The Rise of Tito Mu-Mu

I sometimes get called Tito Mu-Mu, which, as far as nicknames go, isn’t too bad.

This is not an aswang

This is not an aswang. It’s a karabaw

At my site in Almeria I live with a really awesome family right next to the ocean. After a while I started noticing kids would occasionally ask if I was scared to live there. Um, no I’m not. Well folks in Peace Corps know that I love the “chase” of a good mystery and just can’t sit still when something is afoot, thank you Sir Conan Doyle/Benedict Cumberbatch. So after questioning the right sources I realized that is was practically common knowledge for some of the local kiddos that there was a White Lady living at my house. No, not like a white female. A White Lady.

this thing was sort of sassy, but it's not an aswang.

this thing was sort of sassy, but it’s not an aswang.

“Oh, that’s no problem. She’s my Visaya tutor” was met with blank stares or wide-eyed faces. So this post is White Lady (mu-mu) inspired, and dives into a bit of Filipino folklore and superstition. This is of course a bit (mostly) from wiki but I made it more interesting so it’s worth reading. Also it’s almost Halloween.A_Magician_by_Edward_Kelly

The White Lady is a ghost that haunts rural areas, and as with most hauntings, she was right at the heart of some sort of terrible tragic event. Something related to losing or being betrayed by a lover, sort of typical. Each town has might have its own White Lady story, and I think at some point the retelling of Barangay Lo-ok’s White Lady story may have a plot twist cause a lover’s tragedy is too obvious. Maybe I’ll write a short story-blog for it. Must do more detective work…or watch the new season of True Detective for inspiration.

I do my detective work in locations such as this...

I do my detective work in locations such as this…

Para sa ako (for me) an aswang is actually a little bit more awesome than a White Lady.  Think of a sort of vampire-witch-ghouly thing that has been feared for more ore less the last 500 years in the Philippines. They are daywalking, human-talking (what?) ghoulies that can even feel emotional stresses like anger and sadness. They sound dynamic to me, which makes for a great mystery. Yes (fist pumps)! They are also apparently pretty civilized to their neighbors, which is cool if you live by them because then you won’t be getting eaten.Manananggal_of_Philippine_Mythology_Commons

The Manananggal (aka wak-wak) is a some sort of vampire-witch thing that is pretty mean and eats people/sucks their blood. This thing is unattractive, honestly, and and is supposed to be a female that can remove its upper half while having large bat-wings. No me gusta.  In Tagalog, tanggal means to remove or separate… I call one of my host brothers wak-wak because he started calling me mu-mu. Another host brother is affectionately called zombs which is a more nicknamy way of calling him zombie. I thought of trying to do something with Aswang, like wang-wang or wangie but it didn’t work.

a good shot of wak-wak sneaking in the shallow waters.

a good shot of wak-wak sneaking in the shallow waters.

On a more serious cultural note, I’ve been in the Philippines and at my site long enough to experience a lot of family events. Birth and death, of course, are two of the more important events in anyone’s life.  Wakes, death anniversaries, birthdays, and birthdays of a deceased loved one are all events I’ve participated in so far in Almeria. These are all family events, which is very important for the family-oriented folks here in the Eastern Visayas.

A wake is generally held from three days to a week and in rural areas are usually held in the home, where the cleaned and embalmed body is placed in a coffin and displayed surrounded by funeral lights, a registry book, contribution box, and flowers. Family and friends all participate in the vigil.  Everything from singing to gambling may take place outside the vigil in order to keep mourners awake. There are also a lot of superstitious beliefs at funerals in the Visayas, such as placing funeral alms into a container and sweeping the floor of a deceased’s home by hand, preventing tears from dropping onto the glass of the casket in order to allow the person’s soul to peacefully travel, etc.

Celebrating a mass in memory of a loved family member or near the memory of their death is often a part of Roman Catholic tradition. Just like a birthday this can be celebrated each year.  Birthdays of deceased love ones are also celebrated by families, even with cake and candles.  It seems to me a very special way to keep these loved ones as part of the family, and is an amazing way to remember them on their birth date each year.  For me, death has always been a sad, somber event, and it is interesting to try and match the emotions and energies of different cultures and people when participating in these celebrations.

The Biliran Crew. photo cred: George Maung.

The Biliran Crew. photo cred: George Maung.

Whether it’s superstition, tradition, or a 2 year old calling me Tito Mu-mu, I’m still learning a lot about living in the Eastern Visayas and taking on challenges as they come. As for future paranormal experiences, I heard there was a White Lady on the mountain that overlooks my Municipality, one that I hope to be visiting soon. At least I already have a ghouly translator.




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