Tag Archives: filipino


The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “I remember hearing about this when I was little… It’s one of the most common Filipino monsters. They’re shape-shifters who are human by day, and then at night, turn into a bat.

Collector: “What’s it called?”

I: “Aswang. A-s-w-a-n-g. Uhm, what I’ve heard about them is they like to go to pregnant womens’ homes, like right on top of where their room is, and just like, eat their child from there.”

C: “Do they turn into a bat when they do it?”

I: “Yeah they turn into a bat. It’s like half-woman, half-bat, and they go after babies.”


Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

In the Philippines, there’s this superstition that like every time you go to a wake or a funeral you’re not supposed to go straight home. You’re supposed to do this thing called pagpag, which is basically like after the wake or the funeral, like you go anywhere else that isn’t your home so like people usually like go to the mall, they don’t do anything, they just go in and walk out and then they go back home. Because that way you’re kinda like removing all of the bad energy and stopping the spirits from following you home. Because we believe like if you go straight home you’re going to bring all that bad energy with you. And the word pagpag basically means like for example if you have like a carpet and you want to remove all of the dust and hair you kind of flap it like that and all of the dust comes off and so that’s kind of like when you go into the place you’re kind of making pagpag all the bad energy from yourself.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant and her family are less traditional and do not perform pagpag after funerals. However, when the informant attends wakes or funerals with her more traditional Filipino friends, they make her perform pagpag with them. They usually go to a mall or a park for a while before returning to their homes

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

Pagpag is a term that means “to shake off the dust or dirt” in Tagalog. Filipinos have used the term to refer to the superstition that one cannot head directly back to one’s home after attending a funeral until one has performed pagpag. This ancient practice has been preserved by Filipinos in fear of the possibility of the dead’s soul following the visitor home after the wake.

My Thoughts about the Performance

There are many superstitions about funerals or wakes that involve one being haunted by the deceased. I find it interesting that many of my Filipino friends still practice pagpag with their families after funerals. They reason that these superstitious beliefs are merely guidelines to prevent any consequences; they lose nothing for following them. In other words, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Mano Po and Beso

Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

One of the customs in the Philippines is this thing called mano po, which is basically like when you see like one of your older relatives like an aunt or grandparent or anyone who is basically older than you, you have to grab their hand and then you like place it on their forehead and then you say, “Mano po.” And that’s like the way of greeting people, like greeting of the elders, but people don’t really do it anymore in the city. I only do it when I visit my relatives in the province. So instead, like in the city, we just do this thing called beso, where you basically just put your cheek on someone else’s like, “Mwah, beso, hi.”

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant’s parents taught her this greeting when she was young. During visits to her elders, she would have to perform mano po. However, this greeting became less prevalent in her life as she grew older. Now, she only has to perform mano po for her older relatives in rural areas; in cities, she does beso.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

In the Philippines, mano po is a gesture performed as either a sign of respect to an elder or an acceptance of one’s blessings from the elder. In Filipino culture, the youth are expected to respect and value their elders for their wisdom and experience accumulated over the years. By offering one’s hand to an elder, one is demonstrating subservience to the elder and welcoming his or her blessings and knowledge. While mano po is still widely used in the Philippines, many Filipinos have replaced this gesture with beso. Not restricted to just older people, it has become a more common greeting between close friends and relatives in the Philippines.

My Thoughts about the Performance

Learning about the Filipino gestures, mano po and beso, reminded me of the various greetings I have practiced or observed from other cultures. Coming from a Cantonese background, I have been raised to respect my elders and obey whatever they say. Compared to the United States, which possesses a future-oriented culture, many East Asian countries seem to have a past-oriented culture, holding elders in high esteem. The beso reminded me of the cheek kissing gesture practiced by the French. Both nations perform this action in social functions to indicate friendship or respect.

“Ikau” Pun

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.

“I’m going to give you a heads up, so ‘ikau’ mean ‘you.’ So they would say, ‘What’s an example of an ugly cow?’ And then someone would say, ‘what?’ And then they would be like, ‘IKAU!’

Background & Analysis

The informant thinks this joke is really corny, but she still uses it with other Filipino people a lot. She learned it from Filipino friends in grade school, who had probably heard it from older brothers and sisters.

This is a more contemporary joke, because it’s in english, but makes use of a pun in tagalog. This joke most likely then originated among subsequent Filipino-American generation children here in the U.S.

