Filipino Mumu Anecdote

“One of the Filipino little folklore stories that parents like to tell their children is about a ghost called the mumu; it’s basically the Filipino version of the boogeyman. I had no idea what this was as a child, but one of my friends who had recently immigrated – very fresh off the boat – was a very skittish person and during class in like second grade we had a blackout and all the lights literally turned off – I think we were watching a video or something – and then basically it was completely dark which is different from what brown-outs are like in the Philippines. So essentially, he got scared, and he screamed out ‘It’s a mumu! It’s a mumu!” and everyone was laughing about that [including me] until I asked my mom about that.”

Context: The teller is a Filipino American student at USC. This story was told to me in a conversation after asking for any myths or legends that the student knew of. As the teller says in the text, this anecdote is from a moment during childhood, specifically during elementary school. 

Analysis: Based on brief research, the mumu is a common term used by Filipino children to refer to ghosts and similar supernatural beings. As the teller told me briefly, it was commonly used as a way for parents to scare children – the mumu is thus a sort of legendary being specific to the population of Filipino youth. This anecdote is not necessarily a specific recounting of a pre-existing narrative, nor can it be considered a true memorate given that the teller doesn’t necessarily use the story as enforcement for beliefs in the mumu, but I collected this story because I think it demonstrates an interesting difference between how different populations react to traditional legendary creatures, particularly in the context of the mainland versus the diaspora, and also demonstrates how children in a diaspora learn about legends of their culture. While the teller’s friend who had spent time in the Philippines had seemingly intimate knowledge of the mumu, the teller himself had no clue before asking his parents specifically because of this incident. This anecdote explains how knowledge of traditional folklore in diasporas can be affected and increased by processes like immigration of residents from the original mainland, and points to how diasporic populations, without these interactions, can grow apart from the original folklore due to a lack of communication of the folklore or a separation from the environment that the original folklore is found in.