It was always such a treat to be allowed to stay up late to watch Magandang Gabi, Bayan‘s Halloween specials, with its cheesy floating “white ladies” and powdered cemetery ghosts. To a ’90s kid like me they were the SCARIEST THING EVER (followed closely by the early Shake Rattle & Roll franchise).
Jomike Tejido’s Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a wholesome take on the Philippine supernatural, through the eyes of little Sophia and her Lolo Nanding (Grandpa Nanding).
We begin with a neighborhood boy taunting Sophia, saying, “May mumu sa bahay n’yo!” (“There’s a mumu in your house!”) Sophia is afraid of encountering a mumu (monster) in her house — and imagines one in the kitchen, in the bathroom, or wherever she goes.
Lolo Nanding helps her overcome her fear of monsters by presenting them in a friendlier light. Tejido makes clever use of these creatures’ “real” traits as a way for Sophia to bond with them.
For example, Lolo Nanding encourages her to challenge any manananggal she meets to a sewing contest. In local folklore, manananggals are vampire-like creatures that can separate the upper and lower half of its body to be able to fly at night and prey on pregnant women. (!) But Tejido’s version is cute as a button!
Similarly, Lolo Nanding suggests that Sophia use the tiktik’s long, snaking tongue to paraglide…
… that she teach the tiyanak, a monster baby, his ABCs…
… and give the kapre, a cigar-smoking giant thought to reside in big trees, some pakwan (watermelon) candy so he’d dump his cigar.
For other monsters Tejido doesn’t stray far from folklore. If you pass an unexplained mound on the ground in the province it’s supposedly good practice to say “Tabi tabi po” (“Excuse me”) just in case you disturb these nuno sa punso, or Philippine dwarves.
Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a fun introduction for children to a distinct part of Philippine culture. I personally love that Sophia is introduced to these creatures by her lolo, to whom she gives his favorite tea and fruit at the end, as thanks for rhyming so long.
There’s a gallery at the back of all the monsters in the book…
… and the book is bilingual in English and Filipino, so you can help your little one learn the language too.
A highly recommended, scary-not-so-scary book to read the kids this Halloween!
Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! (Tahanan Books)
Written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido
Php 195 at National Bookstore