Filipino ensaymada (cheese bread roll)

Dough: flour, melted butter, whole eggs, yeast?, cream of tartar for texture
Form the dough
Let it rise once
Separate it into clumps
Roll it out so each clump is very flat
Brush it with semi-soft butter — very, very buttery
Flat piece of dough is rolled into a cylinder and then coiled into the roll, adding parmesan cheese and sugar to the inside of the coil
Afterward doing that with all the rolls, let them rise again
Left to bake — afterward, brush with more melted butter and roll with more cheese and sugar

The informant ate it growing up whenever she went to her lola’s (grandmother’s) house, who would make it as snack food (symbol of hospitality). It was one of the many snacks she’d make whenever the informant and her sister would visit amongst the summer.

Ensaymada is definitely a Filipino dish, found in bakeries both big and small. Everywhere has a different take on it but obviously, “my grandmother’s is the best.” When the informant got older, her lola would try teaching it to them by making it in front of them and they’d help mix the ingredients and form the rolls, but she doesn’t exactly know what goes into the dough. Her lola would even mail these rolls to both the informant’s mother and her, because she said “You guys don’t do it right.”

The informant is one of my housemates. She isn’t really involved in Filipinio cultural practices, but does have deep connections to family who are. She told me the story of her lola in conversation.

Filipino culture, like many Asian cultures, is very food-centric — additionally, it’s fun to collaborate and plan meals together, but these meals also symbolized hospitality and, in the informant’s case, grandmotherly love, a way to keep her there even when she wasn’t physically present. In the informant’s words: “It’s one thing to share your meal times with us, but it’s another thing to have a physical symbol of ‘your house is my house’.”


Nicholas Virtue is a student at Quartz Hill High School and has participated in the tinikling dance team for two years. The Multicultural Club at QHHS hosts an assembly annualy, in which a variety of dances and cultural experiences from countries around the world are made available are performed for students. Some examples of performances have been hispanic dances, bollywood, tae kwon doe and karate. The tinikling dance team was put together for this assembly, and their performance is considered the most anticipated and well-loved of the assembly. Although he had no Filipino background, Nic started to participate in this dance his freshman year of high school, at 15 years old. Nic described the performance of the QHHS tinikling dance team at the Multicultural Assembly to me.

Tinikling is a Filipino dance, using 4 pairs of approximately 6 foot long bamboo poles. Each pair of sticks is used by two clappers and three dancers. The clappers clap the sticks together, keeping a steady beat throughout the song while dancers dance through them. It is perceived has a dangerous dance, because any fault could result in the bamboo sticks clapping on feet and injuring them.

The music has a ¾ time signature and no lyrics. Nic described their song as upbeat, using high stringed instruments. He also observed that the noise from clapping the sticks fits into the song, and becomes a part of it. About halfway through the song it begins to get faster, making it more and more challenging for clappers and dancers. The QHHS tinikling team wears the same clothes every year for the Multicultural Assembly performance. No one wears shoes or socks, either during rehearsal or performance. Guys wear red slims rolled up to the knee, a white v neck, and a red bandana around the neck. Girls wear a white v neck as well, but with no bandana. They each wear either green or red skirts, depending on their role in the dance. Typically, there is a different choreography for “girl 1” and “girl 2,” and the color of their skirt depends on their role in the dance.

Since the song is in ¾ time the clappers hit the sticks on the ground beats one and two, then clap them together on beat three. Consequently, the dancers must have their foot out of the sticks on beat three, otherwise they could be injured; leaving them time to dance between the sticks on beats one and two. Some of the basic dance moves include the single, half turn, full turn and front and back. Singles move dancers from one side of sticks to the other. Half turns rotate dancers 180 degrees and to the other side of the sticks. Full turns are complete 360 degree spins. Front and backs take 6 beats to complete, going to one side then back again, leaving the dancer on the same side of the sticks.

While dancers are responsible for their moves through the sticks, clappers are responsible for the movement of the sticks themselves. Stick transitions involve clappers and sometimes even the dancers to move sticks to different formations and have people dancing through the sticks while it is happening, or immediately after the transition is completed. For the most recent Multicultural Assembly, the tinikling team used 4 pairs of sticks, making the plus formation, a square, “ the death box” which resembles a hashtag and was described as the most dangerous and injury-infliction formation, and “the soul train” where all sticks are parallel to each other.

As a clapper, one of Nic’s favorite parts is stick passing. Executed in the plus formation, the inside clappers set down one of their sticks to the person on their right side, who would grab that stick and drag it across, while the outside clapper throws the stick to them (their left). The same thing is repeated in reverse, and sticks are passed in the opposite direction as inside clappers pass to their left and outside clappers throw to their right. All the while, dancers dance between the sticks and jump over them when they are thrown. As complicated as stick passing is to explain, it is even more so to learn and execute. It takes a heightened degree of teamwork to accomplish stick passing successfully. After stick passing, which occurs at the end of the routine during the quickening tempo, the each clapper lifts up the right stick, making four X formations for the final pose.

