Home » Reference » Language Resources » Why Do People in the Philippines Say “Tao Po” When Knocking on Someone’s Door?
Tao Po

Why Do People in the Philippines Say “Tao Po” When Knocking on Someone’s Door?

Cultural traditions and customs are often ingrained in people. These practices and beliefs are learned at a very young age, which individuals tend to apply even as they get old. In the Philippines, there are several rituals, customs, and traditions depending on the region of origin, but did you know why Filipinos say tao po when they knock on someone’s door?

Filipinos have used the phrase “Tao po!” for generations whenever they go to another person’s home. In precolonial times they needed to do so, to declare that they are human and not evil creatures. 

What is the Origin of the Expression “Tao po”?

Pre-colonial Filipinos used the term to establish themselves as humans. This is according to historian Ambeth Ocampo. Tao po ako, hindi aswang!  This translates to; I am a human, not an evil creature. 

Filipino ancestors also believed that many dangers lurked outside the safety of their homes, so doors were not opened to elementals and evil spirits that, like animals, could not say the phrase tao po to convince the family to let them in.

According to early Spanish friar chronicles, the Filipino customs are quite fascinating to see since they show how different life was in the 16th century. Nonetheless, certain things remain the same, even if we perceive them differently.

Today, the phrase tao po now serves a more practical purpose. It can be informally translated as Is anybody home? Depending on the context, simply declaring that there’s someone at the door. (Source: Esquire Magazine)

What is the Meaning of Tabi, Tabi Po?

The phrase tabi tabi po translates to pardon me or may I pass in Tagalog. This particular phrase was once used to tell the spirits who resided in trees, grass, or bushland that you were passing through but is now used to excuse yourself from spirits who reside in buildings, concrete, or bridges.

Announcing your presence and asking them to move aside is a preventive approach to ensure that you do not walk on them, injure them, or offend them gravely by peeing on them. According to the elders, accidentally disturbing these spirits by treading or peeing on them will result in the excruciating expansion of the offending body part. (Source: Esquire Magazine)

What is Pwera Usog?

The phrase pwera usog is derived from the Spanish and Filipino words fuera and usog, respectively, they translate to get away, curse! According to elders, this is a way to  repel a hex cast by someone who greets another person with bad intentions. Usog is thought to be particularly dangerous to infants and children.

Usog is a condition produced by a person greeting someone, especially an infant, in Filipino mythology. This sickness, according to legend, can range from a stomachache to a blazing fever, and infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable. A simple welcome or compliment, such as “oh, your kid is so cute!” is thought to be enough to trigger the hex, whereas saying puwera usog is said to counteract this.  (Source: Esquire Magazine)

Leave a Comment