Tag Archives: Philippines

The Legend of the Tawalis

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Main piece: The story was about a naughty boy, named Tawi, who was crossing a lake. He was being chased by something, I can’t remember exactly and the people nearby saw him getting chased so they shouted: “Tawi bilis” which means “Tawi faster.” The boy disappeared and at the same time, a new fish was present in the lake. They then named that new fish after the boy who had to swim faster, Tawilis. This lake was Taal lake and the Tawalis is only found in that lake.

Context: The informant lived the majority of her life in the Philippines. She then immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She learned about the legend of the tawalis from her father who told her the story numerous times.

Thoughts: I find this story pretty interesting. It attributes a certain event to the naming of a fish which shows how superstitious Filipinos could be. It seems as though this could be a scary story when given the right context. It could be used as a scare tactic for kids who are naughty. The naughty element in Tawi could be a possible reason why he was being chased in something but since my informant didn’t know, it is up for speculation.

Filipino Customs with Death

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Main Piece: When you bury a person it is custom to put in their hands a broken rosary. It’s because Filipinos believe that cutting the rosary breaks the cycle of death in the family, so no one else in the family dies. I also heard that they do this so that the ghost of the deceased rests easy and doesn’t visit the family.  

Context: The informant lived the majority of her life in the Philippines. She then immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She learned about this tradition from her family.

Thoughts: I have never heard of this before but it seems to show superstition and fear of the dead in the Filipino Community. Religion is strong in the Filipino community and plays a big role in their beliefs. The emphasis on religion is shown by the rosary, which is a religious item in Christianity. The circular nature of the rosary also reflects the life cycle, which is why the informant believed that breaking the cycle would change the outcome. I find it interesting how religion affects common beliefs and values which is emphasized with this tradition.

A Filipino Pun

--Informant Info--
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Context:Context: The informant (NA) is a freshman at USC. He lives in a Filipino household and experiences all of the traditions that a family in the Philippines would have. He heard this joke from both his peers and his family. The piece was performed on an online conference through a Zoom meeting with the interviewer (DM). 

Main piece: 

NA: “Why do Filipinos not like salt”

DM: “Why?”

NA: “Because it’s asin”

This is similar to a pun and the main point of this joke is saying that salt which is asin in Tagalog, is a sin, like doing something wrong.

Thoughts: Personally I am a huge fan of puns and wordplay like this. The joke ties English in with Tagalog and it reflects the focus on religion that many people in the Philippines have. It also could reference the preference of taste with Filipino with the lack of salt which has some truth to it since Filipino dishes use fish sauce as their main source of saltiness. It ties in a common habit in cuisine and cleverly merges it with a play on words and with the stereotype of the religious Filipino community

Pompyang: A Filipino Children’s Game

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Main Piece: Pompyang happens when you want to choose someone to be “it” for a game like tag or when we have to choose someone to do chores. It is a quick and easy game for choosing someone. First, everyone puts their hands in the middle after making a circle. On one person’s signal, everyone lifts their hands and positions their hands either facing palms up or down. The odd ones out are considered safe until you get down to three people then it is repeated. Once there are three people, the odd one out of those three is considered the loser.

Context: The informant lived the majority of her life in the Philippines. She then immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She learned about the game when she was in grade school in the Philippines.

Thoughts: I already knew about this game but I think it’s a really simple way to settle debates. Because it’s so simple, it’s a way to settle disputes for kids or even adults. By only giving two options it makes the game much simpler but the only time when it becomes remotely complicated is when there are an even amount of people and there are an even amount of upward and downward palms.

Filipino Ensisit,

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino
Age: 26
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 5/1/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

The informant is a 26-year-old male of Filipino descent. He will be referred to as DY. DY and his family lived in Hawaii for a time, and he currently resides in California. His piece of folklore comes from a story shared by a family member and is described in the main piece in his own words:

Main piece:

Ensisit are these little dwarf people in the Philippines that live under the ground and in the forests. They would travel around on banana leaves. I remember being told as a kid that they would hide in the trees and were typically seen as healers and they were very select at choosing who would share in this gift with them. My mom told me how my grandma would leave in the middle the night to be with them and people would typically go to her for help whenever they were sick, because they know that she was given the gift. Although the Ensisit do heal, they are very territorial and if you do anything to damage their little houses, you would fall ill. My cousin went to the Philippines when we were younger and was playing outside when she got sick out of nowhere and my family believed it was because she stepped on one of their houses so my family went through this whole ordeal where they placed offerings out as a sign of forgiveness in hopes that they would take back whatever they gave my cousin and it ended up working.