Nic exemplified the connection a clapper has to their set of sticks by describing each set and labeling one as his own. As stated previously, QHHS used four sets of sticks with four different qualities. Each set was marked with a different color duct tape, blue, red, yellow and white; possibly emulating the colors of the Filipino flag. Blue sticks are the heaviest, and the ones Nic claimed as his own, yellow are the most awkward with one stick too small and the other too large, red are the straightest and most comfortable and white are the lightest. This helps dancers and clappers know which sticks are theirs as they practice with them throughout the year. Nic said having his own set of sticks gave him a personal connection and reminded him of his part in the dance. Each set of sticks brings together a set of two clappers and three dancers (one boy and two girls) as they work together to prepare for the assembly.

Nic began tinikling his freshman year because he had heard it was a fun group of people. His desire to develop community and make friends drew him to tinikling, despite his lack of Filipino background. The challenges and high stakes of tinikling draw the community together in order to achieve their goal and perform at the assembly. Some of the stick transitions and dances require teamwork, exemplified by “the death box.” During this transition, two sets of clappers flip their sticks over the heads of the other two sets of clappers, laying their sticks in a hashtag across each other. The dancers then enter into this box, one after another. If clappers do not transition correctly or clap in time, or if the dancers hesitate and don’t enter the box on the correct beat, not only is the dance move ruined, but there is a high change of head or foot injury. The high stakes motivate dancers and clappers to work together, developing community along the way.

The following video is the QHHS Tinikling team at the 2013 Multicultural Assembly. The video with the opening choreography. Then the dancers and clappers switch positions and there is a transition from the plus stick formation to a square formation.

Quartz Hill High School Tinikling

Duwende at Home in the Philippines

I have lived in the same house in the Philippines since I was a baby. The house was built by my grandfather in the 1960s. It is a fairly large house, especially compared to the average size of a Filipino home. It has two floors, and a large garden at the back. There are a lot of empty rooms now—rooms that used to belong to my uncles and aunts when they all lived in that house (my grandfather had 7 children). I asked my mother, Letty, to tell me of a ghost story of the house that she had experienced, or have heard from other people living in the house.


Letty: “Ghost stories? Um… I don’t really know if you’ll consider this as a ghost story, but do you remember your old ‘yaya’ Weng? (‘Yaya’ is the Filipino word for babysitters. They usually work full-time, living with the families they work for. Mayet was my new ‘yaya’ after Weng) You might remember her… She took care of you when you were a baby, until about 2 years old, before Mayet came.


There was one time, very long ago, before you were even born, that Weng got sick. She got a… I think… Um… 42 degrees Celsius fever. I gave her medicine but even after a few days, she still wouldn’t get better. I was so scared for her and everyone else in the house… what if it was contagious?! So when a week passed we called in your Uncle William who was a doctor to check on her. The odd thing was that… he said she was completely fine! She was just really hot and all she needed was rest.


I decided to take matters into my own hands… Haha, I think I was paranoid! I turned to Chinese temple blessings from that time on… First, I asked Weng what she was doing that day she started feeling ill. She said she was just handling the laundry that day, hanging out the clothes to dry in the garden. So I went down to check out the place where our maids usually hang clothes, and there it was… a duwende mound!”


Me: “What is a duwende mound?”


Letty: “Well, a duwende is this… I don’t know how to put this… but it’s a creature, very small, typically the size of a waterjug… Haha! They resemble people, but you can tell that they are not… for one, because of their size… and two, um… their face is also different, almost demonic… Anyway, they usually don’t interact with people, but they get very angry when you destroy their homes, which are the mounds that sprout up from the ground. I think Weng might have hit it accidentally when she was hanging clothes, and this fever was her punishment! Anyway… I got so scared so I got the Chinese blessing papers from the temple and burned some around the garden to try and appease the spirits… did a bit of prayers to the spirits… then asked the houseboy to flatten the mound… gently of course! At least that way no one will step on it again and get hurt. And guess what! A day after, Weng’s temperature went back down to 36 degrees Celsius and she felt fine!”


Me: “Didn’t my sister say she saw one too?”


