“Don’t forget to say ‘Tabi-tabi po.'”
I reminded the foreigner couple whom I came across as I was walking along the beach this morning. The lady was searching for a “safe” spot amidst the mangroves to take a pee.
“Say what?” came her quick response, not without a puzzled look, quite expectedly.
Most Filipino children are taught and trained to say these words even if we’re not sure if there are elementals in our midst — all the more so if we’re not sure.
It’s like saying, “Excuse me” or “May I pass?”
We may accidentally step on them especially if or because we don’t see them. Stepping on their houses, even simply brushing against them, is a gesture of humans that’s sure to cause the elementals’ ire, albeit unintended.
And what happens when such accidents take place?
One gets sick for seemingly no apparent reason. Inexplainable. Undiagnosable. It is supposedly the elementals’ way of retaliating.
The sickness is incurable unless a local shaman performs specific healing rituals to undo the “curse” or “spell.” It can also be cured when the sick individual makes some form of offering to the offended elementals to pacify them.
It’s a commonly long-held belief of the Filipinos. It is a belief that many of us were raised to abide by. To be afraid of.
And I was one of the many who simply went along with the tradition, largely out of fear, without really understanding the elementals’ world and nature spirits’ way of life.
My parents and elders, like the majority, if not all of the Filipino parents and elders, didn’t give a proper and convincing explanation. I practiced saying ‘Tabi-tabi po’ only because we were told to do so. We were expected to do nothing else but to follow. I was being an obedient child.
I rejected such a belief later in my early adult years — partly as a form of rebellion. I dismissed it and stopped practicing it.
There’s a part of me deep inside that just couldn’t and wouldn’t blindly accept the tradition, along with many other traditions — Filipino or otherwise. I refused to accept the rationale or reasoning behind them — more so, the lack of thereof.
Fear, instead of respect, was the motivating factor.
And I resented that. Deeply.
I resented that we were made to do something, made to feel frightened that something bad would happen if we didn’t do it.
I resented the energy of fear. I refused to practice a tradition simply because it is the tradition — especially more so only out of fear.
But I know better now — thankfully.
After I began my healing journey, I delved more into the paranormal and metaphysical. I deepened my spirituality. I strengthened my connection to the Earth and Mother Nature. I experienced and convinced myself of the interconnectedness of things and all of Life.
I eventually understood the ‘rationale’ behind the practice of saying ‘Tabi-tabi po.‘ After many years of not practicing it, I now do it religiously. I even remind others, children and adults alike, Filipinos or otherwise, as was the case this morning.
But I practice it now not because I’m afraid of any repercussions or punishment if I don’t. I practice it not simply because it is the tradition.
I practice saying “Tabi-tabi po” out of respect. Deep respect.
Not all of us have the ability to see the invisible realms and higher dimensional realities.
Yet they exist.
There are life forms in universes other than the one to which Earth belongs. Just because our five basic senses are not able to experience or prove other realities and dimensions doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Because they do.
I also don’t subscribe to the belief that these beings have it in their nature to be vengeful, particularly towards children — especially innocent and well-intentioned ones.
That was simply, in my opinion, a much easier, maybe even lazy way for the elders to have the children follow and obey them. Maybe they didn’t really know why or couldn’t understand why.
It was simply passed on from generation to generation without any explanation. There was no room to question. No one had the right to — especially so in the Filipino culture where respect for elders, no matter what, is deeply embedded and highly valued.
Fear then has been the prevalent energy in the Filipino psyche, strengthened and deepened even more by the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church. (The Philippines is the only predominantly-Catholic country in Asia, thanks to 300 years of Spanish colonization.)
But I refuse to be driven by fear.
I choose to live guided by such values as Respect, Reverence, and Kindness.
I’m currently going through my most pivotal Chiron Return astrological phase, the time when Chiron (the archetype of the Wounded Healer) goes back to its original position in our natal chart. We wrap up the issues related to our core wound and determine how healing from the wound can help others.
In my natal chart, Chiron is in my fourth house — the house associated with our roots and origins, home base, family in general, childhood upbringing and the environment we were raised in, father image and relationship to the real father.
As I heal from the wounds of my country of origin and continue to review and reflect on the Filipino customs, traditions and beliefs, I may no longer choose to subscribe to the majority of the Filipino customs and traditions — especially those that don’t make sense to me.
I may no longer choose to practice those that no longer serve me. I may no longer choose to practice those that don’t resonate with me or ring true to me.
Saying “Tabi-tabi po,” though, isn’t one of them.
Yet I practice it no longer out of fear.
I do so out of Respect and Reverence for all forms of life, other forms of life, seen or unseen. In fact, more so, and especially for the unseen.
The same respect and reverence that I have for The One, The Ultimate Unseen Force.
Related articles and links:
- Philippine Folklore: Or the Stuff Filipino Nightmares and Fantasy are Made of
- Chiron Return: A Most Meaningful Rite of Passage
- The Aswang Project
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