by Felix Fojas

(Originally appeared in Philippines Free Press Magazine)


Three piercing screams jolted the town of Sta. Elena one midnight.

Minutes later a hastily assembled group of men armed with

bolos, rattan clubs and paltik revolvers found a young woman

sprawled in a ditch, her throat slashed and her belly ripped

wide open. What made her death more macabre was that

the foetus she was carrying, and her liver, were both missing–

forceably wrenched from her bowels. Shaking his head in

amazement, the coroner who conducted the autopsy

discovered that not a single drop of blood was left inside

the woman’s body as if an infernal suction pump had drained

all her arteries and veins of the precious life-giving liquid.


A week later a pot-bellied middle-aged fisherman–whose

nightly ritual was getting drunk on lambanog while watching

the moon cast its silvery light upon the face of the sea–was

killed in a similar tell-tale manner. Four days later the serial killer

claimed a third victim: a seven-year-old boy who had strayed

far from his companions while on a nocturnal frog-catching

expedition. That was the last straw for the concerned townfolk

who trooped to the office of Mayor Timoteo Sangre with the

singular intent of pressuring him to put an immediate stop

to the spate of killings.


“These murders are the handiwork of the devil himself,”

one man exclaimed.


“Maybe they are part of a communist plot to sow terror

and confusion,” said another man.


“Are you all blind?” a woman interjected. “Isn’t it obvious

that there’s a vampire on the loose?” 


“Calm down all of you,” the mayor exclaimed with an air

of authority. “In this day and age it is ridiculous to entertain

such superstitious nonsense. I’m sure that the killer is nothing

more than a psycho. Don’t worry, I assure you that I’ll soon get

to the bottom of this mystery.”


“But Mayor Sangre,” an old man protested, “we need results,

not vain promises.”


“Watch your language, Ka Andres! As the mayor of this town, 

I deserve some respect.”


“We are only thinking of our family’s safety,” another woman



“Don’t worry,” the mayor assured, “just before you barged

into my office, I already discussed the matter with the police

chief. We’ve agreed on a definite action plan. First, a special

undercover squad will be organized to exclusively handle

the murder cases. Second, armed foot patrols will make the 

rounds of all our barrios from sunrise to sundown until

the culprit is arrested. So please go back to your homes

before you start a revolution and leave the matter in the

hands of the proper authorities. On my word of honor, 

I will have the murderer locked up in jail sooner than



“We hope so,” a fat woman retorted sarcastically. “That’s

exactly the same thing you said a year ago when we

complained about the potholes in our streets. Just a

reminder, Mister Mayor, the potholes have already turned

to craters.”


“Don’t blame me,” the mayor replied, feigning innocence.

I’ve approved the repairs budget months ago but

unfortunately our town hasn’t raised the money yet.

But next year, if I get reelected, I’ll see to it–“


“Don’t bother, Mayor,” a woman interrupted. “By then

our entire town will have been swallowed by one giant



Still grumbling, the concerned citizens left the mayor’s 

office in a huff. Mayor Sangre immediately summoned

his executive secretary.


“Ricky, we’ve got to do something fast to solve the

murders,” Mayor Sangre barked. “Tell Chief Bagalabagal

to organize a special squad headed by Captain Cruz

at once. The next election is just around the corner and 

I don’t want to lose simply because some madman or

drug addict is on a killing rampage.”


“We need more funds to finance this operation,” Ricky 

complained. “But our man in charge is always late in turning

over his daily collection from the beer joints, sakla dens and 



“I didn’t hear a word of what you’ve just said, Ricky. Assign

somebody else who’s smart enough to do the tong collection

efficiently before corpses start piling up in our streets.”


“Don’t worry, boss. We’ll catch the bastard. Leave everything

to me,” Ricky boasted.


Aber, tell me how we can catch the killer! Do you have a  plan?”


“Boss, it doesn’t really matter whether we arrest the culprit

or not. The important thing is to pin the murders on somebody.

All we have to do is produce a few credible witnesses and some

concrete evidence.”


