kawasan falls, the 3rd tier

I used to fre­quent Kawasan Falls when it wasn’t famous and not too crowd­ed. The trek was exhaust­ing but it was beau­ti­ful then. The locals would often warn me to observe prop­er deco­rum or else the man­ta­ga or the engkan­tos (fairies, earth ele­men­tals) will take me. A man­ta­ga is sup­pos­ed­ly a leviathan-like crea­ture who lives in the depths of the falls. This falls has 3 tiers, and the man­ta­ga lives in the 3rd, the deep­est. Anoth­er tale was the man­ta­ga often takes a human life every year as some sort of sac­ri­fice for dis­turb­ing the peace. Charge it to care­less­ness (drunk div­ing any­one?) or the man­ta­ga, some­one dies in the falls every year. As for ele­men­tals, yes, there were ele­men­tals in that area. I haven’t been there late­ly. Maybe they moved to some­where peace­ful and qui­et.

7. The mys­te­ri­ous man with a wide hat


This was relayed to me by my mom’s friend. It hap­pened to her daugh­ter. Let’s call her Ana.

There was this mys­te­ri­ous man who comes out when it is almost Hal­loween. This enti­ty fre­quents the Naga area (south of Cebu, also known as the aswang cap­i­tal of Cebu).

Ana was hav­ing a sleep­over in her friend’s house in Naga. She and her friends start­ed talk­ing about this mys­te­ri­ous man who appears when it is almost Hal­loween. What one has to do is cry out loud­ly that he/she wants to die and invite hat man to take him/her. Fueled by alco­hol, she did exact­ly just that. This hap­pened on Octo­ber 30. Come All Hallow’s Eve, they were drink­ing again. Some­time dur­ing the night, there was a knock on the door. When they opened it, there stood a man wear­ing a large brimmed hat made of straws. They couldn’t see his face clear­ly, but by their accounts, he looked human. It was what he said that sent chills down their spine. “Who was that girl among you who wants to die?”, he said soft­ly. Every­one stood pet­ri­fied, espe­cial­ly Ana, who clutch her scapu­lar and start­ed pray­ing the Apos­tles’ Creed. Just like that, the mys­te­ri­ous hat man van­ished.

As my grand­moth­er used to say, it is not wise to make igno­rant pro­nounce­ments when it is almost Hal­loween. You nev­er know who could be lis­ten­ing. When I heard this sto­ry, I nev­er leave home with­out my scapu­lar.

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