Tag Archives: Stories of the Strange

Growing Up Asian

So, my housemate links me this video, and goes ‘You have gotta see this.’

He’s a mutt, so before anyone screams racist, his Dad was from India; so when I brought home some indian sweets the other week, he just couldn’t get excited; though he did tell me the store I got it from had some delicious spicy stuff – and I guess that explains his cast iron stomach.

Anyway, a lot of this was relatable – some wasn’t,  because I had an allowance, for example, and while my dad, oddly enough, never really pushed me to have super good grades, my mom kind of did; even though my grades were pretty good (80+ to 90s… well, except PE and Filipino, because I hated those classes) and I spent my youth pretty much with my head buried in a book. I’m not really sure what gave me my study ethic, other than “if I get this all done and out of the way already I can go do stuff I like to do” so I tended to do my homework during recess (which some teachers had issues with, and some didn’t; but this saved my ass in college because holy crap the reams of homework I had to come home with.) These days kids barely have a fraction of the seatwork or homework we had! Such low standards these days… /asianmomgrumbling

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Why Humans Have Different Skin Colors

I  mentioned that I went back to the Philippines recently, and brought back lots of stuff. One of the things I also brought home was a container of whitening lotion – to use on my elbows, which tend to darken because I lean on them a lot while typing or drawing, and since I do a lot of that, they darken (as well as dry out) on a regular basis. I’ll cheerfully admit to my vanity that I have even skin tone – a lovely golden toast color, that I have no desire to whiten, the way a lot of Filipinos, and well, Asians want to. I don’t agree with the latter explanations of the post; white skin in Asian culture is tied to wealth and nobility, and existed as a paragon of beauty (for both men and women) – note the reference to pre-Qin China.

Personally, skin colour is one of those things I’ve never paid attention to in my dealings with people. I treat everyone the same – entirely dependent on how the person I am interacting with behaves. (Apparently, that’s ‘racist and discriminatory’ to some folks who haven’t picked up a dictionary within the last 50 years, the claim of which makes no sense, since it’s the other person’s behaviour toward me that I’m judging them by, e.g. their own actions and words.) I’m big on treating people as people, which is far less stressful and aging than constantly being on the lookout for something small and petty to be offended by. There are bigger things to get upset about, but that’s a discussion for some other time.

Me, I like my golden toast skin hue (It’s a permanent, perfect sun-kissed tan that I never have to work on!); although since I live in Australia, it makes it a bit hard to find make up at times. Fortunately, I am not the only Asian in Australia, and there are Asian grocery stores and such that I can source the occasional specific-to-my-ethnic-mix cosmetic needs, which are not, fortunately for me, that great a need. (Just need a thin layer of foundation so that the make up has that to cling to, in order to last longer. (More of the blush than anything else, really.) I should’ve picked up a pack of that face powder while I was back in the Philippines, but I forgot, having other priorities at the time. No biggie; and I’m not going to scream ‘BUT THAT IS UNFAIR’ (if I do, I’m joking; much in the same way I make fun about my being short, and there being no lovely thigh-high boots for someone as short as me that also has curves in my calves and thighs.) Also, seriously, there’s the Internet, and if I really was looking for that and willing to pay for it, I am pretty sure I could find that face powder.

Still, the reality is, folks have skin hues, as part of their physical descriptor; and frankly, that’s a better alternative to transparent skin. Can you imagine what that would be like? Seeing one’s muscles, bared? No thanks. Besides, this completely ignores the benefits of skin hues and melanin. Long and short of it is though, physical description is part of of how we tell each other apart – it’s how humans are able to identify a friend or a member of your family, because unlike other animals, we don’t identify each other by scent. We do it with our eyeballs and the use of our disproportionately huge brains. There are numerous theories why different groups have different skin colours (my main one is ‘evolutionary development in response to environmental exposure to the sun and it’s strength in varying regions of the world’) as well as legends, myths and folk tales that served as an explanation for our ancient fore-bearers. They served well enough that these folks got on with the business of living instead of sitting there, paralysed by ‘why?’ and starving to death.

A friend of mine recently told Rhys one of the more humorous Filipino folk tales as to why human beings all have different skin colours. It goes somewhat like this:

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Ghosts and bathrooms

What is it about ghosts haunting bathrooms? It’s not something I really understand – I mean, if I was going to haunt someplace as a ghost, a library seems so much more comfortable and interesting, you know? Yet despite that, stories and legends of ghosts haunting bathrooms and toilets abound throughout the world. Or is it just an Asian thing?  Maybe it isn’t; I don’t know. I mean, J.K. Rowling put Moaning Myrtle to haunting Hogwarts bathrooms, so maybe the story of ghosts haunting school bathrooms and public loos aren’t just aren’t an Asian ghost encounter thing?

