For many years, Maria Labo has been a name feared by children all around the Philippines. From what many thought to be a story to scare children, Maria Labo became an urban legend that offers a little bit of truth behind the name. Compared to other Filipino horror stories and urban legends like the white lady in Balete Drive, Maria Labo is fairly recent. It first circulated elementary schools in the early 2000’s, maybe around the late 90’s. It was so popular that many primary school kids are legitimately scared of going out after dark which got many parents concerned. There were even pamphlets and posters circulating about Maria Labo complete with a picture to add to the mystery.
The Story - Who is Maria Labo?
Everyone who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s knows the story of poor Maria Labo and how she got that big scar on her face, stretching from her forehead down to the chin. It began with a young woman named Maria whom was married with two children. Aspiring to provide for her family, Maria became a caregiver in Canada. From here, the story went a little bit hazy. Some people say that she acquired her aswang powers while taking care of an elderly man in the Philippines, others say that she inherited it from someone overseas; regardless, Maria went home, disappointed and destitute.
Without a penny to her name, she went home to Capiz to take care of her two children and her husband. During this time, Maria was satisfied with what she had, however, deep inside she knew something was wrong. Plagued with nightmares, sleep was a luxury for Maria. Tired and on the brink of insanity, she would often black out during the day. His husband grew worried about her mental state, however just when he is about to send her away, all of a sudden Maria went back to normal. It was a sign of relief for the family, but this miraculous recovery was just the calm before the storm.
His husband came home one night to find Maria cooking as usual. He called out to his kids but when no one answered. He turned to Maria and asked her, and with a menacing grin, she turned to the kitchen and pointed at the stove. There he found his two children, all hacked up and cooked with bloody parts and viscera on the fridge and the counter top. In an act of fury, his husband struck her with a bolo or “labo”, leaving behind a huge wound on her face. She then fled the scene and went south to Visayas and Mindanao, where her tales echoed in many camp fires and primary school children for years.
It was believed that Maria Labo is a classic tale of the aswang folklore which is widely known in the Philippines. Though each region has their own version and descriptions of the creature, it all boils down to the same grotesque, evil entity that craves human flesh. Its origin can be traced as far back as the 16th century with accounts from Spanish colonists, deeming it the most feared creature in the country. Even with the globalization of the Philippines, an aswang is still the scariest thing you could ever encounter, especially in provinces where the belief of an aswang is still strong.
What makes an aswang so fearsome is their supernatural abilities. They are cunning shapeshifters that can turn into a number of animals including pigs, birds, and dogs, wandering from one place to another in search of an unfortunate victim. An aswang is generally silent but there are also others that produce disembodied sounds such as a tik tik or wak wak (which is an onomatopeia of an aswang’s regional name). They can also turn into humans by day, in fact some believe, they are humans who have been cursed. So, how exactly does one become an aswang?
It is believed that being an aswang is passed from generation to generation, which involves a ceremony of passing down a small black orb from the mouth of the previous aswang to the next. If a person in the family refuses to become an aswang, they are killed. Another means of becoming an aswang is rubbing a special concoction of liniment on your skin, however this is mostly tied to the belief of the manananggal which is another fearsome creature in the Filipino folklore.
Though it is unclear how Maria Labo became an aswang, she is said to display powers that are similar to the creature. Aside from craving human flesh, Maria can also shapeshift not only as animals but also as a young or old woman. In lieu to her infamy, there was also a mobile number that circulated whom belonged to Maria Labo. It is said that when you call this number, you would hear nothing but disembodied growling. She became infamous that parents where genuinely concerned about a roaming madwoman, killing and eating people. Even the local press was on the story about Maria Labo, adding fuel to the fire.
While many believed the story, some were skeptic about the story. Some sources revealed that Maria Labo was nothing but a social experiment to see how fast information can travel, and the whole phenomena was just an overblown psychological study that has gotten out of hand. Though in recent years, Maria Labo has been overshadowed by other paranormal stories, she became the reason why we would never sleep with our feet sticking out of the bed.