USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’
Folk Beliefs
general
Life cycle
Old age
Protection
Signs

A Death in the Family (Philippines)

Informant: Natasha is a 19 year old girl who grew up in Bangladesh but attended high school in Manila, Philippines and now lives in England as a college student. Her mother is Filipina and her father is British.

 

Original script: “Okay so my parents met in the Philippines whilst my Dad was working there, but at the time since my Dad was so busy with work and was constantly being called in on the weekends, both my Mum and my Dad would get frustrated at the little amount of time they got to spend with each other. Seeing as though my Mum was rarely with my Dad on the weekends she would often use the opportunity to go see her grandfather who was quite ill during this period, so she’d come along to take care of him as well as bring him medicine. Over time my Dad was quite frustrated with not being with Mum and in a slightly selfish manner was irritated with the amount of time she was dedicating to her grandfather. He then decided to take the initiative and plan a weekend away and so my Mum agreed and they went off. One night in their hotel my parents were lying down in bed and as they are laying there a huge black moth- which both of my parents say to this day was the biggest moth they had ever seen- flies into the room and lands on the wall facing my parents. Immediately my Mum senses and tells my Dad that something feels wrong and both feel very unsettled. 10 minutes later my Mum receives a phone call from her family telling her that her grandfather has sadly passed away. My Mum believes that the moth was a symbol of death and was warning her that her Grandfather was passing. At Filipino funerals it is common for them to be open casket. As my Mum approaches the casket she finds herself crying and blaming herself for being irresponsible and not being there to take care of him. As she apologizes over his body she says her last goodbye by kissing him on his cheek. Now one of the weirdest part of the story is what happens next. To this day my Mum swears that after she kissed him on the cheek her Grandfather cracked a small smile. After all of the events that have happened and the guilt she felt before, she now felt like all was ok as she believes this was a sign of his forgiveness. The end.”

Thoughts about the piece: This story is a great exemplification of how a person’s belief system can be shaped by people, in this case Natasha’s parents. Parents can be a huge influence on their children’s belief systems- most especially in early life where they are likely the single biggest influence. The way that Natasha’s parents believe so strongly in the presence of a supernatural being in this story, most especially her Mother, has definitely influenced the way that Natasha perceives things. To an outsider looking in, you may just think that the moth was a coincidence and that the Grandfather smiling is just something that her Mother convinced herself of in a moment of grief to try to overcome it. However, the fact that this took place before Natasha was born, that she has been told this story countless times since she was very young, and that her mother is someone who she trusts deeply are all factors which shape Natasha’s belief and consequently the way in which she tells the story. She has a deep emotional connection to the story and thus, she tells it as an absolute occurrence.

Something else to note is the Filipino culture that peeks through the story. Filipinos are generally very family oriented and they also have very strong belief in ghosts and superstition. The fact that Natasha’s father is British and was initially skeptical about the whole moth situation and did not look as much into it as her Mother but now completely believes in the supernatural aspect of the story shows how possibly being immersed in Filipino culture and such could have altered his belief system.

Childhood
Game
general
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary (All-Boys School in the Philippines)

Informant: Enrique is a 19-year-old boy, born and raised in Manila, Philippines who now attends college in California. South Ridge (the school in his story) is a Catholic all-boys school in Manila which he attended from kindergarten through until 7th grade.

 

Original script:

Informant: So when I went to South Ridge, [all boys school in Manila, Philippines] there was a super scary bathroom on the top floor of the school. No one ever used this bathroom because there was a rumor that someone had died inside the bathroom years ago. On special occasions, our classes would have sleep overs at school and during one of these sleep overs, one of the older batches went up to that bathroom in the middle of the night. The rumor goes that if you say Bloody Mary in front of the mirror in that bathroom four times, Bloody Mary actually shows up. So when one of the guys that decided to go into that bathroom did the ritual, she actually appeared and when he left the bathroom, he was covered in cuts and scratches.

 

Interviewer: Do you know what Bloody Mary has to do with the guy that had died in the bathroom?

 

Informant: She was apparently the one who killed him.

 

Thoughts about the piece: It is extremely interesting that the Bloody Mary ritual would occur at a local all-boys school in the Philippines. Especially considering the context that we discussed it in during class wherein we saw that the ritual is most popular among pre-pubescent girls usually in Western countries. We took this to be part of girls growing up as womanhood is bloody, thus, girls are basically looking into their future (by spinning and looking into the mirror) and trying to understand it by performing the ritual. I too attended school in the Philippines however it was an international school with many American and European students- here too I noticed that only girls would take part in the Bloody Mary ritual. Thus, it is intriguing that this would be such a big sensation (seeing as how no one wanted to use the bathroom because they all know what had happened there) at a local, Catholic all-boys school.

