Philippine Urban Legends

It was believed by the folk that when a mermaid is captured (and held captive), it results in a big flood. After "Ondoy," it is said that more people went to the Manila Aquarium than usual to check whether a mermaid was, indeed, in one of the display tanks.

Two friends who regularly go to Dumaguete, and one who lives there, also relate that when the seaside city went underwater from heavy rains four years ago, fishermen up and down the coast marched angrily to the Silliman Marine Science lab armed with oars. They were soon joined by farmers carrying pitchforks, whose farms had been inundated. They demanded the release of the mermaid that the marine biologists had purportedly been keeping in a tank (for study?).

Poor director Alcala of the marine science department had to rush to the scene in his pajamas to open the tank area! Only then would the folk believe that there was no mermaid imprisoned there.

In Dagupan, Pangasinan, a mermaid statue with a fountain used to be in front of the old City Hall until it was torn down during a remodeling.

"Mermaids were part of our childhood and our history," says Norma Liongoren. "The rivers criss-crossing Dagupan were said to be her tears. The sirena was the bogey we were frightened with to make us obey."
One of the Hundred Islands of Alaminos was the location of the first "Jezebel" movie (which has had many incarnations). A mermaid statue still exists there.

Legends about mermaids are prevalent all over the Philippines. As in Angono, sightings are still reported-of a mermaid with long hair, perched on a rock, luring sailors and swimmers with her singing, then drowning them. (The dugong, says John I. Teodoro, with its hairy body, looks very much like a fat mermaid.) A science (?) education (?) building under construction had a glass dome, it was rumored, to become the tank for a sirena.
Another interesting urban myth that has been around since the '80s is that of Robina (Gokongwei)'s snake twin. That this snake likes to eat people who go into a fitting room of the department store. A trapdoor allegedly opens and the girl disappears forever. That the snake watches when the elevator door opens to observe where the feet of the person it desires are going, and follows.

An earlier story has it that the Gokongwei son it was who had a snake twin. The obsidian, the legend goes, likes beautiful young women whom it captures through the same dressing-room trapdoor. This snake apparently travels because the same legend follows it in every branch of the department store.

At one time it is said that the pretty actress, Alice Dixson, had been captured by the snake but released. And that, to quell the rumor, the family had to pay her to leave for Canada and stay there. The lawyer allegedly hired to settle the affair was Solicitor Frank Chavez!

I thought the myth had died down. But just the other day, someone who was supposed to have a meeting with Mr. Lance Gokongwei was advised to "look closely and tell me if his arms, under his long sleeves, have scales"!

The legend that still persists in Ilocos Norte is that Marcos is alive. That he is kept living by embryonic fluid in some secret facility. That his skin is nice and fresh and that he walks among us but does not look at all like the original Marcos. That the "corpse" in Paoay is really just wax. That his gold certificates are still being encashed, etc., etc.

Myths or legends are usually pegged on an event that took place, like the "Ondoy" flood and the flooding of the Dumaguete coastline. The Marcos "corpse" is still viewable in his mausoleum in the north. The belief in a snake twin has been around in the islands at least since the 17th century, as reported in Fray Ignacio Francisco Alzina's 1668 "History of the Bisayan Islands" (basis of current telenovela "Amaya").

Chinese are also known to regard snakes as good luck for business, which is allegedly why some Chinese keep snakes in their bodega. (And animals have to be fed don't they?) Someone posited, though, that the snake myth came up when malls were just being introduced in the Philippines. They were huge, frigid structures then, unfamiliar to the folk. Could it have been a manifestation of that fear? Could it have been a rumor begun by a competing mall? Legends or myths make no distinction between truth and fiction-but how in heavens' name did Frank Chavez get in there?

Older urban legends are the White Lady of Balete Drive who hitches a ride or boards a taxi but disappears. She comes in many variations and can apparently bilocate. She has been seen in Baguio and other places not named Balete, nor is she always in white.

Then there is the cat in the siopao of a mami joint. This urban legend began way back during the Japanese time when there was a scarcity of meat and lots of cats on the street. The fact that the mami joint and the department store are more popular than ever proves that urban legends are either not believed, or if they are, merely add delicious spice to the merchandise. Cars still go through Balete Drive, which is one of the shadiest streets around. And of course, everyone just loves preternaturals!