Pinoy Urban Legends
By Eric S. Caruncho
You must have heard the one about the giant python that lurks in the air ducts above the ladies' fitting room at the Robinson's Department Store, swallowing unwary customers and salesladies whole and disappearing back into its ceiling lair.
The story, which was current around the early '90s, is what is known as an urban legend.
In the case of the Robinson's python, a starlet was even said to have narrowly escaped its clutches while trying on some clothes. The story was so widespread that for a time, female customers stopped trying on clothes at the department store.
Later, the story took an even stranger twist: the snake in question was said to be the twin sister of Robina Gokongwei, the daughter of the tycoon who owned the department store. In one fell swoop, the emerging urban legend conflated popular folklore about women who give birth to snakes as well as human babies, which led to the emergence of Zuma, the snake-man of popular Tagalog komiks.
How else can you explain the persistence of the rumor that Ma Mon Luk siopao is made out of "meow meow"? I also heard this one first in the '70s, and to this day I still hear people attribute the distinctive flavor of Ma Mon Luk to its supposed use of alternative meats.
Another fast food related urban legend, but one that was relatively short-lived, was the story in the early 1980s that Jollibee was using earthworms as "Hamburger Helper". At around the same time, if memory serves, there was a wave of interest in vermiculture, and attempts to promote the slimy creatures as a source of protein. Needless to say, in spite of the enthusiasm of its proponents, it was a tough sell. For its part, Jollibee took steps to quickly quash any loose talk about earthworms in their hamburgers. In fact, strong allegations were made that the rumors were started by rival multinational fastfood companies trying to cut into their market share. But for a time, people actually stayed away from Jollibee because of the story, which might have helped their rivals get a foothold in the local fastfood market.
Some years ago there was widespread panic in Manila about "tappers". According to this urban legend, widely reported in the tabloids at the time, some maniac was going around tapping people on the shoulder, after which they would start to feel dizzy and pass out. According to the tabloids, the maniac had rigged some sort of device for injecting his victims with a powerful sedative. The device was supposedly hidden in long sleeves, with the needle held between the fingers, so a light tap on the shoulder was all it took to inject the drug.
Comedian Dolphy is supposed to have a huge whanger. Some stories describe it as unusually "lightbulb-shaped". Anyway, this supposedly explains his attraction for women.