Japan probably has some of the most well documented ones, from the akai-kami, aoi-kami ghost – a ghost who asks ‘red paper or blue paper’? and will either skin you alive or strangle you if you pick one; Hanako the ghost, who is a bit of a cross of the Bloody Mary type of ghost story and ‘schoolgirl who died at school’ story; akaname the filth-licker, a Japanese yokai that dates back to well before the 20th century at least, and the noppera-bo, another yokai that has no face and has been described to also haunt toilets (there’s a story about a woman encountering one in Hawaii, in 1959.) (Note: that blogpost is worth a look at, as it describes that there is no lore in Hawaii that resembles the story; and it seems to folklore that transferred from Japan.)

Ghost stories about bathrooms aren’t something I’ve read about only online though; even when I was going to school there were stories of a nun supposedly haunting the showers in Miriam; as well of course as the stories of a ghost that would peek over the bathroom stall dividers. Every school seemed to have at least one bathroom stall ghost story, regardless of whether or not the school was a Christian or Catholic school, or a secular one. However, stories of ghosts haunting the bathrooms also occur in buildings and edifices other than schools. Continue reading

Welcome to the Philippines

This story is one I keep thinking I’ve told, for some reason. Yet, I check my logs and there isn’t a record of it, nor a post draft.

This story is one of an experience my husband Rhys had during his first time visiting me in the Philippines when we were newly in a relationship. I had visited him in Australia first; it was his gift to me after I graduated from college; and he decided to visit during his university holidays – which, being December, was our Christmas holidays. We were looking forward to having him experience the fun that was a Filipino New Year.

As Rhys’ flight arrived late in the afternoon, my mother decided that to save on space, it would be she and our driver who would pick him up from the airport. Our car – rather, my brother Al’s car – was a small Kia Pride, which was the butt of many jokes as it frequently required repairs. “Al’s Pride is broken again” We didn’t want to chance it breaking down.

Night had fallen by the time they had reached the subdivision where we lived; and it was also raining, which probably added to the delay in getting back. Continue reading

The White Lady of the Mango Tree

The plot of land on which my parents’ house sits was, I think, purchased by his parents for their surviving children back when the area was still nothing but rice paddies and the entire gated subdivision was a notional area with a plotted out map that featured roads that didn’t exist yet. My father wanted the spot that was the end of the road, given that he tended to deal with lots of people and wanted a place that, when he went home, he could have peace and quiet. So we lived on one side of a dead-end cul-de-sac, and the wall that was the border of the village as well as the end of the road was further made inaccessible by virtue of a creek.

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Notes on Dwende

Note: This is an expansion of a short post I made over at According to Hoyt, in response to Mary Catelli and Foxfier. As per usual, this description is based off our own experiences and encounters, as well as those descriptions that were related to us by others.


Dwende is/are the Filipino catch-all term for faeries, brownies, nature spirits. It’s accepted belief that they share ‘space’ with human beings and encounters with them – intended and unintended – are part of the reason why superstitious belief is very strong in the Philippines. (Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters could probably go on safaris in the Philippines.) This post is to give a rough description of the dwende as we’ve encountered them (note I use present tense; even now I hear about encounters from my mother’s household.)

Because dwende are spirits who dwell in the land, they can be found anywhere, even urbanized areas. They are most often found in places where there is a bit of quiet -anything from deep forest to a small, stinking alleyway. Generally they are invisible to human eyes, though people with the gift of third sight or sixth sense can see or feel their presence. They vary in description from the typical small brownie, or small winged fairies, to manifesting as human-sized, or larger, beings; size seems to be relative to their ‘strength’ in ‘power’. They range from strange in appearance, fair, or ugly – not much different from the Western descriptions of fae.

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The Visiting Virgin Mary Statue

This being the Philippines, our practice of Catholicism may seem very strange to even other Catholics. I don’t know if the tradition of a visiting saint or Jesus or Mother Mary statue is common outside of the Philippines, but it happens. Usually (and this is the rough description from someone who hasn’t been involved in the process,) the caretakers ask if the statue (Usually a Mother Mary statue of some kind) will be welcomed to the household for a week’s praying of the rosary and novenas. It is done to bring blessings to the household; and daily from 3pm to 4pm, a full 15 mysteries of the rosary is said by a group of people, including the caretakers, praying for the family. Then afterward there is a bit of snacks and tea and coffee.

I had to consult with my mother because this story happened when I was quite young, maybe 7 years old, and requires a bit of a background story. I should note this doesn’t quite fall under ‘folklore’ and more ‘religious experience.’ Continue reading

The Noodle Incident

This is a slightly more expanded version of a comment I made in According To Hoyt.

