Tabi Tabi Po

M is 50, and was raised in the Caloocan area of metro Manila, Philippines and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

Growing up, she was always told that “when you pass by a mound of dirt in the Philippines” you must say “tabi tabi po”. This translates to something along the lines of “excuse me” or “I’m passing by.” This was to show the “nuno sa punso” that you respected their home. Upon asking why this was done so frequently, M responded that you are “not supposed to kick it or trample it or something bad will happen to you.”

Upon further research, I read that the nuno sa punso was a catch-all term for any folkloric spirit that could be dwelling within the mound. Additionally, “tabi tabi po” is the shorthand term for “tabi, tabi po baka kayo mabunggd” which translates more formally to “excuse me, sir, lest I bump into you”. In addition to this phrase, it appears that there are different variations of the same phrase uttered in similar situations that vary in different regions and dialects, perhaps suggesting that there is a general reverence/fear surrounding the figures of Filipino folklore.