“Are you suggesting we frame up somebody?”


“Exactly, sir. That can easily be arranged. What’s important

is to restore the faith and trust of the people in your administration.”


“Do you have someone in mind we can use as the fallguy?”


“I think I know the person who fits the role perfectly. He’s new

in town.”


“Hmmm…I  like your idea, Ricky. We must restore peace and order

here in Sta. Elena at any price. But what will happen to the real

killer, he’ll go scot-free and kill again.”


“Granted you’re right, Mayor. But chances are the murderer will

skip town and ply his trade elsewhere. Because if he is foolhardy

enough to linger in our town and kill again, he’ll increase the risk

of getting caught.”


“Brilliant, Ricky! send word to Chief Bagalbagal to place your suspect

under immediately surveillance.”


“I’ll contact Chief Bagabagal right away, Boss”


A few weeks before the bizarre crimes occurred a bearded man wearing

sunglasses and who had an I.D. pinned on his shirt, signifying that he

was a bonafide census-taker, hopped from house to house and asked

a host of seemingly harmless and perfunctory questions–including 

whether or not a particular household had any pregnant member.

The inhabitants of Sta. Elena, being by nature cooperative and

hospitable, gave the census-taker all the facts he needed, spiced with

a gossip or two. The man meticulously jotted down all the answers

on a questionnnaire sheet attached to a plastic clipboard.


A typical Philippine town, Sta. Elena had two main streets which

converged at the plaza where the municipal hall or presidencia,

the seat of the local government, conspicuously stood. It was where

the mayor and other public officials held office. To the left of the

municipal building was a three-century-old church constructed by

the Franciscan missionary Fray Agustin de Saavedra in honor of

the town’s patron saint, whose life-size antique wooden statue

occupied a prominent place in the church’s pantheon of religious

images. Chiseled out of narra, a hard Philippine wood, Sta. Elena’s

enigmatic statue acquired  a reputation for miraculously healing

even the terminally ill just by praying over the said statue and kissing

its feet in reverence.


The slow, turtle-paced life in Sta. Elena was sheer drudgery.

It followed a cyclical pattern based on certain telluric considerations

like the arrival of summer and the rainy season, low tide and high tide,

sowing and harvesting, as well as social conventions like the

annual town fiesta, baptisms, weddings, wakes, and holidays.


Rain or shine each Sunday, the mayor–unless he was sick or 

had some out-of-town matters to attend to–never failed  to join

in the cockfights with his usual escort of four or five policemen

in plain clothes who served as his personal bodyguards. A few

years back one of his trigger-happy watchdogs shot a prized

fighting cock dead just when it was about to deliver the coup

de grace to its adversary upon whom the mayor had placed

a rather heavy wager. Pandemonium broke loose. Bettors,

handlers, kibitzers and kristos or bet-takers scampered away

to safety in all directions. For his act of loyalty, the appreciative 

mayor–who abided by the pernicious principle of utang-na-loob

or returning a favor where it’s due–promoted the bodyguard

on the spot from the rank of corporal to sergeant.


To enhance Mayor Sangre’s image as a decent, God-fearing

public servant, his wife always nagged him to hear Mass and

receive Holy Communion every Sunday, but to no avail. The crafty

major reasoned out that he was no pious hypocrite and preferred

the colorful, exciting company of living Kristos in the cockpit to

a dead wooden Christ inside the church, At any rate the mayor

sealed the argument by declaring that rendering good public

service has nothing to do whatsoever with being religious.


Having had his thrill of blood and gore at the cockfights, the mayor

deftly switched venues by secretly visiting his mistress

in their love nest, a sprawling modern bungalow with a master’s

bedroom whose ceiling and walls were paneled with mirrors.

Brenda, a former barmaid in her early twenties, was endowed

with finely-sculpted mestiza features and a supple seductive



“Mr. Ching wants to see you privately, darling,” Brenda whispered

in his ear while caressing the mayor’s hirsute chest as he lay on

the wide King-size bed.


“What does he want from me?”