Background:

The folklore was told to him when he was younger by a cousin who experienced the event firsthand. DY finds the story very interesting but doesn’t know whether he believes in them or not since he was not there to experience it himself.

 

Notes:

This piece of folklore makes me think about the creation of these creatures to explain the unexplainable. DY’s cousin got sick while playing outside. The sickness seemed to have come out of nowhere which the family could not explain. Their conclusion was that the child must have upset the Ensisit which in turn caused the sickness. The family then left offerings for the creatures to ask for forgiveness and remove the sickness, which worked. This then perpetuates the belief in the creatures when in fact, their child could have gotten over the sickness naturally. I was unable to find stories about creatures called Ensisit, however, creatures similar to this are called Duwende. They are described as little gnome creatures that live in the trees and sometimes in the walls of houses and can be very mischievous. In the Philippines, families will often leave offerings outside their home, so they won’t be angry with them. It’s interesting that these creatures are called different things as I have another informant who calls them Matanda sa punso. These are also like the gnomes, usually male, and live on ant hills.

Circumcisions are Cheaper in the Philippines

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Central Valley, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This friend of mine is one of the sweetest guys I know. He’s quiet, but has a great sense of humor. One day, late at night, he blurted out, “is it normal that I was circumcised in the fifth grade?”. I knew I needed it for my folklore project. Most of the background information is contained in the transcript below.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“What is there to talk about? I guess you guys are my friends… so… eh? I don’t know if it’s like a cultural thing here, but in the Philippines it’s really looked down upon if you’re not circumcised, like you’re just kind of like a dipshit, you know? You get made fun of. So then like it’s kind of like a rite of passage thing – which is really strange – that like somewhere around like, um, I don’t know like end of elementary school to middle school. You, like you should do it, you know? Yeah, so then, um, we had like a Philippines vacation and my dad was like, ‘oh yeah, you should do it’ cause it’s cheaper in the Philippines, so then I was like, ‘okay, I’ll do it dad’. And I was like really scared. It was just, I don’t know. It was really weird. And then, okay. My dad would explain what would happen and I’d get so scared. Because like, ‘oh, there are scissors involved’. Hahahahaha. People in the Philippines can get superstitious that you’d get infected if you did it too young or something, so you wait. Also, because the healthcare system there is really bad, so they’re afraid that like babies will get sick and die if you do it then. Anyways, then. Um, uh, I’ll just jump to when it happened, because it was really scary. I was just really scared and I kind of just let it happen. But, basically when I went there, it was like- it was really strange.

“Like I said, the Philippines healthcare is really bad, so they didn’t knock me out or anything. I was awake when it happened. Um, yeah, hahaha. They put me in the room, and my dad’s just outside. And the doctor – like I’m lying there, and it feels like a really bare room, like probably no bigger than this room, and it was really strange, and it was just a lot of lights and stuff, and it didn’t even really feel like a proper.. like… surgical place. There were just some beds and stuff, and needles and everything. So, like um, the doctor… the doctor dude he gets a towel and is like, ‘oh, I’m gonna put this over your head. Because you’re gonna be traumatized if you see what happens. You know? So they blindfold me pretty much, as it happens, and then he pretty much walks me through in like Tagalog – which is Filipino – what’s gonna happen. I don’t even remember much of it, I know I didn’t pass out. But like, they definitely numbed me in that area, you know? No needles going anywhere. They just, I don’t know, stuck a needle around your … groin? Area? Basically, the entire time, I couldn’t really feel – or like I couldn’t feel any pain, but I could definitely feel … things moving around. And like, being cut off. Just saying, and it was really strange. And it was just a lot of pressure, until like, afterward. Um, and I just remember going, ‘whoa, it’s not that bloody’, when they took the towel off because there wasn’t that much blood. And it was just really strange. And it took like two weeks to heal. And that’s all I remember. There were stitches that like, melted off. Because that’s like medicine. It’s not really a Filipino tradition – I don’t know if they do it so much anymore cause like, the Philippines has been getting a lot better, since back then. This was fourth or fifth grade. It was just kind of interesting. I don’t know how old I was, I don’t want to remember hahahaha.

“You know that Twilight Zone episode? Eye of the Beholder? I was kind of like that. Except there was no pig on the end, yeah. It wasn’t that bad. Just a lot of gauze and pills.”