Something else that it interesting about this version of the story is that Bloody Mary actually physically harms the people that perform the ritual whereas usually, you are said to simply see an image of her in the mirror.

Legends

Balete Drive (Ghost Story/Legend from the Philippines)

S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.

S: There’s a lot of ghost stories from like the Philippines. Like there’s this one street in the Philippines, it’s called Balete Drive.

Me: Can you spell that?

S: B-a-l-e-t-e. Balete. It’s in Manila and ’cause I guess it got it’s name from like all the, ’cause it a kind of tree, so then there’s like a whole bunch of like tree in like that specific street, and no one ever wants to pass through there ’cause it’s just so fricken scary. And they say like in those trees, each specific tree, like there’s like this thing that lives up there and like it smokes and like…

Me: Is there like an actual story that goes with it, or is it just kind of a…

S: I can’t, I’m not exactly sure like what’s the origin, but I just know that there’s just a weird scary creature up there. Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, it’s pretty popular though.

Me: So you just don’t pass on that street?

S: Yeah, we just don’t go though that street. Because it’s too scary. I don’t know. But see that’s the thing, like we have so many ghost stories and just like ghost, like yeah, there’s like too many. There are many different kinds. But like I don’t think you should share that, or like search that, it might freak you out. Like once you start googling and see pictures of it, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Yeah, so maybe not.

S describes a street, Balete Drive, in Manila that is said to be haunted. She says that there are things that live in the Balete trees that are so prominent on the street and that they haunt Balete Drive and they smoke and are generally just scary to think about. It is obvious that she is still scared of this road and that she, even as an adult, will not go walk on that street for fear of the creatures of legend that are said to haunt it. She warns not to go on that street as well as not to even look it up because it would be scary. Even talking about it made her a bit uncomfortable, even though she does not know the origin and the story behind the legend, it still scares her and has a lot of influence on her.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Protection

Duwende

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


Script

Informant: “Basically, what it is, it’s like a troll, that is kind of mischievous or it’s nice. And they’re like really short… Kind of dwarf-looking creatures. They’re mischievous in the fact that… My grandma told me that they kind of like steal  your property. Or not steal it, but take your property and wait for you to find it, and they won’t give it back to you until they feel like it. That’s how they’re mischievous.”

Me: “But they’re not dangerous?”

Informant: “They’re not dangerous, no. They’re just kind of mischievous. And then like, to make… A lot of people in the Philippines, they want to make sure that those Duwende are pleased, so they’ll leave food out in their yard and stuff, so that they’re pleased and stuff like that. Basically, the number one thing is that you don’t want to piss them off, or else they will do more mischievous stuff to you.”

Me: “A lot of pranks and things?”

Informant: “Yeah, a lot of pranks. They’re definitely not bad-bad, but they’re pretty, like, like kids. They’re childish.”

Me: “And are they called The Duwende? Or-”

Informant: “Just Duwende.”

Me: “Oh ok, so it’s kind of like their name. And they’re teeny people?”

Informant: “Yeah, they’re tiny.”

Me: “Sounds kind of like the Menehune in Hawaii.”

Informant: “Yeah! Well I don’t know, I’ve heard of it, but…”

Me: “Tricksters?”

Informant: “Yeah, tricksters. Definitely!”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s grandma had told her this legend/superstition, and she is from the Philippines although currently lives in America. The grandma learned this from her own family, and while the informant doesn’t know whether or not her grandma had ever encountered the Duwende, the grandma knows of people who have run into these creatures a long time ago, before her own time. From what the informant understands, the Duwende are specific to the Philippines, but can be found on multiple islands. On Visaya, there is supposedly a larger population of Duwende, but she is not sure why because she isn’t Visayan. The informant is also unsure how popular this legend is in the area that her family is from, which is Ilocos. The lessons to be taken away from this legend would be to have patience, be nice, and do good deeds which will ultimately be rewarded.

As I mentioned in the interview, the Duwende sound a lot like the trickster version of the Menehune in Hawaii. Normally, they are characterized as mischievous and taunting, but if you get on their wrong side, they can be dangerous. Since both Hawaii and the Philippines are archipelagos, it makes one wonder whether Menehune and Duwende have similar origins.

*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/supernatural-series-duwende>

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Protection

Aswang

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


Informant: “This is like evil. So basically what it is, it’s like… It’s kind of like a shape-shifter. Like it takes on a human form during the day, and at night it takes on a monstrous form of either a bat, a bird, a rat, or something… Something that’s vicious, you know?”

Me: “Wait, did you say monster during the night? Or just and animal”

Informant: “A monstrous animal-like, animalistic… Yeah, not like a monster, it could be a bat, it could be a rat, uh… a bird… Some vicious creature. And in the day it take son this human form an it’s disguised. And what it does, is at night it feeds on human bodies. Or like, it wakes up humans in the middle of the night and they eat their flesh. And they kind of, they have this thing that they do where they feed human flesh to humans, so that they’re like manipulated.”

