The Wheel and Axle

Aswangan, Part 3: Don’t Tick Off The Tiktiks!

by on Nov.05, 2012, under Film & TV, Travel & Culture

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Continued From:

Aswangan, Part 2: Tiktik-TAC, Tik-TAC

*** There Be Spoilers ***

At the heart of it, Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is, rather than horror, really more of an action movie with some dark humor spread throughout in appropriate places. Its posters show an action hero battling the ferocious creatures of the night, and even its very tagline (“Ang pelikulang may puso… bituka, atay, at iba pang lamang-loob“) betrays the macabre humor waiting in the wings for those who expect straight-out horror. Its trailer also echoes more of an action-adventure movie, the type that is adapted from super-hero comic books.

Like any good super-hero film, the movie also has a very cool comic book adaptation.

Before morphing into a significantly better “Van Helsing,” it does still try to bring back the “horror” in “horror film,” at least in the first third of the story. The early depiction of the aswangs were creepy (as opposed to the full-blown CG ones at the end), and there was attempt at some mood, especially in the village scene. The transformation of Kulot and his subsequent stalking towards Sonia’s room was memorably horrifying.

The pacing could have been tighter in several places because story-telling was somewhat decompressed. It became a start/stop siege movie somewhere in the middle, and you start wondering why the aswang hordes didn’t just use their tools to tear down the house to avoid getting singed, Buffy-style. Certain scenes were cyclical, and if the movie were stripped of those, it would simply be, “Asshole pisses off a family of aswangs, and the aswangs stalk and attack.”

However, it was also good precisely because it was an uncomplicated story, free of asinine subplots that lesser creators like to include. It banked simply on basic aswang archetypes but with a modern twist. It reached into the, umm, viscera of Pinoy folklore instead of trying to imitate Hollywood or other Asian horror. The dialogue was natural, especially with Janice and Joey; it was testament to both writing and acting that they seemed like a real couple, the kind you’d encounter in your neighborhood. If your neighborhood were overrun by aswangs, that is.

They were also husband and pregnant wife in 1992’s “Aswang” (starring Alma Moreno). Finally, in 2012, one of them survives the aswang.

Speaking of the neighborhood, I’d been trying to figure out where this movie is supposed to be set. After watching it thrice, I’ve concluded it’s in the Ilocos region, possibly in Pagudpud, where we had our own real-life aswang run-in.

1. “Palapundan” sounds arguably close to “Pagudpud.”

2. The trees in the movie look like they are from a more northern climate as opposed to, say, a Visayan one.

3. The asinan and the beach remind me of the same ones that we saw on our way to Pagudpud.

4. Aling Pacing’s house had an old poster of “Marcos for President, Tolentino for Vice-President,” suggesting a Marcos loyalist area, i.e. Ilocos.

5. The anti-aswang store and the CG aswang hit close to our personal aswang encounter there.

I was vacationing up north with my friends Bj and AJ back in December of 2006. The last leg of our trip was the northernmost town of Pagudpud, known for its beautiful beaches white enough for it to be called Boracay of the North. On the bus ride from Laoag to Pagudpud, we passed through towns such as Pasuquin and Bangui (famous for its gorgeous windmills). In the highways were a lot of sari-sari stores that declared “Asin For Sale” and “Asin Panlaban sa Aswang.” The three of us, irreverent as we are, had a hearty laugh at these superstitious small enterprises every time we passed by one.

AJ and Bj posing on the veranda… blissfully unaware of what was about to occur that night.

We arrived in the resort, the last in a long stretch of resorts. Being off-peak, we were the only guests in the entire beachfront along with a romantic couple in a separate villa; only my friends and I were in the main building. We were assigned a corner room with a veranda facing the “backyard” – a picturesque view of a lagoon, a coconut grove, and forested mountains.

That night, it rained hard. I was enjoying the cool rainy breeze in the veranda and the view of the darkened lagoon and forest. A weird feeling suddenly started to come over me, as though something were watching me from the trees. The discomfort drove me back into the room; I locked the door to the veranda and, for good measure, pushed a sofa chair against it.

AJ, Bj, and me: ang kwartong inaswang.

As we were about to sleep, the power went out. The generators weren’t turned on, I assume since we were the only guests; besides, it was cold from the rain, and the windows were wood and shell. So we slept, three beds in parallel: AJ near the main door; Bj in the middle; I near the veranda door.