This piece really sheds some light on the overlap between modern medicine and folk medicine. Circumcision is an ancient tradition, however the advent of modern medicine has propelled it further into the mainstream. This friend of mine describes how even to this day, modern Filipino circumcision are influenced by folk belief in that it is considered bad luck to get it down as a baby. Later, he mentioned to me how the timing of the circumcision (around the age of 9 or 10) was also meant to be a sort of ritual celebration of adulthood, although his family did not really celebrate it. Rather, they viewed it more as something that just happens without imparting a significance related to maturity.

 

Aswang

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: February 12, 2017
Primary Language: Tagalog
Other Language(s): English

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

Alright, so there’s this creature in Philippine culture. It’s called the Aswang, so it’s basically like the Filipino version of a vampire. So like it’s a shapeshifter like during the day it’s a normal human and it can talk to other people and you can’t tell it’s an Aswang, but then at night it transforms into this really ugly monster. And then, what it likes to do is like it likes to look for pregnant women and then it like sucks out the fetus and eats it. That’s what its food is. And then it also likes to eat little kids. And it likes to eat like their livers and their hearts. So yeah, so that’s the Aswang and they make this really ugly sound like, “Eahhh.” And then it like tries to delude you so like the louder the noise is the farther away the aswang is. So like when it’s really near you, you can’t hear anything so you can’t tell that it’s there. And basically, to lure it away, you need to hang like garlic on your door like for the vampire. Or like you put like salt or something on your door.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

She heard about this creature from her parents when she was small. They tried to get her to sleep by warning her that the Aswang would kidnap and eat her if she does not.

Context of the Performance

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

The Aswang, a carnivorous, shapeshifting monster in Filipino folklore, is the most feared amongst the mythological creatures of the Philippines. Especially popular in the southern areas of Luzon, areas of Mindanao, and the Visayas, the Aswang has gained regional names, such as “bayot,” “kling-kling,” and “tik-tik.” This creature has endured centuries, told by mothers to their children as warnings to avoid walking the streets at night. The Aswang had also been used to explain events relating to grave robberies, child kidnappings, and other bizarre incidents.

My Thoughts about the Performance

Hearing about this myth reminded me of the stories I heard about the Bogeyman. Both creatures, amongst the many others in various cultures, are used by adults to frighten children into exhibiting good behavior. Parents would tell their children that if they misbehave, a certain monster would take them. It seems that these Aswang variants are universal, common to the folklore of several countries.

A Death in the Family (Philippines)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino-British
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Philippines / England
Date of Performance/Collection: March 23, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: Natasha is a 19 year old girl who grew up in Bangladesh but attended high school in Manila, Philippines and now lives in England as a college student. Her mother is Filipina and her father is British.

 

Original script: “Okay so my parents met in the Philippines whilst my Dad was working there, but at the time since my Dad was so busy with work and was constantly being called in on the weekends, both my Mum and my Dad would get frustrated at the little amount of time they got to spend with each other. Seeing as though my Mum was rarely with my Dad on the weekends she would often use the opportunity to go see her grandfather who was quite ill during this period, so she’d come along to take care of him as well as bring him medicine. Over time my Dad was quite frustrated with not being with Mum and in a slightly selfish manner was irritated with the amount of time she was dedicating to her grandfather. He then decided to take the initiative and plan a weekend away and so my Mum agreed and they went off. One night in their hotel my parents were lying down in bed and as they are laying there a huge black moth- which both of my parents say to this day was the biggest moth they had ever seen- flies into the room and lands on the wall facing my parents. Immediately my Mum senses and tells my Dad that something feels wrong and both feel very unsettled. 10 minutes later my Mum receives a phone call from her family telling her that her grandfather has sadly passed away. My Mum believes that the moth was a symbol of death and was warning her that her Grandfather was passing. At Filipino funerals it is common for them to be open casket. As my Mum approaches the casket she finds herself crying and blaming herself for being irresponsible and not being there to take care of him. As she apologizes over his body she says her last goodbye by kissing him on his cheek. Now one of the weirdest part of the story is what happens next. To this day my Mum swears that after she kissed him on the cheek her Grandfather cracked a small smile. After all of the events that have happened and the guilt she felt before, she now felt like all was ok as she believes this was a sign of his forgiveness. The end.”