Me: “Does that turn them into Aswang as well?”

Informant: “Yeah, yeah. Yes.”

Me: “Ah, ok. So they like sneak into peoples’ houses?”

Informant: “Yeah, they sneak into peoples’, or they wake them up when they’re sleeping. I’m not sure if they actually turn them into Aswang, but they definitely feed on the humans. And they’re kind of like demonic, violent, evil creatures that you should be careful of. I don’t know if there’s any prevention, like… That you have to block your doors is all I know.”

Me: “But who do they target specifically?”

Informant: “Anyone.”

Me: “Anyone? So, like, how do you avoid them? You don’t know?”

Informant: “I don’t know how to avoid. Like, my grandma never told me. They just feed on anyone.”

Me: “Okay, but are they like, uncommon attacks?”

Informant: “I don’t know that part, just that they attack random people.”

Me: “And has she seen one?”

Informant: (shakes head) “I think it’s just a legend.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s grandma learned about these creatures through oral tradition, and the legend is not particular to any island or culture specifically in the Philippines. The informant also doesn’t believe the Aswang are real, especially because it’s known as a creature that comes in the middle of the night and eats your family. She believes if it were real, there would be some sort or prevention or protection methods against them. For the informant, the lesson of this legend would be to lock your doors at night and not go wandering around at midnight, lest something bad happen. All of the informant’s family members know about this legend and other popular ones as well, since it’s been around for a long time and is so widespread.

What seems to be the trend with legends, is that you can always pull a lesson or a message out of them once you are able to look past the creepy, scary stuff. In this case, the lesson could be something as simple as keeping your doors locked at night, or watching out for those who would try to hurt or take advantage of you.

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

How Pineapples Came to Be

My informant (A) is currently an AV technician. He grew up in Quezon City in the Philippines for the first 13 years of his life before moving with his family to San Francisco, California for a year and then moving down to southern California, where he has stayed every since. He first heard the story about how pineapples came to be from his mother when he was around six years old. The story is also used in reading books for children when they are learning to read in the Philippines. His mom and aunt told him this story to frighten him into behaving when he was a child, and he has since told the story to his younger sisters and a few other people when casually talking. The story is paraphrased below:

“There was a mom and daughter in the Philippines long ago. The daughter’s name was Piña. Piña constantly lost things and, instead of even trying to look for the things by herself, she would just ask her mom to find them. The mother was really busy because she had to work in the fields all day, but the mom still helped her daughter find the things she kept losing. One day the mom could not find her hat, which she needed when she was working in the fields to keep the sun out of her eyes. The mom asked Piña to help her find the hat because she had to hurry or she would be late to the fields. Piña replied ‘Nanay [the word for mom], I don’t where the hat is. I’m busy.’ The mom told Piña that she really needed help, so Piña finally got up and walked around pretending to look for the hat. She didn’t actually look for the hat and then told her mom that she couldn’t find it. The mom got really frustrated and then she found the hat, which wasn’t that hard to find and Piña should have seen it when she was looking. The mom got really mad and said ‘Piña, I hope you grow 1000 eyes so that you can find things.” Then the mom went to the fields and spent all day working in the fields. When she got back to the house, she asked Piña to make dinner, but Piña wasn’t there. The mom looked and looked but she couldn’t find her. Days and weeks and months go by, and still the mom can’t find Piña and gets very worried. After a while, the mom starts seeing weird plants that look like they have 1000 eyes. The mom realized that Piña had turned into these plants. These little plants are pineapples, and that’s how pineapples came to the Philippines.” (Note that Piña is the word for pineapple).

This tale seems to serve two purposes. One is that it explains how the pineapple came to the Philippines, which only happened in the 19th century, which is probably why this story is necessary to explain why they are a relatively recent addition to the fruits normally found in the Philippines. The other is a more practical purpose, which is a way for parents to scare their kids into doing stuff from themselves or risk turning into a pineapple. This is probably why it is continually told to children. My informant spelled out the name Piña for me, and he used the Spanish spelling instead of the Filipino one (pinya), even though he used the Filipino word for mom (nanay). This is also interesting because the Spanish introduced the pineapple to the Philippines.

This story touches on the tension between the older and younger generations, and the how physically hard the lives of women are.

Myths
Narrative

Aeta’s Revenge

Steven “Ricky” Phillips was the son of a military family.  They moved around from base to base quite a bit.  He lived in the Philippines for a number of years before moving to The United States of America.  His father was in the Air Force and met his mother in the Philippines while stationed at the Clark Air Base.  Ricky currently resides in Yucaipa, CA with his wife and two daughters.  He is a Branch Manager for JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

My mother is from the Philippines, but it wasn’t until I was 9 years old when I first lived there.  My father was in the US Air Force and was assigned to Clark Air Base.  I wasn’t a stranger to natural disasters at this point.  I’ve already experience earthquakes, tornadoes, and typhoons.  So I didn’t think twice about the 7.7 earthquake that changed not only my life, but the lives of many others and the world in general.

