Tabi po

Filipinos belief in mysticism is so deep that when knocking on a door of somebody's house, we don't say "Hello" --- we say "Tao po" which means "I'm human." It's like saying "I'm not a ghost, aswang, tikbalang, nuno or any other creature. I'm human and I come in peace so please let me in."

You see, nobody wants to see an aswang, a tikbalang, or a nuno knocking on his door.

Aswang is a reclusive person who transforms into a flesh-eating ghoul at night to eat cadavers and small children. A dish prepared by an aswang should never be eaten else you'll turn into one. In case an aswang give it to you as a gift, you must politely accept to avoid offending the aswang and get attack by night. Never consume the dish no matter how tempting it can be... it's of human meat.

Meanwhile, tikbalang has a head of a horse and a body of a man. It lives on mountains and in forests, and often play tricks to travelers. It is said that when you get lost in a forest, wear your shirt inside out to dismiss the tikbalang's spell.

When we also walk through a forest or in any area with lots of trees, we say "Tabi po" which means "Excuse me, old one. I'm just passing by." Its our way of greeting the "nuno" and asking his permission if we can pass. Nuno is a dwarf who lives in an anthill or termite mound around trees. Also when we are in such areas, we avoid pointing our fingers toward the trees or to the ground due to our elders insistent warning of "Huwag kang manuro, baka manuno ka" which means "Do not point your fingers, the nuno might get offended."

I've been living in Singapore for six years but it hasn't erased my belief in Philippine folklore. Once my husband and I got so lost when we were at Sentosa's Dragon Trail. We were walking around for hours, trying to find the way out but we were always coming to a same spot. It was getting dark and we were already so spooked so we decided to wear our shirts inside out then continued our walk while saying "tabi po." And you know what happened next? In just a few minutes we met somebody (a local) who knew the way out.


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