The Noodle Incident, as I like to call it, happened some years ago, probably 2005 or 2006. It was an otherwise unremarkable weekend evening, where I was taking it easy after a week of work and had been enjoying game-play grind session in Lineage II. We’d been playing for a while and decided to take a break for food. We parked our characters outside of the room we’d been hunting in and I went downstairs to cook myself a double batch of Lucky Me! Pancit Canton (the calamansi flavored one.) (These are a brand and type of instant noodles.) My mom and the maid were eating dinner at the time and my mom commented about the double batch, which was a little unusual for me. I said I was craving the flavor. The noodles take about 3 minutes to cook, and you make a paste of the other ingredients – seasoning, flavor powder, a bit of oil and soy sauce included in the packet. You then drain the noodles of almost all the water, leaving behind roughly a spoon’s worth, and then toss the noodles with the resultant sauce. I took myself, my big bowl of pancit, and a fork back upstairs when I was done.

I was holding the big bowl of noodles in my left hand, sat back on the foot of my bed (my computer was at the end of my bed back then) and typed, “I’m back” with my right. There were still other people not back at their keyboards, so I took a forkful of my noodles, and stuck it in my mouth. I one-handed typed out a reply to something said in party, then removed the fork from my mouth to jam it back into the pile of noodles while I chewed, without looking at the bowl I still held in my left hand. Instead of noodles, my fork encountered the hard plastic bottom of the bowl. Thinking I’d spilled the noodles, I looked. Except, I hadn’t, and the bowl was completely empty.

I sighed, typed “BRB after buff” into the channel, rebuffed the party, and went back downstairs to ask for another batch of pancit canton. My mom looked at me funny and said that I shouldn’t eat so much instant noodles, and didn’t I just go upstairs? I said I hadn’t eaten more than a forkful of noodles, and that the rest had disappeared. She asked me if I was sure I hadn’t eaten them all, and I said, “C’mon, Mom. My mouth isn’t that big. That was a LOT of pancit.”

My mom laughed, remarked that the dwende* must be hungry, and asked the maid, who had finished eating and was listening to the exchange with wide eyes, to make me another batch.

And yes, the blasé response we have is because my family is used to weird shit happening. And no, I was alone in my room at the time.


*Dwende is/are the catch-all term we use for fairies, brownies, dwarves. Filipino folklore classifies them as ‘good’ or ‘white’ (Some people describe their encounters with them with the dwende manifesting with an aura of light); neutral or nature type (‘gray’) or black (malicious, wicked; bad spirits that aren’t demons or ghosts.)


I really should write about dwende sometime; it’ll be useful for some of my friends.

Reasoned Belief

Let me start off by saying outright: I’m no Fox Mulder, though I enjoy the X-Files as a show. I didn’t want to believe; but I’ve found, over the years, it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t believe. That doesn’t stop the ‘other things’ in existing or, worse, believing in your existence. If I were to be compared to a character, I’m closer to Dana Scully.

I’ve actually wrestled with the decision to start describing various odd supernatural events that my family, friends and I have encountered over the years, largely because, well, I don’t want to sound utterly bonkers; plus I’m a fiction writer to boot. I don’t want to be derided as a fantasist who can’t tell reality from fantasy, or ‘looking for attention’ so I have to ‘make up’ stories about myself ‘to make myself seem more interesting’. Please. I’ve lived in the tail end of the Philippine dictatorship and caught the end of the Cold War, living in East Berlin. Our first apartment was a building set aside for the families of the Stazi and the second one was right across the street from the North Korean Embassy, and just a few streets away from Checkpoint Charlie. While at a diplomatic function with my parents I got hauled to do an impromptu stint as a model in Paris (what I remember the most of that night? Trying not to trip and fall in shoes that were too big for my feet, and worrying about the fact I didn’t have my glasses.) Life is plenty interesting without the supernatural having gotten mixed in; and I’d have been happier if it’d been nothing more than a fascinating thing I’d read or write fiction about.

That’s not what happened, and frankly, at some point I have to just shrug. I’m rather used to people thinking badly of me, spreading rumors, or wishing me ill. That would be nothing new. The thing that kept me from writing things like these down and sharing them is my reluctance to be seen badly by those whose opinions I do care about.

But I’ve been getting the urge to write these down; to the point that I sometimes can’t sleep. And even then, I’m unsure what is ‘safe’ to tell. Nevertheless, if you’re going to be the sort who’ll just heap negative commentary as opposed to discussion, don’t be surprised if I decide to ignore your comment or delete it if you’re especially offensive. Continue reading