All Things Asian Event Post: 04.13.2012 – Filipino Superstitions!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

All Things Asian: April 2-16

Zara’s All Things Asian Event Post:

Filipino Superstitions!

The blogs: That Hapa Chick; Live, Laugh, I Love Books; and My Words Ate Me are hosting the All Things Asian Event featuring guest posts about anything and everything about the Asian culture!

My guest post blogging interview will be featured on one of the host blogs on April 13—that’s TODAY! Please visit ThatHapaChick to read my interview!

Each and every day, a guest post will be featured until April 16, 2012, so be sure to drop by and visit the hosting blogs! Just click on the All Things Asian button above that links to the host blog.

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As for me, I couldn’t pass up the chance to post a few articles as part of the All Things Asian Event on my own blog, alongside this important event because quite simply put: I’m Asian! And I’m especially honoured and driven to share the beauty of Asia with my readers to foster awareness, community, and inclusivity—all things that are especially important to me.

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Filipino Superstitions

Even though more than 97% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic and/or Christian in the Philippines, the Filipino culture is also entrenched in the deeply rooted belief of superstition and the occult.

To coincide with Friday the 13th, this post will feature Filipino superstitions. Though there are many, probably as many as there are dialects in the country (of which there are more then 175), I will feature superstitions that I am familiar with as a third-generation Filipino and a Balikbayan. This is a brief collection of Filipino superstitions that I have heard of and have learned from my own family and Filipino friends.

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Dropping Cutlery on the Floor

When a fork is accidentally dropped on the floor, it is said that the household will receive a male visitor very soon. If a spoon, a female is expected. There is no superstition associated with dropping a knife on the floor.

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Broken Glass

When a glass falls to the floor and breaks it is considered a bad omen (and I don’t mean, you’re favourite glass just broke!) that foretells a death to come soon whether in the family or someone that the family knows.

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Tearing Photos in Half

Filipinos are discouraged from ripping or tearing photos of couples in half. In doing so, it is said to fulfill a prophecy of a future break-up between the couple. It is best to leave photos intact.

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The Number of People in a Photograph

When taking pictures of people in a posed photograph, it is considered bad luck to take a photo of only three people. It is believed that if this is done, the person in the center of the photo between two other people is said to potentially die prematurely. If three people pose, you can often see a Filipino ask a stranger to take a photograph to include him or herself in the photograph to raise the count to at least four or encourage another person to join in.

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Babies Sucking on Their Own Toes

It is said that when babies suck on their toes, they desire a baby brother or sister and this indicates a potential pregnancy for his or her mother.

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Giving a Baby or Child a Gift of Shoes

It is discouraged to give a baby or a child shoes as a gift. If done, it is believed that the child will only grow up to emotionally “step all over you.”

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Cutting Baby’s Hair

It is discouraged for the family to cut their baby’s hair for the first time before his or her first birthday. To do so, would hinder long life for the child. This is believed to be true for both girls and boys.

M.'s first haircut. And a lollipop as his prize! He was more than two years old here.

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Eating Pancit on Birthdays

Pancit, the Filipino noodle dish similar to Chinese Chow Mein is traditionally eaten on birthdays to symbolize “long life and good health” for the birthday celebrant due to the length of the noodles themselves. Pancit noodles should not be cut because of this.

Pancit Bihon

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Dreaming of Teeth Falling Out

It is believed that when someone dreams that their teeth are falling out, a death in the family is soon to come.

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Hanging Knives or Swords as Decor

Interior design is just as important to the Filipino as Feng Shui to the Chinese. Hanging knives or swords on the wall in a room or above a doorway is said to instigate fighting and discord within a household. Take those knives off the wall!

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Renaming a Sick Child

A child in the family who is consistently physically sick or ill is said to be named incorrectly as if the name he or she was given was poorly chosen and does not rightfully “belong” to the child and that is why he or she has physically manifested sickness.