“He rang me up yesterday morning and hinted that he was willing

to contribute a tidy sum to your campaign chest for a small favor.”


“What kind of favor my pet?”


“He wants exclusive rights in the Kabankalan logging area,” Brenda

replied, pursing her lips.


“Impossible! Out of the question! It’s against the law. Kabakalan has

been declared as a forest conservation area years ago by the Ministry

of Natural Resources. “


“But honey here in Sta. Elena, you are the law! Besides Mr. Ching won’t

take ‘no’ for an answer. You know as well as I do that he has influential

friends in the national government. It is wise not to turn him into an enemy.”


“In that case tell him that I’ll see what I can do…but it will cost

him plenty.”


“That’s exactly what he is willing to donate to insure your

bid for reelection.”


“Really? Tell Mr. Ching to meet me at the bar in Hotel Alhambra.

Alas nueve en punto, tomorrow night,”


In another part of town Roldan, a swarthy, muscular farmer in

his mid-thirties, had just finished cutting three lean bamboo

stalks from a nearby grove at the back of their nipa hut and

was busy sharpening them into spears with his bolo. Watching

him in fascination was Jose, his six-year-old son.


 “Why are you making bamboo spears, Itay?”

Are you going to hunt wild pigs?” Jose asked.


“Shhh…lower your voice,” Roldan cautioned. “Your mother

might hear you. These spears are for the manananggal!”




“Yes, anak. It has already killed three people in our town.”


The boy’s imagination conjured an image of a bat-winged

vampire that can detach its lower body from the waist up, 

fly in the sky under cover of darkness, and pounce from 

the air upon an unsuspecting prey in order to suck its blood

and feast on its liver.


“Keep an eye on your mother whenever I’m not around.

But don’t even hint about the manananggal .” She might lose

the baby out of extreme fear, if not give birth to a freak.

Promise me, Jose.”


“Yes, Tata Roldan,” the boy said obediently.


Hooooy…Roldan….Jose, where are you?” The food is

getting cold,” the farmer’s wife shouted. 


“We’re here in the backyard, Rosing,” Roldan hollered back.

“We’ll be there in a minute.”


Roldan quickly hid the bamboo spears inside the barn and

covered them with hay. Standing just outside the barn door,

Jose acted as the lookout. Later the two entered the nipa house

and were greeted by the delicious smell of roasted milkfish

and boiled rice wrapped in banana leaves.


One hot humid afternoon a  weird long-haired man appeared

in the town plaza garbed in a tatttered magenta robe which made

him look like a decrepit latter-day messiah, a jute sack slung on

his shoulder. Before he could traverse the plaza to beg for alms,

four plain-clothed policemen surrounded and handcuffed him, 

tied a rope around his neck, and dragged him like an animal

to the police station.


Several witnesses testified that when the beggar’s sack was

opened, it contained, among sundry pieces of junk, what looked

like human liver still wet with blood. At first the scavenger

disclaimed ownership of the devastating piece of evidence.

However, the man abruptly changed his mind and confessed

to the murders after one of the burly police investigators inserted

live .45 caliber bullets between the bony fingers of the beggar’s

right hand and squeezed them together without compunction until

crackling sound was heard and the suspect howled in pain

like a woman about to give birth.


As expected the serial murders ended right there and then,

and the case was officially closed. The mayor and all the member

of the special police squad received an official from the provincial

governor for a speedy solution to the case. In turn the mayor,

as a token of gratitude, gave his executive secretary a generous

raise and promoted Ricky as his chief aide for concocting such a

brilliant strategy.


Election day was barely three weeks away. Mayor Sangre’s

main opponent was a political upstart–a young civil rights

lawyer who, on every platform he mounted, recited with

dramatic flair the litany of graft and corruption heblamed on

Mayor Sangre’s administration. No wonder the peopleof Sta.

Elena regarded him as a champion of the masses and flocked

to his political rallies.


