Garlic and ginger – staple cultural foods and traditional healing plants in the philippines – are commonly used to deter witches. Whether you carry them, wrap them in cloth, or place them around your home, these ingredients are said to drive away witches, also referred to as aswang (Cagayan de Oro City) or balbal (Bog-ong, Mambajao, Camiguin).
In Caragara, Barugao, and Tacloban of Northern Leyte, however, a particular plant, anipay, is said to wield this power instead. The anipay is an amulet or agimat/anting-anting, whose leaves, which are similar to tamarind tree leaves, cause pain and swelling to those who touch them. The leaves are gathered by elders and placed around the home to deter witches from the place.
A plant by the name of anipay has been used by pre-colonial Bisayans for other reasons, including sangka or tooth filing. The root of the anipay was chewed to make these pointed teeth black in color, distinguishing them from the white, undecorated teeth baga napkangan huligid (like a chaw of coconut meat). The anipay (Vigna umbellata) is an annual vine herb that contains trifoliate leaves, produces legumes of various colors, and whose seeds, fruits, and leaves are used for consumption and cover crop (putting nitrogen back into the soil after harvest). It comes in many varieties also known as the bamboo bean, climbing mountain bean, kalipan (Tagalog), dungay (Ilocano), mungo-lising, red or rice bean and more.
Interestingly, the account describes the anipay as a “grass” with leaves “similar to tamarind tree”. In research, I have been unable to connect the anipay described with the Vigna umbellata species. The leaves of the Vigna umbellata come in 3s (trifoliate) which looks very different to the tamarind leaves, they are non-toxic, and the roots do not secrete a black substance. With many agri/cultural scholars being outsiders and colonists of european descent, the identity and powers of this plant may be known by the local and indigenous folks whom they are in most intimate relationship with.
Demetrio, Francisco R. Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs. Vol. 1, Xavier Univ., 1991.
Scott, William Henry. Barangay: 16th Century Philippines Culture and Society. Ateneo De Manila University Press, 1994.
Wester, Peter Johnson. The Food Plants of the Philippines. Bureau of Printing, 1942.