If this is the case, a family may decide to “rename” the child. What is interesting here is how this is done.

An uncooked egg is placed and stood on a hard surface each time a name is called out by the family and/or family member of the ill child.

If the egg falls (as it naturally is expected to), then the name called out is not the correct name for the child and another name must be chosen.

This is done each time for each name called out—until the uncooked egg stands on its own on the hard surface for a noticeable period of time.

When this happens, it indicates that the correct name of the child has been called out and the child will then be renamed accordingly since the name chosen was lost, but now found.

An example of this was practiced in my family for one of my cousins who was extremely sickly when she was a young child. The family had gathered and my grandmother, my Nanay, my aunt, and my father called out potential names for my cousin. The uncooked egg did indeed stand for more than a minute (I witnessed it myself) when a new name was chosen. My cousin was renamed according to that practice and is healthy today.

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Birthmarks and Beauty Marks

It is said that the beauty marks found on your body are places in which your father kissed your mother during your conception. Based on this superstition, my father kissed my mother various places on her face…and a spot on her back and shoulder! Mmm…interesting…

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It is also believed that if you have a beauty mark on either of your eyelids or very close to the surrounding area of your eyes, you have been gifted with the ability to see spirits. My brother-in-law has this mark and is also believed to share this gift.

Leona Lewis with a star beauty mark under her eye.

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Customs Practiced During New Years’ Eve

The coming of a New Year is one of excitement and anticipation for many Filipinos as it is for others worldwide. Practices that help induce good fortune are readily practiced on New Years’ Eve:

  • The house should be cleaned thoroughly before the end of the year so to influence cleanliness throughout the New Year.
A pristine, clean house!

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  • The fridge should be stocked with fresh food and not be left empty. This symbolizes abundance in food and health for the household in the upcoming year.
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  • All lights need to lit in the house just before the countdown towards the New Year so that no evil or darkness shall befall the household in the New Year.
All lights turned on in a room.

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  • All cupboards, drawers, and doors should be left open and ajar before the arrival of the New Year in order that abundance and good fortune be openly accepted and received into the home.
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  • Fresh fruit such as tangerines or oranges are to be placed above doorways on New Years’ Eve to ensure and welcome abundance and good fortune into the home.
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  • During the countdown, coins are readied in fists and once the clock strikes 12:00 a.m. into the New Year, the coins are then thrown up into the air and allowed to fall to the floor.

Once the New Year has arrived, the coins are counted and divided according to how they have fallen, either heads or tails.

The heads of the coins represent visitors. The tails of the coins represent money. If there are more heads that have turned up rather than tails, the household is expected to receive more visitors and guests rather than finances. If tails exceeds the number of heads in coins, then an abundance of money will far exceed that of visitors or guests in the New Year.

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  • A baby or young child is usually thrown up in the air and caught when the clock strikes 12:00 a.m. in the New Year. It is believed that doing this will encourage physical and emotionally growth as well as an increased height of ambitions fulfilled for the child in the New Year and thereafter.

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Traditions Practiced Associated with Death

Filipinos are deeply sensitive and intuitive to the manner of death and the rich transition from life to death when it comes to spiritual and superstitious beliefs. Where the spiritual and superstitious begin and end continue to blur.

These beliefs, too, can vary in their practice according to region:

  • When there is a death, mourners are discouraged, even banned from weeping and crying physical tears over the body of their dead.

It is believed that the grief encompassed by the mourner and manifested in his or her tears cannot touch the body of the deceased because the weight of this grief will only burden the deceased’s spirit and weigh it down, discouraging it to finally ascend into Heaven.

When my grandfather died of pancreatic cancer, the entire family was there at his deathbed. I wept. But when I neared his body, I was held back by my aunts and my tears were caught in their hands in order to avoid their fall on his body.

