Contrary to popular belief, women figure prominently in Philippine horror cinema, as the heroine, the victim or most commonly, the monster. All these may be illustrated using some of the horror films produced and released in the 70's & 80's. The bida in a Filipino horror film can be female. Smart, intuitive and down to earth. It is her esoteric knowledge of the spirit that helps to destroy it. Upon discovery of her sister's death in Lupita A. Concio's Magandang Gabi Sa Inyong Lahat (1976), instead of running away from it, Nora Aunor faces her fear by taking control of the situation. The heroine's image in horror cinema probably traces its roots to the matriarchal society that existed before the Spanish era and though this has been buried under pre-history, its emergence in horror cinema is proof that the practices that gave birth to our culture are not easily forgotten. There is the accidental victim. An example of this would be Liza Lorena in the Ulo Ng Apo episode of Maria Saret and Ruben Arthur Nicdao's trilogy, Daigdig Ng Sindak At Lagim (1974). Thinking that the antique necklace worn by a flower vendor was unique, she buys it from her eventually sealing her doom . Beyond the image of screaming, helpless victims are the female monsters who far exceed the female heroines or victims in numbers. These maybe classified as the viscera sucker, the malignant spirit and the ghost. Almost all of these are derived from Philippine lower mythological beliefs. These creatures end up doing harm whether by force of instinct or to seek revenge. One of the most recognized monsters is the viscera sucker or manananggal, whose horror factor was made popular in Peque Gallaga's Manananggal episode in Shake, Rattle & Roll (1984). The film was the first to use extensive special effects to give Irma Alegre's monster a realistic look. Audiences were treated to veiny batwings protruding from the lower half of the monster's body. In the film, a beautiful appearance disguised a monstrous interior. Like the manananggal tales of old, the movie warns that a pretty face does not always mean a pretty personality.
Malignant spirits are are also a staple of Philippine horror cinema. Gallaga's Tiyanak (1988) gave the moviegoing public a new monster to be afraid of. In the film, the baby was a girl while in traditional folklore, the baby was thought of as a boy because it changes to an old man with a limp. Taking this into consideration, it seems the movie would have us believe that even an infant capable of destruction can be female. Also, even though it is Lotlot de Leon who is destined to kill the tiyanak, it is Smokey Manaloto who eventually throws the lantern that burns the monster, implying that a woman's emotions will always get in the way of her actions, which is why only a man is able to set everything right. An example of a ghost in a horror film is Celso Ad Castillo's Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara (1974). Here, a malignant spirit played by Rosanna Ortiz terrorizes her sister Susan Roces. She is helpless against the monster's onslaught and can do nothing but scream even when the ghost threatened to kill her. But just when it seems safe to dismiss all horror movies as misogynist, one comes along that breaks the mold. Antonio Jose Perez's Haplos (1982) is a sensitive tale about a ghost from the past who falls in love with a man from the present. In the film, Rio Locsin plays a mysterious barrio lass who can't seem to escape her unforgettable past and Vilma Santos is the woman from the present who will fight for her right to love. Christopher de Leon is the male figure in the movie although it is the female characters who pull the story along and it is they who achieve through peaceful means, what decision the man has to make. The plight of women in Filipino horror films has changed a lot in recent years, mostly because of the change in women's role in the contemporary world. Local horror cinema will always reflect the dark side of the Filipino psyche, but as recent developments show, it looks like we, as a culture are coming to grips with our angsts much faster than the Western world is coming to grips with theirs.