Author Archives: Kate-Malorie McCall

Bless the Elderly

Informant: We always had to bless whenever we met any of our elders….we always had to hold their hand up to our forehead.

The informant and her young relatives learned to take the hand of a respected or elderly family member and hold it to their forehead while saying “bless.”

It had to be done anytime the family member was seen.

It was done as a sign of respect for the elder that matched the informant’s cultural upbringing that placed a heavy emphasis on respecting elders and adults.

The informant explained that actually performing the act was awkward and uncomfortable.

This performance would be unlikely in Western culture as youth is heavily prized which has overtaken the emphasis on elderly wisdom.

Leaving Words

Informant: Bahala Ka

(Bah-ha-la Ka)

(Be careful, you’re dumb)

The informant learned this phrase from her Filipino relatives.

It is said every time a younger person leaves to do an activity, for example, go to the beach with friends or ride a bike to a destination. The informant explains that it was never said with malice or judgment but was a warning to stay safe.

The informant never found it offensive because the concept that kids are better than their parents was never culturally appropriate in her Filipino upbringing.

It seems as if the saying was less an intended comment on the person’s intelligence and more of a comment on how things can go wrong or  on how bad things happen. It’s used a warning to be mindful and be safe. It was said with love by a person who was concerned.

The Wak-Wak

The informant was told this story by her Filipina mother.

“She is a female vampire who separates from her middle, very bloodily separates from her middle and her top half flies to pregnant woman around the country and sucks babies out of their stomachs.”

The informant explained that her mother told her this story just before bed to scare her.

The informant was never told a specific story involving the Wak-Wak. Instead, she was just reminded of the Wak-Wak’s existence every night before bed.

This story was surprising to hear being told by a mother to a child. Typically, scary stories told to children by adults are not as gory as the Wak-Wak. The informant explained that because she had no siblings, her mother took it upon herself to act out the role of teasing and taunting the informant. Often, adults tell children scary stories like this to prevent them from doing an actual that may be harmful or dangerous. In those cases, the story has a monster who will only attack when the child misbehaves in some manner. However, in this case, the Wak-Wak does not target specific babies or women apart from the demographic of pregnant woman.


Informant: Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

The informant learned this from her peers in her school.

Children would say this whenever someone else was about to step on a crack in the sidewalk. The premise being that if you did step on a crack, your mother’s back would break. As a result, kids would hop over cracks or pay very close attention to where they stepped.

The informant was very cautious of not walking on cracks; a habit that has persisted to today.

Collector: Would kids ever purposefully step on cracks?

Informant: Yes.

Collector: Why do you think they did it on purpose?

Informant: Maybe people did it to test if it was real.

This superstition expresses children’s fear of harming their parents (as they represented stability and safety to them) as well as their belief in supernatural events.

The idea that kids would purposefully step on the cracks at times to test if it was real shows how children perceive consequences differently than adults. Perhaps they didn’t like their parents or were mad at them, or perhaps they saw it as worthwhile to risk their mother’s health to see if the superstition was valid. The latter could be because a child’s concept of pain is different than an adult, children don’t know the financial issues that would be involved and therefore don’t fully understand the repercussions and the extent to which this would inconvenience and harm their mother.

Remedy for Migraines

The informant was taught by her mother to pinch the skin between her thumb and pointer finger whenever she had a migraine.

Collector: Where did your mother learn this?

Informant: I don’t know, she just always knew it.

Collector: What did she tell you about it?

Informant: That it would stop the pain in my head.

Collector: Did it have to be a hard pinch?

Informant: Yeah. You brace your pointer finger on the opposite palm and the back of your thumb knuckle in-between your pointer and thumb on the opposite hand and pinch hard.

Collector: What was her mom’s explanation of why this would help her migraine?

Informant: That it hit a nerve

Collector: Does it work?

Informant: Yes

Like the popular notion of eating chicken noodle soup when sick, this is another situation in which people hear about solutions to ailments and pass them on. The informant’s mother, as a loving parent, probably did not enjoy watching her child be in pain and therefore tried to teach her remedies that she had heard worked. It’s also a convenient remedy as it doesn’t involve financial aspects of visiting a doctor or buying tools but rather just using one’s own body as a cure.