For the months following, I heard of a local tribe living around Mt Pinatubo claiming that their diety, Namalyadi, was angry.  At the time, I was too young to understand their story.  It wasn’t until later in life when I researched this story and discovered corporations had been logging and oil diggings in and around the then dormant volcano.

Fast forward a year later.  I could walk outside my front door, walk just a few steps and turn to my left.  Clouds of sulfur began filling the air.  The amplified smell of a sewer was an inescapable aroma.  Add constant ash falling on the ground, your car, and home.  The tribe known as the Aeta was right.  Namalyadi had demonstrated his anger and power as his control of the 500 year dormant Mt Pinatubo causes it to erupt, causing an almost degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature globally and increase in ozone depletion.  It became the second largest eruption in its century.  The spirit of the Aeta tribe literally blew its top.  Combined with a typhoon, it caused many deaths, injuries, illnesses, and rendered many more homeless.  Not too bad for a diety.

Folk Dance
Kinesthetic

Tinikling

Steven “Ricky” Phillips was the son of a military family.  They moved around from base to base quite a bit.  He lived in the Philippines for a number of years before moving to The United States of America.  His father was in the Air Force and met his mother in the Philippines while stationed at the Clark Air Base.  Ricky currently resides in Yucaipa, CA with his wife and two daughters.  He is a Branch Manager for JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

 

Somewhere in the middle of the earthquake and the eruption, I had the opportunity to discover more about our culture.  One popular activity is a dance called the Tinikling.  It generally involves two people partnering and dancing between two bamboo poles while another pair slap the sticks on the ground and then slide together.

The origin of this dance isn’t as festive.  It is believed to come from a time when in the 1500s the Spaniards conquered and surpressed the Filipino people, who spent most of their time in the rice paddies.  The Spaniards would punish those who did not work well by making the worker stand between two bamboo poles while they beat the poles against their legs.  After a while, in an attempt to avoid getting hurt, the workers would jump to escape the punishment.  The dance is now named after a local bird as it describes its leg movements, and the dance continues as a maneuver to avoid the sliding bamboo.

Customs
Foodways
Material

Lanzones

Steven “Ricky” Phillips was the son of a military family.  They moved around from base to base quite a bit.  He lived in the Philippines for a number of years before moving to The United States of America.  His father was in the Air Force and met his mother in the Philippines while stationed at the Clark Air Base.  Ricky currently resides in Yucaipa, CA with his wife and two daughters.  He is a Branch Manager for JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

I also remember a story my mother had told me about a fruit that she and I used to pick on the air base called Lanzones.  As we picked and ate the fruit, she taught be to pinch the fruit by the stem to open and peel the fruit.  She told me the story of how this began and why it continues as the process of eating this particular fruit.

A village in the Philippines not believed this fruit to be poisonous, but the beauty of the fruit often caused doubt to its poisonous nature.   The temptation would cause villagers to venture and try it despite the risks.  An old woman visited this village.  She needed food, water and shelter.  This village was helpful and let her stay as long as she needed and provided food and water.  The villagers had told her about the poisonous fruit.  She asked to see it, and when they showed it to her, she taught them how to pinch the fruit at the stem to render the fruit harmless and edible.  She proved it by eating one after another.  Ever since, the method of pinching and peeling this fruit has continued, and the story passed on along with it.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Foodways
general

Banoonooed

The informant provided the following as a tale his father would tell him before bed,for the purpose of making sure he didn’t eat too much before going to sleep.

Alright, so, when I was a kid my Dad, (first of all my dad’s family is Philippeano. my dad is full Philippeano.) So he would tell me that, uh, if I ate right before bed I’d, what would happen was, it was called “banoonooed.” [ban-noon-noon-ed] and what that means is that if you eat before bed when you go to sleep you’ll have a bad dream and your entire hair will go, just like… white. So yeah, anyway, if you eat before dinner and if you eat too much, er, sorry, if you eat too much before you go to sleep it will give you nightmares, and those nightmares will be so scary that your hair will just go completely white and I think that’s, like my dad didn’t make it up, but I think it’s to stop people eating before going to bed and… yeah. 

As the informer notes, this tale is not specific to his family, but it does seem to be a Philippeano tale in general as opposed to one which has spread across cultures. As the informer noted to me, large meals are a significant part of Philippeano culture, and a tale warning against their consumption before bed is likely more relevant to their culture than others. Furthermore, the scare-tactics and over the top consequences for eating too much before bed, make it a good children’s story, and that gives its moral a context.

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