Tag Archives: filipino

Nuno sa punso

Text: Nuno sa Punso

My informant is a friend of my family. 

Context: This creature is a small mythical creature that lives in the mounds. It is a dwarf (or dwende in the Philippines) creature that curses people who enters its home or forbidden areas. Usually people say that they live in anthills.

She said she first heard it during the time we first wandered around outside the house, or any unfamiliar older looking places. She believes in it’s message that you have to respect the old mounds or old places where you think the “Nuno sa Punso” lives. And you have to say “Tabi Tabi po” and repeat it 3x. It means “can I politely pass through your place”. It will protect you from them being angry and cause you to have bad luck, and sometimes cause you to get sick. She states that it’s relevant because the story has been passed down for generations. It also teach a good moral value of being respectful for the places and beings around you. Some people still think it’s real, especially in the province. The Philippines has a lot of old forest and mounds. So every time people from the city wandered around the place the locals usually educate them to pay respect to the inhabitants of the forest. Sometimes they have to do rituals and offerings for protection and safe passage of the travelers.


Analyzing “Nuno sa punso”, this story comes across as a legend. The main drive of this story is of the creature that brings fear onto people who visit places they should not be in. The overall message of this story is to respect places you go to, as stated by my informant.

Though this message can hold to any place or anything because you should respect the places you go to regardless of whether they are sacred or not. The creature’s punishments show a consequence which is a punishment to people who go and do what they are told not to do. I think that this legend makes people become more wary of places but also more self aware. Doing bad things can lead to bad consequences.

I think this story circles back to how Filipinos deeply value respect to the elderly and respect in general. A lot of cautionary stories attached to creatures have to do with avoidance of bad actions. Filipinos deeply value their home in the Philippines, and this creature embodies that sentiment.

Tinikling (Filipino Folk Dance)

Tinikling is a Filipino folk dance. Originating during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, farmers would use bamboo traps to keep animals away from their crops.  However, the Philippine tikling bird was able to bypass the traps and reach the crops, which is what Tinikling is said to be named after. This dance itself mimics the movements of the tikling bird and was also created to deter birds from the land. There is also another legend associated with tinikling. When the Spaniards had colonized the Philippines, the native Filipinos were forced to work on plantations. As the story goes, those who didn’t comply with the orders from the Spanish leaders had to stand between two bamboo poles while they were clapped together and thus injured their feet. So, the Filipino people would jump to avoid this pain, and this form of punishment turned into a traditional folk dance in the Philippines. 

My informant for this story is my dad (VG), who said he remembers hearing the story and seeing Tinikling performed for the first time when he was a kid.  The Filipino dance of Tinikling involves two long bamboo rods, at least six feet in length.  Two people play the role of clappers while the dancers stand between the bamboo poles.  The apparel of the dancers is often traditional Filipino clothing, for example, a Barong Tagalog for men.  The dancers will step and jump while the clappers continuously clap the bamboo poles together according to the rhythm.  My dad’s mom told him something about birds dancing or flying from branch to branch, and someone else had told him that birds were hopping to avoid bird traps.

I’m curious about the possible origins.  While both could be just as likely, it makes me wonder if they were both true but different sides of the same story, one more appropriate for younger audiences.  Or perhaps one or neither is perfectly accurate, and stories and embellishments were developed to accompany the dance.  Either way, Tinikling is an extremely impressive folk dance that requires lots of skill while also bringing Filipino communities together.

Boodle Fight


I: Sometimes, when we had a lot of family over for a gathering, we would prepare a boodle fight. My aunt would lay down some banana leaves on the table and the food would just pile on. Rice, seafood, pancit, beef and pork. And there were no dishes, no utensils. You eat with your hands. Just family sharing a meal. Oh, and a lot of napkins.


The informant is 48, and was born and raised in the United States, and whose parents were born and raised in the Philippines. This wasn’t a feast that happened often, but also wasn’t necessarily exclusive to special occasions. Whenever there were many family members in the house, a lot of food was prepared so that everyone would eat. Rather than being a meal that celebrated a certain occasion, it was a time for family members to share a meal while also catching up on each other’s lives.


The “boodle fight”, also known as the kamayan by some Filipinos, refers both to the communal feast and the act of eating with your hands. The term “boodle fight” specifically, comes from American military slang that was used to describe contraband food. According to sources, the kamayan was an indigenous Filipino practice that existed before pre-colonization. Though it was continually practiced through Spanish occupation, it was during American military occupation that the practice was suppressed due to forced conversion of American standards and etiquette. The resurgence of the kamayan in Filipino households, especially those in Filipino-American households, marks a conscience return to Filipino cultural roots, with the tradition being passed down from family member to family member, without the threat of American confirmation or suppression. The commercialized version of the boodle fight, now available as an option in some modern Filipino-American restaurants, continues this tradition and also extends it to people outside the cultural group as a meal shared amongst friends.

The Magic of Vicks VapoRub


I: Whenever someone in my family was sick or feeling under the weather, the usual go-to before any over the counter or cough medicine was Vicks VapoRub. It wasn’t necessarily a solve-all, but it was known in my family to make things feel a lot better and it would help you breathe better if you were congested. Funny enough, if I was only feeling a little bit sick, putting some of it on my chest before sleeping would make me feel better the next morning.


The informant is 48, was born and raised in the United States, and whose parents were born and raised in the Philippines. The informant isn’t sure where the use of Vicks to “cure” illnesses came from, but knows that it is a somewhat widely held belief in Filipino culture, and popularly satirized by Filipino-American comedians like Jo Koy. 


Within the informant’s family, the use of Vicks VapoRub is both a cultural inside joke while also acting as a type of folk medicine. While there is no scientific evidence suggesting that Vicks has physical benefits to ailments, the widely held belief that it is soothing during the healing process is passed down between Filipino family members. The reliance on the mentholated ointment may stem from a cultural stigma surrounding healthcare and accessibility to healthcare within Filipino communities. A sentiment shared by our elders was usually: “if you could fix it at home, there was little reason to seek help outside”. Though the sentiment remains, it’s relevance has faded with the newer generations, who look to Vicks not as a miracle drug but as a home remedy that soothes and is nostalgic, but does not necessary solve the problem.

Pag Pag


After a Filipino funeral or wake, it is a widely held superstition that the mourner does not return immediately to their home, but instead stops at another location before returning home. That way, the spirit of the deceased cannot follow you home.


The informant is my 67, and was born and raised in the Philippines, and still continues to live there. After the funerals she attended in her youth, she was told by her parents and other elder family members that they had to go someplace else, and could not immediately return home. Usually, this other location was a restaurant, where family members shared a meal before going home after the funeral.


The term “pag pag” literally means “to shake off something”, usually used in the context of dust or dirt. In other contexts, this term could refer to dusting off your shoes before entering the house. However, this “pag pag” is more meaningful and symbolic in that the thing you must shake off before entering the house is the deceased spirit from the person laid to rest at the funeral. Filipinos have many superstitions surrounding the dead, pag pag being one of them, and act as a means of warding off evil spirits or malevolent forces. By stopping at another location before going home, you avoid leading the spirit of the dead directly to your home, which Filipinos believe will bring bad luck.