Folk Beliefs
general

Superstition – Philippines

“There are these forest gnomes that live in the forest in the Philippines. And um… You can tell where they live if there’s a hill of dirt that’s a bit higher than everything else. And when you go by them you’re supposed to be really, really respectful and say ‘Excuse me. I’m just walking by. I don’t mean any harm,’ even if you’re not doing anything, or no one said anything, or you’re not sure. You’re just supposed to do it. One of the stories I saw on the Philippines news channel, they showed this kid and he had these huge swollen lips. You could hardly see his eyes. He was speaking to reporters and he said that he was walking by the hills and his friend told him that you’re supposed to say sorry and he said, ‘No, I’m not. I don’t care. I don’t believe in that stuff.’ Then the next day he woke up with a tumor on his face. Not so much as a tumor, but as his lips were super swollen. It looked like someone blasted air into his lips. Like super Botox.”
Bernadette learned of the forest gnomes when she was around 10 in San Francisco, California. She remembers specifically that her mother told her after watching the story of the young boy on the Philippines news channel. She was confused as to what was happening in the newscast and so her mother explained to her about the Filipino superstition. Bernadette was also traveling to the Philippines that summer, and believes that her mother was trying to warn her of the dangers beforehand.

Since both she and her mother are very superstitious people, Bernadette says that they would tell other people about the forest gnomes who are going to the Philippines for the first time, especially those traveling to rural areas where forests are very prevalent. It is not meant to invoke fear, but as a word of warning to those new to Filipino culture.

This superstition is widely believed by both Filipino adults and children. All age groups tend to follow it as well as contribute to its spread. According to Bernadette, most people who live in the rural areas know about the forest gnomes, but probably less people hear of them in the major cities because they are more removed from the situation.
Bernadette also said that the superstition has a lot to do with the respect imbued in Filipino culture. She says that Filipinos tend to have a high respect for the higher powers of the universe, which might have spawned the superstition. The mounds of dirt are just physical manifestations of the unknown.

I think that this superstition probably has a lot to do with the location of the Philippines. Since a lot of the terrain in the Philippines is forest, there should be no wonder why some folklore has been generated concerned with this topic. The fact that the superstition has even penetrated mainstream news in the Philippines demonstrates how superstition plays into their everyday lives. Filipinos find evidence to support their superstitions, no matter how irrational they may sound. Although I personally do not believe in the superstition and believe there is probably a scientific explanation to the tumor on the young boy’s lips, I think that I would probably follow the superstition anyways if I were in the Philippines just because I would rather be on the safe side than face the consequences.

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