TABI TABI PO – Here are some of the facts about this famous Filipino phrase that some of us probably didn’t know.
In Filipino folklore, the belief in unseen creatures has inspired plenty of interesting stories. There are several legends of magical encounters in Philippine literature, ranging from forest nymphs to roof-dwelling aswangs, mischievous nuno sa punso to human-like entities.
Among these stories, the concept of “Tabi-tabi po” or Excuse Me, appears as both a symbol of respect and a precautionary measure against potential disturbance.
The word “Tabi-tabi po” conveys reverence, humility, and a request for permission, but it is followed by activities that may upset or disturb the unseen creatures it addresses. Words and deeds appear conflicting.
The essence of the phrase is disrespect, criticism of the unseen or unobserved, and skepticism of development. It urges individuals to move aside or step aside, with the word “tabi” forming the root of the expression.
This interpretation is logical given that the term is used when entering unknown or thought to be inhabited areas.
The phrase came from the Filipino belief in earth-dwelling creatures that may reside in trees, old houses in the provinces, or anthills referred to as “Duwende” or “Nuno sa punso.” Duwendes are depicted as small earth-dwellers that come in black, white, red, or green colors. They can be either benevolent or malevolent, depending on their color.
According to folklore, black Duwendes are considered benign and are believed to bring good fortune. White Duwendes are said to be cunning and playful, often blamed for leading people astray in forests.
Red Duwendes are considered the most malevolent, responsible for severe illnesses that are difficult to cure. Green Duwendes are considered the most shy but enjoy playing with children.
These entities are capable of both generosity and punishment. They can either cause harm or provide blessings, depending on how they are treated. As a result, it is important to approach their homes with care and caution, conscious of the sensitive balance between the visible and unseen worlds.