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Queer Aswang Transmedia: Folklore as Camp

Bliss Cua Lim


In recent years, the aswang—a supernatural creature of Philippine folklore that is often associated with female monstrosity and patriarchal misogyny—is being flamboyantly queered across a range of media. The aswang is a centuries-old transmedial, transgeneric figure whose monstrosity has been interpellated by gender-essentialist agendas while nonetheless epitomizing disruptive gender instabilities. In the handful of texts that comprise queer aswang transmedia—a 2011 Filipino novel (Ricky Lee’s Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata [Amapola in 65 Chapters]), mainstream film (Mga Bata ng Lagim [Children of Terror], dir. Mar S. Torres, 1964), and amateur digital video (Amabilis 2, 2011)—the aswang, an iconic female monster, is being destabilized and re-imagined. Gay men (or more accurately, bakla subjects) are occupying the place formerly reserved for monstrous women. This queering of aswang transmedia is a forceful, funny, yet undeniably risky reapproriation lodged in language (“swardspeak”) and a kind of pinoy [Filipino] camp style. This essay attempts to theorize a distinctly Filipino camp sensibility in relation to queer time. It wrestles with queer aswang transmedia’s implications for both temporality (since anachronism underpins the cultural figures of both bakla and aswang) and visibility (queer scholars argue that the bakla, stigmatized as effeminate and lower class, is increasingly the object of forcible bourgeois erasure in the face of the urban gay scene’s aspirations toward an imagined gay globality).


bakla manananggal (viscera sucker); pinoy camp temporality; anachronism and coevalness; queering Philippine folklore; baylan and asog (indigeneous Animist shamans)

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2015.02407