Perhaps you heard of a child born with “crab hands”—instead of having five fingers, his arms end in two thick appendages that look like the pincers of a crab. In the Philippines, many folks would most likely blame this on 'paglilihí.'
According to a longstanding Filipino belief concerning 'paglilihí,' when the wishes or craving of a mother during the early stages of her pregnancy were not satisfied, her unborn child’s condition would be adversely affected; and worse, whatever she had craved for and eaten avidly during her 'paglilihí' would influence the child’s physical characteristics. People who believe in such cases would surely allege that the mother of the “crab child” had feasted on crabs when she was in the stage of 'paglilihí.' In fact, in the Philippines, claims like “'pinaglihi sa palaka, sa luya, sa dwende…'” [conceived of frog, of ginger, of dwarf…], or even “'sa sama ng loob'” [of ill feelings] are very common. However, thanks to the advancements in medical science—for the many myths about 'paglilihí' are gradually being dispelled.
Medical science now provides us with a better understanding of the term 'paglilihí,' which refers to the period that stretches from conception through the first trimester of pregnancy. In this stage, the pregnant experiences hormonal changes that affect her bodily functions. The craving, hypersensitivity of taste and smell, nausea, morning sickness, and mood swings are common symptoms of the changes. Some psychologists also claim that the hormonal swings of pregnancy can make a woman more emotional; she may begin feeling neglected. Because her belly begins to distend, she may feel fat and unattractive. To reassure herself, she may seek her husband’s attention more frequently by, typically, asking for certain hard-to-find delicacies.
The health of the mother during pregnancy has indeed many effects on the developing fetus. For example, women who, during pregnancy, were malnourished, did smoke or drink, or had in any way ingested unprescribed drugs would have had greater chances of delivering babies with congenital defects. And to attribute the case of the “crab child” to any of these factors is to be medically correct.
Physical characteristics or the hereditary traits are transmitted from parents to offspring by the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) the genes contain. The fundamental hereditary material in almost all organisms, DNA determines the general makeup of an individual—such as hair color, complexion, height, bone structure, and even the shape of the hands.
In genetics, or the science of heredity and the relationships of organisms resulting from the interaction of their genes and the environment, there is a process known as 'mutation.' This abnormal process involves the alteration in the genetic material transmitted to the offspring. It may be spontaneous—that is, the result of accidents in the replication of the genetic material—or induced by external factors like temperature, x-rays, ultraviolet light, and chemicals. Its likely results are congenital abnormalities, physical deformities, and other aberrations. And any one or a combination of such spontaneous and external factors is the more probable reason some children are born with “crab hands” or any other unusual physical features.
In 1977, in a remote province in China, Yu Chenhuan surprised his parents when he was born with long silky hair on almost his entire body. His condition continued to mystify everyone as he grew up into a very hairy boy. People who believe in the myth of 'paglilihí' would simply dismiss Yu as a case of a child conceived of monkey ['pinaglihi sa unggoy']. However, the medical experts who looked into his condition found out that Yu was suffering from a disorder known as 'hypertrichosis.' Also called 'hirutism,' this is the rare genetically transmitted X-linked dominant disorder that is characterized by excessive hairiness on either localized areas or the entire skin of the body./©2004 eLf ideas
'The World’s Fantastic Freaks.' Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 1986.
[http://www.pregnancyguideonline.com/wk6.htm" title="http://www.pregnancyguideonline.com/wk6.htm" target="_blank">www.pregnancyguideonline.com/wk6.htm] 02/00/05.
About the Author: aLfie “eLf” vera mella was born in 1971 in Metro Manila, Philippines. He was a very inquisitive child who had shown fondness for reading and writing at an early age. He graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, but the literatus in him never left his heart.
A true artist, eLf was the vocalist of a New Wave band, named Half Life Half Death, which served as the musical vehicle for his poetry. Before he left his beloved country in 2003, he was working as an editor of and writer for scholastic books and magazines.
eLf is currently living in British Columbia, Canada, serving as a caregiver for his maternal grandfather. He may have left a well-loved work but for a noble reason, and he never ceased from doing what he loves most since childhood—writing. Virtually always home, he usually spends his solitary nights reading, researching, and writing about various subjects of his interest—chiefly, Culture, History, Literature, Mythology, Music, and Science—with New Wave music always lingering in the background like a gentle breeze on a quiet sea.
A writer at heart, eLf started inditing his thoughts around the age of six; and he intends to continue documenting his feelings and ideas until his twilight.