Today I was reminded of a unique Filipino belief while buying a birthday card. One of the women behind the counter spoke to the pregnant cashier. They were joking that I should spend more time near the cashier so her baby would inherit my pointed nose. This is an old myth here in the Philippines. The idea is that an unborn child’s physical appearance can be influenced by various factors, such as who spends time near the expectant mother. I read about this several years ago, but haven’t heard it mentioned since.
I talked with a couple of my Filipina friends/students about this later in the evening. They told me that this belief includes the idea that the mother’s diet can influence the child’s appearance. Eating dark foods, for example, causes the mother to give birth to a dark-skinned child. Eating spaghetti causes curly hair. The Tagalog language even has a verb for this—“lihi.”
The complexity of Filipino verbs never ceases to amaze me—there’s a verb for everything. There’s even a verb for experiencing sleep deprivation—a verb for not sleeping.
I presume that most Filipinos do not believe in “lihi” anymore. The students I talked to were nursing majors, so they obviously new about genetics. The cashier and her friend were just joking around. Regardless, it made for a fun cultural discussion and helped me to learn an interesting new word.
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