Before Vampire Diaries, Vampire Chronicles, or even Twilight saga. There was this strange wakwak story, it was told to me by my father, around the 80’s if my memory serves me right. The idea that Vampires have a leadership or political structure in the shadows, did not surprise me like the mentioned titles above, I can only infer that this story was told to my father during his younger years either probably around the 60’s or 50’s the earliest is 70’s probably at a wake or a reunion there were a lot of those during that decade and probably by his uncle in Southern Leyte. I may have been the fourth or third generation to have heard of this story, and yet I have never heard this to story retold to my cousins or lest even talk about it.
No one really knows, where this happened or even when, but the way it was told and the language or the words used was old and new. I will attempt at translating the Central Visayan language to English.
The story began with a maninguitay it is a profession that requires one to climb coconut trees. A maninguitay is someone who makes alcoholic beverages from the sap of a coconut flower, of which we call tuba. From here, henceforth, I shall call the guy as Manny, I guess its easier for most of us.
Manny does his mundane job daily, like clockwork early in the morning he goes to the coconut grove and climbs to the top of the coconuts. He makes a cut on the peduncle bends it a bit, just enough to keep the sap drip and fill the collecting container by the afternoon. Late afternoon around 5 PM or even earlier, he goes back up to bring the collected sap down, to continue its fermentation. Each region in the Philippines has its own technique to start the fermentation. Let’s forget about it for now. Around the same time, the wakwaks comes out and makes that sound wak-wak-wak, which is why they are called wakwak. And every time that happens, Manny yodels at them, and ends it up with “Take me with you!” Now this happens everyday it was a joke to start with it. Because no one has really seen what the wakwak looks like, so he jokes about it.
It was a day like any other, humid and hot. An educated guess would be around the dry season, must be between March – May. In the late afternoon, his last round of tree. As he goes down the tree, he notices a guy standing at the bottom. He was dressed in a clean collared shirt tucked in to his pants, not the jeans type, the slacks type. He was surprised at seeing someone dressed up like that in a place like, well like the coconut forest if you must. It was not that there was a man down there, but a fellow down there dressed like that and there is not even a road nearby, he should be sweating like a pig.
Carrying the tuba with him down, a few more steps before he could set his foot on the ground. The mysterious stranger, opens up.
“Let’s go! What is taking you that long.”
“Go? Where? What do you mean? I do not understand.”
“What part of let us go is it that you do no understand?”
“I mean I know go, but go where, who are you again?”
“What? What who? You’ve been calling us everyday asking to come with us. Now we have granted you to come with us. You ask. Who?”
In disbelief, or perhaps awed, clearly he could not believe at what is happening. Trying to get away from what he wished for. “Alright, but I just cannot leave my tuba here.” Pointing to his collection for the day.
“Listen, it won’t spoil, just leave it there for now. We’ll come back and pick it up after”
He tries to wiggle out by saying, “how am I going to fly? I can’t fly like you guys.” This was his last card.
“You can piggy back. I will let you piggy back me. Come on.”
So he piggy backs. And they start to float up, he could not feel his weight as they went up. It was as if perhaps the proper English word would be levitated.
“You might be wondering, what is all this. You may have some questions, I am allowed to answer them.”
“So, are you really a wakwak then?”
“That seems to be what we are called.”
“You said we? Who is we?”
“Oh, that, we have a council, that tells us what to do?”
“So they agreed?”
“Yeah? I guess you were being a nuisance to them, so they allowed you to see us in action.”
“Are you hunting tonight?”
“We are not monsters. We do not kill anyone. Our council informs us of who is about to die, and that is when we collect a person’s life force.”
“Where are we going?” Manny still does not understand what he means.
“To someone about to die.”
Manny remembers travelling over water, it was night but he can still make out the seas. Then they went up in the mountains and settled on top of nipa hut typical to the farming communities in the Philippines and even Malaysia and Indonesia. While on top they both opened up the leaves that covered the house so that they peek at what is going on down there.
There were two men who Manny initially sees, one is lying down on his bed, and seems to be having a convulsion, and another sitting on a chair beside him. Whenever he shakes violently, the man on the chair puts his hands on his head and he returns to normal.