Letty: “Yes, according to Chris, she says she saw a duwende when was about… ten years old I think. I remember that day too. I asked her to get something for me from the storage room downstairs, which was adjacent to the area of the garden where I saw the dwende mound… she ran back to me crying, saying that she saw this tiny man sitting on top of one of the boxes, just smiling at her.”


Me: “What time was this?”


Letty: “It was really late at night, around 11pm. I asked Papa to come down with me because I was terrified. I don’t like ghosts… never want to see them… I know they’re there, but I just don’t want to see them… Anyway, so Papa and I went down to check on the storage room, but nothing was there. We moved around the boxes and didn’t find anything. Whatever your sister saw was gone. I’m not saying I don’t believe her, because I do. I’m just thankful the duwende didn’t do anything to her.”


On a personal level, I, myself, had an experience with an entity which I believe to be the duwende as well. When I was ten years old, I was sleeping in the room which my sister Chris sleeps in now. It is important to note that I did not hear any of the stories that happened to the other people in the household at this time. Back then, the house was under renovation, and so the curtains were gone, and I could see the outside clearly. One night, I woke up at around midnight. I didn’t realize until around 5 minutes later that my eyes were following a distinct shadow figure on the eave’s underside visible from my bed. I stood up and walked towards the window and stopped at about a meter away. I realized the shadow figure was walking left and right, and that it was humanoid in shape. I walked closer, only for the figure to stop its walking, and turn towards me. I was so scared that I ran back under my sheets, and eventually fell asleep.


The duwende is a quite popular folklore demon in the Philippines. Because knowledge of it is so widespread, it is not surprising that people in my household, most of whom had grown up in the Philippines, would find it easier to associate inexplicable situations to a duwende’s work. The appearance of the dirt mound could just have been coincidence with regards to Weng’s sickness; Chris’ and my experiences could just have easily been results from pairs of tired eyes, and at a time when spooky things are supposed to happen. Had the witnesses not known about the existence of duwendes at the time of the events, they would not have thought the events to be as strange. However, because of their prior knowledge to the demon, coincidences could be interpreted as proof for the existence of the entity.


There are a number of websites, listed below, though non-academic, that have information on duwendes. Other terms used to described duwendes in English are goblin, hobgoblins, elves, and dwarves, but most common are dwarves. They live in mounds in the ground, or trees. They say that some of them are good, and some are evil, but most punish you for disrespect if you do not acknowledge and respect their presence, and will only relieve you of pain when they are given sufficient offerings.


Cunningham, RT. “Filipino Folklore: Duwende, Mumu and Tabi Tabi Po.” Untwisted Vortex | An American Living in the Philippines. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.untwistedvortex.com/2009/06/15/filipino-folklore-duwende-mumu-tabi-tabi-po/>.


Stormygirlpdx. “Duwende.” Your Ghost Stories: Publish Your Paranormal Experience! 21 Feb. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=305>.

Chicken Adobo Recipe

The informant is a 19 year old Filipino female. She lives with her mother in Toledo, Ohio and has one older sister. She was raised Roman Catholic. She is currently a student at a university in Southern California. The informant is the co-president of the club volleyball team at her university.

Chicken adobo is a traditional Filipino dish, although there is a lot of variation in the exact ingredients depending on the region of the Philippines. The informant’s mother made chicken adobo for her and her sister all throughout their childhood. The informant saw her mother making the dish as a child, but never learned to make it until she went college. The informant specifically asked her mother for the recipe because she missed having the dish. At home her mother makes the dish about twice a month. The informant herself makes it at least once a week. The informant uses prepared adobo seasoning for her chicken because it saves time and doesn’t contain chiles, which she does not like. Her mother makes her own seasoning, including cloves, chiles, garlic, salt, pepper, etc. The informant’s mother fries the chicken pieces until crispy. The informant herself prefers to bake the chicken.

Recipe: Take chicken pieces, thighs, drumsticks, breasts, etc. Marinate in soy sauce, lemon juice and adobo seasonings. Place chicken pieces on a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Bake until done. Serve with rice.

Analysis: This account illustrates how important foodways are in constructing ideas about home and identity. The informant never learned or tried to learn how to cook chicken adobo until she was separated from her home and family. After being away from home, she purposefully learned how to cook this dish from her mother. Now, living away from home and the seat of her childhood identity, she cooks the dish much more often even than her mother did at home. It is likely her desire to learn how to cook chicken adobo, and the frequency with which she prepares it, represents a need to reestablish ties with her home, family, and cultural background. That she associates this dish with her home is reinforced by the fact that she specifically requests her mother cook this dish every time she spends time at home. For the informant, it is this foodway that reconnects her with her childhood and family.