Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 2012
Primary Language: English
“Another thing Filipinos do is they say Tabi Po when they do something that might disturb earth spirits. Almost all Filipinos believe in, and everyone’s heard of the Dwende, which is miniature little spirits that live in the earth and trees and houses and pretty much everywhere. And Tabi Po is basically the way of saying sorry for disturbing you, Dwende. So if you knock over something that a dwende might live in you have to apologize, Tabi Po. If you think about it, it’s kind of dumb, but it’s a Filipino tradition, and I definitely use it when I’m home and drunk and have to pee outside, like, ‘Sorry Dwende for peeing on your home.’”
This tradition is an interesting perspective of Filipino culture. The informant explains that everyone in the Philippines knows of the dwende and when to say Tabi Po, and he probably began using the phrase “Tabi Po” from an early age. Knowing this, we could possibly classify it as a socializing force in Filipino culture. Tabi Po teaches children from an early age that it is important to respect the Earth and the environment. Dwende seems to be synonymous to a sense of personal space and ownership, in American culture what would translate to not disturbing others’ property and nature.
Similarly, Tabi Po also allows Filipinos to understand when they do something wrong, serving as a standard for acknowledging mistakes and accepting responsibilities for actions. Supposedly, by saying Tabi Po, the Dwende forgive the person and leave them alone, synonymous to apologizing for mistakes to maximize respectfulness and minimizing conflict.