I was browsing for a good aswang story over the net and I stumble upon the story that brings me back to my childhood again, the story of Tiniente Gimo. I never expected that story to be popular but of course, you’re not a full bloodied Ilonggo, even if you’re born and raised here, if you don’t know or at least heard the name, Tiniente Gimo, in my opinion. All of my childhood friends of my age heard the name. It’s probably the most famous of all aswang stories. They even made a local movie out of it. Let me give you a quick recount about it, that is if I still remember it.

It happened in the town of Dueñas, Iloilo. There’s this guy they called “Tiniente Gimo” (Lieutenant Gimo). He was addressed as Tiniente (Lieutenant) because he’s some sort of a captain (a chief) of a baranggay (Barangay, is native term for a village) of the said town. It was all also said that he’s also referred Tiniente because he’s also a chief of his clan, a clan of aswangs.

One of her daughters who’s studying in the city decided to invite her friends to come over her place in Dueñas because they’re celebrating a fiesta (also a spanish influenced custom). Two of her friends accepted the invitation and they went on the eve of the fiesta.

They were greeted with enthusiasm and all by Tiniente Gimo and some other relatives. They were fed and entertained. As soon as the night go deeper, they decided to sleep in the room of Gimo’s daughter while the others are still busy preparing the food for the next day. They all agreed to sleep on the mats on the floor since there’s no bigger bed to accommodate them.

One of their guest, we will name Juana, seem can’t shake off the feeling of being uncomfortable. We usually refer it in Filipino as ‘namamahay’ or in Ilonggo as ‘gapangbalay’, which is when your body and mind are still in the process of adjusting to a new environment and thus cannot perform a certain routine, especially sleeping. It is what prevented Juana from sleep.

She decided to peek from a window and noticed that there are more people coming in, the noise just gets louder and louder with small laughter and soft giggles. The men were drinking while some women busy chopping some vegetables. There also some children there too. In the middle of the circle outside, she also noticed this unusually big cauldron. She thought, “If they’re really going to cook something, it should be bigger than chicken or goat.”

Just then, Juana heard Teniente Gimo’s voice just on the other side of the wall, talking to another person.

“So which one is it?” the person asked.
“The one in the middle and the other one’s on the right,” Teniente Gimo said.
“Okay. I’ll bring three or four along in case there’s a struggle.”
“Let’s just hit her on the head. Keep her quiet that way.”
“And bring the sack to carry her with. We’ll take care of the other one.”

She was shocked and filled with fear. The cauldron she saw in the middle was actually going to be used for her and her friend. They’re planning on how to butcher her and her other friend.

Her own survival instinct kicks in. She debated for a while on whether to wake up her friend or not but the men were coming up the stairs and if her friend woke up suddenly, there’s no telling what she would say or do. They could both be in bad trouble if she delayed for another second.

Juana hurried back to the sleeping girls on the floor, pushed Gimo’s daughter towards the middle, lay on the girl’s right and covered everyone’s head with the wide blanket. That way, the heads were hidden underneath. She tried to calm herself to prevent from shaking. Soon the door opened slowly and noiselessly.

She didn’t know how many men came for Teniente Gimo’s daughter that night. All she felt and heard were soft footsteps, a few whispers and a loud thud as they hit the young girl on the head. They were very quiet, as if they were used to doing what they did. They didn’t even wake up her friend, who was sleeping so soundly just an arm’s length away. Teniente Gimo’s daughter lay moaning next to her.

They quickly wrapped the bleeding girl with the blanket and took her downstairs.

After the men had left the room, Juana got up, tried to wake her friend for the last time, failed and decided to go alone. She opened the window across the one facing the clearing where they were presently beating the body inside the sack and carefully but fearfully climbed down.

As soon as her bare feet touched solid ground, Juana began to run. She didn’t care where she was passing through – all she knew was that the main road was in that direction. She hadn’t gotten far when she heard shouts and screams from the group. They had opened the sack and found out the terrible mistake they made.

Enraged, Teniente Gimo cried for everyone to check the house, find the girl, she who was supposed to be in the middle, she who was supposed to be in the sack, she who was supposed to be the one they should be prepping tonight, she whose throat they should have slit.

Behind her, Juana heard the commotion and simply assumed that people were now climbing the stairs, opening the door to the daughter’s room and finding that only one was left behind and the other had run away. It would only be a matter of time before they found out where she was headed. So she kept on running over the grass, the rocks, the pebbles that cut her feet, the sharp thorns of the shrubs and the slimy dead things underneath her.

But those who were in pursuit of her were men – grown men, taller than her, with longer legs, with great strength. As the men with the torches began to gain on her, Juana felt panic rise from her legs to her heart, threatening to turn her legs to stone. She could never outrun these people and if she could hide, where? They knew the area better than her.

Then she saw a tree. It was tall enough but not so tall that she couldn’t climb it and it looked strong, with a thick truck and even thicker leaves. She had no memory of how she managed to climb the tree that night but there she cowered, shaking, mouthing prayers for the Virgin to protect her, to please not let them see her, hear her and smell her.

The voices grew nearer and so did the footfalls. Not only the men came in pursuit. There were a few women as well, some of them holding torches, some gripping a thick tree branch and others, still holding on to the knives they used to cut the onions and the tomatoes. Light from the torches illuminated the branches and the leaves of the tree as the mob passed underneath her. If one of them ever looked up…

No one did. The crowd of angry men and women who tried to come after her came and went. They can’t see her. A few hours later, which seemed an eternity to Juana, they came back again, walking this time, tired and hungry, their torches fading but they came a few feet away now, no one passed under Juana’s tree.

Although the crowd had gone, Juana stayed hidden in the tree. She waited for the morning breaks and very carefully, painfully climbed down. No one was in sight and she was too far away to actually hear anything from where Teniente Gimo’s hut. Besides, it was morning and if they did party on last night, they would be too full and tired to give care. Juana brushed the thought of her other friend, the one she left behind, away and began to run again, towards the main road.

I no longer remember how Juana got help. Maybe she stopped a passing bus or jeepney or maybe a person with a good soul came across the fearful girl with the wild eyes. But she did get help and she did find her way home, safe and alive. She never went back to the town of Dueñas.

As for Teniente Gimo and his clan of aswangs, it is said that the incident devastated him. It was his own beloved daughter after all. They packed up and abandoned their home and moved someplace else. Where he and his family are now is only whispered about and whether they are still hunting and luring human prey, it can only be guessed at.

Now, if you believe the story, whatever. I’m not saying that it’s true. I’ve heard that the aswang stories of Tiniente Gimo was made up by one of his envious enemies. They created some sort of a bad reputation to bring him down. It’s a Filipino trait, you know. There was a story I’ve read that there was a body of a boy mutilated found under his hut and he was accused of it. Some say it was a set up. Well, if you asked me I would think so too. I mean, why the hell would he put a dead body under his hut if he really did killed the boy. Anyway, I’m not sure if they guy really existed. Whatever’s the case, I’m just sharing one of my childhood stories.