A confidentail survey, which Mayor Sangre had recently

financed, showed that the dark horse had a large following

among the middle-class and the poor. Extremely worried, 

the mayor called for a closed-door emergency meeting

with his top aides in his office.


“How many people have we recruited from other towns?”

the mayor asked one of his aides.


“Two hundred fifteen as of the last count, sir,” the aid replied.


Puneta!  that’s not enough,” the mayor fumed. “We need

more flying voters to turn the tide in our favor. You better

move your lazy bones and hope for a miracle to happen, or else

we’ll all be sleeping with the dogs in the streets.”


“But Mayor, we need more funds,” the aide implored.


“You’ll have it by Friday. But I want results! We need at least

a thousand voters more to ensure our victory.


“You can count on us, Mayor,” the aide said confidently.


“Now who’s in charge of printing the fake ballots?,” the mayor

asked, thick-faced and without a trace of shame in his voice.


“I am ,sir, ” replied another aide. “They are ready for pickup.”


“Good! Have them delivered to the police chief for distribution

to all the voting places.”


“At once, sir,” the aide said snappily.


“Flores,  don’t forget to remind the electric company to cut 

off the power one hour after the election,” the mayor ordered

a third aide, “or else it would be hard to switch ballots.”


“Done, sir. I’ve already given our man in the electric company

proper instructions on what should be done,” the aid

answered with pride.


“Very well, Ricky,” the mayor told his chief aide, “distribute

more guns and money to our supporters first thing in

the morning.”


A few nights later, the human rights lawyer was seen perched on

a makeshift, but well-lighted stage. Clutching the microphone

in his left hand, the candidate took a deep breath before addressing

the huge enthusiastic crowd.


“Who is the patron saint of thieves in Sta. Elena?” the human rights

lawyer shouted  in a hoarse voice.


“Mayor Sangre!” the audience roared in unison.


“Who is the patron saint of prostitutes?”


“Mayor Sangre!”


“Who is the patron saint of drugs?”


Before the crowd could answer, a pair of invisible hands cut the

electrical wires that supplied the stage with power, silencing

the microphone and plunging the entire area into darkness.


The crowd booed in outrage.


On his way to another campaign rally that night, the human rights

lawyer was ambushed and killed, together with three of his aides,

when the car there were riding was peppered with bullets while

negotiating a dark, narrow bend.


The vampire struck again on a full moon one month after the 

the election. Roldan came home late that night because it was

harvest time and chanced upon a huge, bat-winged creature circling

his house at treetop level like a bird of prey. The farmer crept to

the barn furtively and got his bamboo spears.


As soon as the manananggal dove and perched on the roof

thatched with nipa leaves, Roldan aimed and hurled one of his

spears that struck the vampire in the right armpit with a thud.

The winged fiend shrieked in agony. Stretching and flapping

its giant umbrella-shaped wings, the vampire desperately

attemped to do a vertical takeoff and make good its escape.


Anticipating the vampire’ move, Roldan let loose another

spear that hit its target dead center in the chest. The hairy

manananggal crashed to the ground like a fallen angel.


By then the commotion had awakened the entire neighborhood

and an armed party quickly encircled the earthbound vampire

that reeked of the combined stink of burnt goatskin, bat piss,

and human blood. The men tightened the circle, but their upraised

weapons froze in the air at the shock of recognition after one of

them trained his flashlight on the vampire’s face.


“It’s Mayor Sangre!” someone yelled in disbelief.


After a brief silence, the leader of the armed group commanded:

“Kill the menace!”


Venting their pent-up fury on the dying bloodsucker, the men

closed in for the kill.


“I have seen many a flying voter in my life but this is the first time

I’ve come across a flying mayor,” a smart-alecky town elder joked

to ease the tension. Yet the remark only elicited a few chuckles from

the enraged mob.


At long last Mayor Sangre was sentenced and meted out a swift

punishment for his heinous crime on two counts of vampirism–

actual and political.  As to which of the two forms of bloodsucking

has done greater damage to the community is an issue that’s

still being hotly debated  among the concerned citizens of 

Sta, Elena to this day.