“So what is up with this?” Manny didn’t see two more figures at the other end of the bed.
“The guy on the bed is a farmer, who pledged to the gods*, that if he’d have a bountiful harvest he’d sacrifice a pig on that tree over there. But as soon as the rice harvest and the profit came, he relents. So those two guys over there are pissed at him. So they are collecting the promise now. His life, his spirit.”
It was at this point of time that Manny saw two guys at the foot of the man on the bed. They were trying to pull something out of him, it was like a white glowing substance. He could not see their faces, it was all black, even when the light shines on them, nothing is reflected back. I guess the best description or comparison as of 2020 is vanta black.
“You can see them now can you? I had to make you see them.”
He realized that the wakwak touched him earlier. When he turned his head around to where the wakwak was, he was gone. When he turned his attention back below, he could see through the spaces in between the bamboo split floor was the wakwak. He could see his eyes glowing like an ember, or like there was actual fire. As the two dark figure kept pulling the white glowing thing from the man, the wakwak tries to steal it from them. The man sitting down is what we would call a medicine man or folk healer. This was now a three way tug of war. This went on for a while, until perhaps around 10 PM, this was the suggested time. A more high caliber or a senior medicine man came, everyone in the spirit world is afraid of him. When he steps in the house, he saw the two black figure jump through the window and the wakwak gone. He did not even came back for him and return him home.
Manny stayed on top of the house afraid of what might happen to him. By first light, the senior medicine man’s apprentices or help saw him, and calls him a wakwak.
“Heyyyy! Look everyone, it’s a wakwak, must have been caught by the daytime he could not get home.”
So they all captured him. All he could do was get himself caught, he could not do anything at this point. Then a crowd started to gather outside and it seemed to turn into mob that was planning on lynching him.
From this point, the story became confusing. So you can decide on how it communication was possible when at this time there were no cellphones.
The next part of the story was, the town mayor was notified while he was having his breakfast, that a wakwak was caught, and the people planned on killing him.
“What they found a wakwak? Tell them to hold on, I have not seen a wakwak before, I want to see it alive first.”
The information was then relayed to the people up the mountain. They waited for the mayor to arrive. As soon as the mayor arrived they presented the wakwak to him. “I need to talk to him first,” was the mayor’s orders.
“So are you really a wakwak?”
“No I am not, senior mayor, I am but a lowly maninguitte (maninguitay), can you not see I have my sickle here.”
Oddly enough, the guys who captured him did not even took his sickle.
“I see, so where is your tuba“
“I left it at the coconut grove, when that wakwak took me.”
“So how did this really start anyway?”
Manny narrated his story to the mayor. The mayor believed him and had him set free.
“Nyor’ Mayor, where am I. I do not even have money with me as you can see.”
So the mayor had to give him some money and send him home and paid his boat ticket.
The names of the characters have been forgotten, they say its like a ‘sumpa‘ that the wakwak put in, but allowed the part of what they actually do. The time or period this must have happened should be around the 1950’s or 1960’s. No one uses the word ‘senior’ or ‘nyor’ these days, the latest must be 1970’s but hardly, because people use ‘sir’ instead.
On sacrifice, the word used was ‘padugo’ which meant to spill blood, usually an animal as small as a chicken or duck, but the best would be pig or a cow, or carabao.
The original word for god in Cebuano is ‘diwata‘ but then the Christians relegated it to mean spirits. More like evil spirits, or anything associated with Satan. The closer translation would be fairies. The original account passed on was that it used the phrase “Dili Ingon Ato” translation would be is No Say Ours literally perhaps the best translation would be Not Like Ours or Not like Us.
The word tuba means to chop and bend it. The Visayan language is old contrary to what linguist say. Similar to the Semitic languages probably Hebrew, when you add another letter to a word it becomes another word related to the original. For example if you say tuba then add a letter ‘m’ in between, it becomes tumba, meaning to fall or have fallen. So tuba is not down yet while tumba has completely fallen.
Sumpa, is an ambiguous word in Cebuano, generally we use it as to counter a curse, or we say sumpa if we curse someone, and if we swear we used to say sumpa too.