Intv: “I was hoping I could ask you a little bit about some of your folklore from when you lived in the Philippines.”
X: “Yeah definitely, have you heard about balete trees?”
Intv: “No I can’t say that I have.”
X: “Oh! Well where I’m from, and I think throughout the Philippines there’s one where, when you enter a place where there may be a spirit or deity or a forest with balete trees you should say ‘tabi tabi po’ (“excuse/pardon me or like move to the side, please”) or else they might hit u with an illness or misfortune”
Intv: “Oh interesting, so are balete trees specifically capable of holding spirits? Or could it be any forest?”
X: “It can be in any forest, but I believe it has to be a balete tree specifically.”
Analysis: I think the message of saying “tabi tabi po” can be viewed in two different ways. First as a sign of paying respect to the dead, or as a sign of respect to nature. Perhaps it could be both as it involves a communion of spirits and nature that’s combined to a sort of humble reverence. The Aswang Project, a web service dedicated to preserving Filipino folklore, has this to say in relation to the balete trees.
“Regardless of physical appearance, trees are quiet noticeably mentioned throughout our own mythology and lore. Some are associated with engkantos and other nature spirits while others play a vital role in the shamanistic/animistic culture of our Babaylan. Perhaps more than just a source of physical materials such as wood, paper and even medicine, trees can also provide impalpable treasures that we must learn to conserve and protect.”
Guzman, Daniel De. “Down the Roots of Mystical and Sacred Trees in Philippine Lore • the Aswang Project.” THE ASWANG PROJECT, 2 Feb. 2022, https://www.aswangproject.com/mystical-sacred-trees-philippines/.