Thoughts about the piece: This story is a great exemplification of how a person’s belief system can be shaped by people, in this case Natasha’s parents. Parents can be a huge influence on their children’s belief systems- most especially in early life where they are likely the single biggest influence. The way that Natasha’s parents believe so strongly in the presence of a supernatural being in this story, most especially her Mother, has definitely influenced the way that Natasha perceives things. To an outsider looking in, you may just think that the moth was a coincidence and that the Grandfather smiling is just something that her Mother convinced herself of in a moment of grief to try to overcome it. However, the fact that this took place before Natasha was born, that she has been told this story countless times since she was very young, and that her mother is someone who she trusts deeply are all factors which shape Natasha’s belief and consequently the way in which she tells the story. She has a deep emotional connection to the story and thus, she tells it as an absolute occurrence.

Something else to note is the Filipino culture that peeks through the story. Filipinos are generally very family oriented and they also have very strong belief in ghosts and superstition. The fact that Natasha’s father is British and was initially skeptical about the whole moth situation and did not look as much into it as her Mother but now completely believes in the supernatural aspect of the story shows how possibly being immersed in Filipino culture and such could have altered his belief system.

Bloody Mary (All-Boys School in the Philippines)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Manila, Philippines / California, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 3, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Tagalog

Informant: Enrique is a 19-year-old boy, born and raised in Manila, Philippines who now attends college in California. South Ridge (the school in his story) is a Catholic all-boys school in Manila which he attended from kindergarten through until 7th grade.

 

Original script:

Informant: So when I went to South Ridge, [all boys school in Manila, Philippines] there was a super scary bathroom on the top floor of the school. No one ever used this bathroom because there was a rumor that someone had died inside the bathroom years ago. On special occasions, our classes would have sleep overs at school and during one of these sleep overs, one of the older batches went up to that bathroom in the middle of the night. The rumor goes that if you say Bloody Mary in front of the mirror in that bathroom four times, Bloody Mary actually shows up. So when one of the guys that decided to go into that bathroom did the ritual, she actually appeared and when he left the bathroom, he was covered in cuts and scratches.

 

Interviewer: Do you know what Bloody Mary has to do with the guy that had died in the bathroom?

 

Informant: She was apparently the one who killed him.

 

Thoughts about the piece: It is extremely interesting that the Bloody Mary ritual would occur at a local all-boys school in the Philippines. Especially considering the context that we discussed it in during class wherein we saw that the ritual is most popular among pre-pubescent girls usually in Western countries. We took this to be part of girls growing up as womanhood is bloody, thus, girls are basically looking into their future (by spinning and looking into the mirror) and trying to understand it by performing the ritual. I too attended school in the Philippines however it was an international school with many American and European students- here too I noticed that only girls would take part in the Bloody Mary ritual. Thus, it is intriguing that this would be such a big sensation (seeing as how no one wanted to use the bathroom because they all know what had happened there) at a local, Catholic all-boys school.

Something else that it interesting about this version of the story is that Bloody Mary actually physically harms the people that perform the ritual whereas usually, you are said to simply see an image of her in the mirror.

Balete Drive (Ghost Story/Legend from the Philippines)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino - (Chinese)
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: Friday April 22nd, 2016
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Mandarin, Tagalog, Hokkien

S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.

S: There’s a lot of ghost stories from like the Philippines. Like there’s this one street in the Philippines, it’s called Balete Drive.

Me: Can you spell that?

S: B-a-l-e-t-e. Balete. It’s in Manila and ’cause I guess it got it’s name from like all the, ’cause it a kind of tree, so then there’s like a whole bunch of like tree in like that specific street, and no one ever wants to pass through there ’cause it’s just so fricken scary. And they say like in those trees, each specific tree, like there’s like this thing that lives up there and like it smokes and like…

Me: Is there like an actual story that goes with it, or is it just kind of a…

S: I can’t, I’m not exactly sure like what’s the origin, but I just know that there’s just a weird scary creature up there. Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, it’s pretty popular though.

Me: So you just don’t pass on that street?

S: Yeah, we just don’t go though that street. Because it’s too scary. I don’t know. But see that’s the thing, like we have so many ghost stories and just like ghost, like yeah, there’s like too many. There are many different kinds. But like I don’t think you should share that, or like search that, it might freak you out. Like once you start googling and see pictures of it, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Yeah, so maybe not.

S describes a street, Balete Drive, in Manila that is said to be haunted. She says that there are things that live in the Balete trees that are so prominent on the street and that they haunt Balete Drive and they smoke and are generally just scary to think about. It is obvious that she is still scared of this road and that she, even as an adult, will not go walk on that street for fear of the creatures of legend that are said to haunt it. She warns not to go on that street as well as not to even look it up because it would be scary. Even talking about it made her a bit uncomfortable, even though she does not know the origin and the story behind the legend, it still scares her and has a lot of influence on her.