“Selamat Datang!” Aish greets me in his native language and I reply “Nice to see you.” He’s a new guy, an exchange student from Malaysia who wanted to see what the Philippines had to offer so here we are. In the middle of Negros backpacking through the “great” outdoors. Yay.
It’s not that I don’t like being a tour guide, but that would be a lie. I am a city boy, born and raised and I do not like it here. There are too many trees, there’s too much green and I haven’t had coffee in 5 hours. I don’t think I’ll survive this.
After a trek that seemed to last forever we finally hit camp. Aish goes around the area to take some nice pictures for his souvenir book and I’m left at the campsite wondering how this sort of thing is popular these days. Trekking through the mountains is just not my idea of fun and after this trip I don’t think it will ever be.
I lay out a hammock and try to take a small nap before preparing dinner. The sun set early tonight but the moon is full so it isn’t that inconvenient. I close my eyes and hope that I get to dream about something good.
“Penggalan! Penggalan!”Aish’s shouts wake me up and I don’t know if it’s another one of his Malaysian customs, but right now I am not interested in a cultural exchange. Aish shakes me from my hammock and says, “Where is the food!?”
“Look Aish—“ I stop mid-sentence when I see her. It. I know what that is. An ungga-ungga or at least that’s what they call it in these parts, back in Bikol we just call them anananggal. The tour groups would always try to scare tourists with stories of the witch that flies with its guts hanging out. I don’t take another moment before I run like hell. I should have stayed in my house.
“Where is the food?!” Aish shouts again. “This is no time to think about your stomach!” I scream as I run alongside him. I don’t think I’ll ever get Malaysians.
“I’m serious!” he shouts again, so why not, if the guy wants his last meal then I won’t stop him. “It’s behind the tent.”
Aish dashes to the tent and the ungga-ungga follows him. I was never the brave one but Aish is still my friend. Kind of. I have to run back and get him. I see him with a pineapple and he throws it at the thing and hits it. I don’t know what’s happening but the ungga-ungga screams and flies away.
I just stand there, confused.
“Where I come from, pineapples are grown because their thorns keep the Penggalan away. The thorns go into their lungs and intestines which makes it harder for them to fly. I knew that would work just as well here.” Aish smiles and hands me some snacks.