K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent most of her childhood with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines. She learned several stories about Philippine mythology and shares them with friends to preserve her cultural heritage,
The context of this piece was during a game of Loteria when the card of the mermaid came across the deck. She explained the story of sirenas to the participants,
K: “That looks like the Sirenas my Lolo would tell me about”
Me: “He’d tell you about mermaids?”
K: “He’d call them Sirenas and would always tell me about them since I was so obsessed with Princess Ariel as a kid. He said that they were beautiful creatures that looked like women at first, but they had fish tails! They sang so pretty though. They would sing to fishermen that passed by them in their boats and would lure them to their deaths. My Lolo said they would usually drown them but occasionally they would suffocate them first.
Me: “Would the fisherman just fall into the water once they heard them singing or how would it happen?”
K: “The Sirenas would usually hide behind rocks at the shore and start singing so that the fishermen would crash into the rocks. If they sang while they were in the ocean then the sirenas was hypnotize the fishermen into jumping into the water to join them.”
I found this interview with K really interesting because she told me about a creature I had already heard of yet she told me details I had never heard of before. Sea creatures like mermaids are well-known in western culture as they appear frequently in films and television shows. In the western entertainment industry, mermaids are often depicted as warm, playful creatures that meant no harm. This is the exposure I had as a child so I had positive connotations to mermaids and which is why I was surprised by some of the things discussed in this interview. The introduction to the Filipino counterpart of the western culture’s version of these sea creatures was interesting to learn about. I felt that they were almost similar to sirens as the sirenas used their voice as a weapon to seduce men into their deaths. It was interesting to hear in person how different folklores can transcend through different cultures. It was especially interesting to hear the similarities between the western mermaid and the Filipino sirenas and how they were different as well.