Bless Me, Ultima (Part 1)

I have to say that this one is definitely not a sad book (this is the last one I promise :P) However, I did think that it is quite creepy. There was a time that I decided to read it before bed and I decided to put it down because it mentioned La llorona and Lupito, after he was killed.

This book reminds me so much of the way the superstitions and “traditional” ways of people in the Philippines. I’m not sure if it is more of a cultural thing or entities as such are just more present in developing countries.

I remember a time when we went to the Philippines for a vacation and my mom was doing some gardening in the backyard. A few days after, she developed a blister on her foot that got worse as the days went by. My grandmother was so concerned and went on by saying “maybe you stepped on or offended something in the backyard.” In the Philippines, it’s a thing to say “tabi tabi po” when walking around in gardens. It is a way of excusing yourself from these “creatures” because they can see you and you can’t see them so they need to dodge you. My grandma asked my mom if she said “tabi tabi po” and my mom said she was careful. Now my mom is allergic to rubber and she said that it was probably just the old pair of flip-flops that she used when she did stuff in the backyard. My grandma advised my mom to go see a witch doctor because she can see that my mom was in so much pain. Out of desperation, y mom took my grandma’s advice and she said that upon entering the witch doctor’s place, the witch doctor asked about my mom’s foot right away when and they haven’t even told him what’s wrong yet. The witch doctor “prescribed” some herbs to my mom. Her blister didn’t disappear in one snap but it did go away eventually.

I really felt uneasy with the way that situation was handled but I definitely had some questions, like “how did the witch doctor know right away that my mom hurt her foot?” I know that stories as such do not make much sense in the first world context since we are surrounded by science and we need everything to be backed up by logical reasoning. Because of my mom’s story, I did not find the story of Antonio, although fictional, hard to believe.

3 thoughts on “Bless Me, Ultima (Part 1)

  1. pamela salome chavez calapaqui


    It was very interesting to read the story of your mom! I am really enjoying of reading Bless Me, Ultima; because I feel a lot of connections to these superstitions, to the traditional beliefs of healing based on plants, and event to legends like La Llorona. I myself have listened to similar stories in my country, and sometimes I feel identified with Antonio, in being caught between the beliefs of my grandma and how mi grandpa thinks :). This book is definitely very interesting, and I see the character of Ultima, very intriguing as well.

    Anaya has portrayed in a very creative way the mixes that Chicano culture has, I am looking forward to see how this book will end.

  2. Aurélien Blachon

    Hi Rachel (Bonjour as you said to me as usual ahah) !

    First of all, thank you for sharing your mother’s story. It made me think about the role in our modern societies of spirits, creatures or “alternative medicine”. As we see in the book, all these beliefs, let’s say mystical, are opposed to the power of the Church (another mystical element) and scientific medicine (the doctor). Given that in developed countries, some people believe to the existence of “alternative forces” as a means of healing (and I know what I am saying because my stepfather “heals” people according to him), I believe that it is not only a cultural element or an old way of thinking about the world that is gradually being eradicated by the progress of science. I do not know, maybe it is human nature to give a supernatural reason to something that it cannot explain rationally.

  3. craig campbell

    Hey Rachel,

    I loved your story about your trip to the Philippines when you were young. Superstition and “wife’s tales” used to be (or still are?) such a part of our day-to-day lives. I remember as a kid, whenever we saw my Grandma, she would give us a kiss, tell us how cute we were and how much she loved us, then she’d pinch us with her knuckles so she didn’t spoil us. I remember asking her what that meant after a few years of being pinched and not liking this. It was to keep us safe from bad things, like SIDS (crib death) and anything else that could harm a kid (physically or personality wise). I still think of this adage when I see self-centred or arrogant people. While at first I get annoyed with them, then I feel sad that they didn’t have a grandma to pinch them.

    Have a good day,


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