As I slept, I had a nightmare that felt too real: I dreamt I was lying on the same bed, that very moment, with Bj and AJ sleeping in the other beds. Dozens of aswang were slowly swarming into the room from the veranda – across the floor, the walls, the ceiling. And in a little anachronistic creepiness, they looked similar to the CG aswang in “Tiktik” (remember, this was 2006, not 2012). I felt several aswangs under my bed, claws creeping out from under to crush my neck and torso. I remember praying vehemently.

Suddenly I woke up gasping for air, a strange feeling enveloping me. I could still feel the hair standing at the back of my neck. I glanced at my cellphone; it was 1:30am. After a long time, I finally fell asleep again, brushing the whole thing off as a really bad dream.

Fort Ilocandia, Laoag prior to our Pagudpud trip.
I wish now I didn’t see, hear, or spoke of the aswang later this trip.

The next day, I didn’t mention it to my friends, convinced it was just a nightmare. AJ asked if either Bj or I had woken up after midnight, perhaps to go to the bathroom; neither of us did. AJ had been startled some time after midnight because the silhouette of someone stood between his and Bj’s beds. Despite feeling disturbed by the figure, he decided it was just one of us and went back to sleep.

I realized then that AJ saw the mystery visitor while I was having my dream. So I told them about it, this time sure those were real aswangs. Whoever had been in the room was either inducing my nightmare or else was orchestrating a real aswang attack, with the aswangs vanishing when AJ woke up. Thank goodness we’d booked just an overnight stay; we left a little before lunch.

With this and at least two other aswang tales that also happened to friends in Ilocos, I have concluded that, despite Wikipedia’s claims, Ilocos does have its own aswang tradition. At the very least, much like Pacing in “Tiktik,” there are many store-owning believers there who have anti-aswang products in their inventory.

Would YOU want to tick HIM off?

Thinking about it, we likely got aswang attention in one of three ways, maybe a combination: (1) we were practically alone in the isolated beach, and thus easy targets, (2) we were strangers, probably noticeably Manileños when we arrived that morning in the town square, and (3) we may have offended someone or something, either in the bus when we laughed at the anti-aswang stores or in the beach where we had boisterously taken pictures by some rather isolated trees.

We certainly learned our lesson much as Makoy did in TiktikDon’t tick off the tiktiks!

All things considered, my hair-raising experience never stopped me from enjoying tales of the aswang. On the contrary, it elevated it because it gave these stories credibility to me. And this very experience probably helped make me like Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles so much more than I probably should, simply by virtue of it hitting somewhat close to home.

Waiting for dinner: balut, Lovi-style
(Mike Gayoso as Ringo, LJ Reyes as Hilda)

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is the kind of Pinoy film that needs to proliferate: well-made and, while not perfect, reveals a positive direction in Philippine cinema. Enough of those tired repetitive romcoms, silly melodramas, and unfunny Vice Ganda comedies. Give me the likes of Tiktik,” Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington, I Do Bidoo, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank, Asiong Salonga, and Kimmy Dora any day.

I hope there are more Aswang Chronicles to come – sequels with the titles ManananggalWakwakSigbin, and more. We need to showcase more Pinoy folklore in  properly done films because we have a rich and unique heritage we can mine and shouldn’t waste.

Continued In:

Aswangan, Part 4: The Good, The Bad, and The Unseen

My rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Directed By: Erik Matti

Starring: Dingdong Dantes, Lovi Poe, Joey Marquez, Roi Vinzon, Ramon Bautista, LJ Reyes, and Janice De Belen

With: Mike Gayoso, Rina Reyes, Roldan Aquino, Jan Harley Hicana, Dwight Gaston, Cris Pastor, RJ Salvador, Jeff Fernandez, Montito Almario, Kerbie Zamora

(Yes, I included Kerbie in the secondary cast listing even if the official site didn’t. Hee.)

Whose last supper will it be?

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Rina Victoria

    Pulupandan, as mentioned in the movie, is actually a town in Negros Occidental. 🙂

  • allancarreon

    Interesting. I’m pretty sure they pronounced it “Palapundan” in the movie, so researching it on the internet proved futile as I didn’t get any hits.

    In researching Pulupandan now, it’s possible given that it’s a small coastal town. I’ve never been there, though, so I’m not sure if it’s a salt-producing town or if it looks like the town in the movie.

    Thus, given they seemed to have pronounced it differently in the movie, I still like to imagine (even if my theory may be wrong) that Pagudpud was possibly one of the inspirations for the movie. 🙂

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