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  • Children are discouraged from attending funeral wakes in belief that the sight of them would endear the deceased so much that their attachment to the world would remain in their love of the child(ren) and cause them to unwillingly move into the spiritual world in which they would be trapped into Purgatory forever.
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  • If a young child gets sick during a wake or funeral, it is believed the spirit of the deceased has touched them in love, believing themselves to still be alive.
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  • When visiting a cemetery and gravesite, once the mourner and or visitor plans on leaving, the visitor must not turn to look back at the loved one’s grave plot or stone. It is believed that if one does look back, the yearning found in that act would only call out to the spirit of the deceased and leave him or her with unrest. This is also discouraged in belief that the spirit of the loved one would only then follow you from his or her gravesite.
The Brampton Cemetery. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
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  • As you leave the grave plot/stone/site, an incantation is spoken out to deter evil spirits who have not ascended into Heaven or have been trapped in Purgatory from following you out of the cemetery grounds.

  • Once you leave the cemetery, it is a practice to not travel straight home, but to make a re-route and stop at an entirely different place before returning home. This act is done to deter spirits from attaching themselves to you and following you home to haunt and disturb you or your family. It’s almost as if the act in itself is an act of intended confusion towards the spirits of the spirit world when leaving a cemetery.
When me, my sister, and my brother-in-law last visited the gravesite of my grandparents, we left and stopped at a nearby McDonalds for cups of coffee before going home. Whether or not we believe this superstition to be true, it is a well-engraved practice in our culture and in our family.
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Whew!

And you thought walking under a ladder was all it took to bring about bad luck!

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If you know more Filipino superstitions and would like to share them, I encourage you to email me and I can include it in this post with appropriate credit to you. I’m curious to see how this page might evolve and grow.

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What superstitions do you believe in?

Are there any particular things you do or avoid doing when it’s Friday the 13th? 

What particular Filipino superstition did you learn about today that you were most surprised by or most fascinated by?

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For previously posted features by The Bibliotaphe’s Closet for the All Things Asian Event, visit the Event Page here.

Zara Alexis

6 thoughts on “All Things Asian Event Post: 04.13.2012 – Filipino Superstitions!”

  1. I’m really surprised to hear that you’re not supposed to cry over the dead. It seems like something you’d naturally do while mourning. I’m Chinese and we’re not allowed to receive visitors in our home for an extended period of time after a relative has passed… because you could pass bad luck onto another family. But that never felt like a helpful superstition either!

    1. Yes. We may cry and mourn physically. But not over the body to protect it from our tears. Tears may fall anywhere else, but not on the body. I didn’t know about your Chinese tradition regarding visitors either. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. An hope you come back soon.

  2. I totally believe in superstitions as well. When my mom passed away recently, we had seen so many signs before her death. From crows to black cat superstitions. And that other superstition where when one passes down their items of jewelry down to you, you shouldnt take it. Which in my wrong doing, I took it when my mom passed it down to me :/ I didnt realize it at the time. And before they closed her casket, I had to wait til my tears stopped coming down before I could kiss her one last time.

  3. Can anyone please tell me if they have ever heard of this in any Asian culture. My son has married a girl from Cambodia (we are Australian) and they have a new born baby (2 weeks old). We had the misfortune of having to attend a friend’s funeral and was told that we could not visit our grandson for 100 days as the child would cry for so many days and nights. An answer would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Pat, That particular custom is one that I haven’t heard of, but I’m Filipino, not Cambodian. I know in the Filipino Catholic culture, there is a waiting period of 40 days, which signifies the time that the departed soul is apparently still travelling the earth before his/her soul ascends to Heaven. And also, family and friends aren’t supposed to cry tears over the departed body as you may have read on my blog. Young children in the Filipino culture are also not supposed to attend the departed’s wake or funeral in fear that the departed soul would not want to ascend to Heaven because he/she has seen the young child and would prefer to stay. It’s also said that the departed’s soul, if in contact with a young child, would inexplicably make the child sick. This may be similar to the Cambodian belief about the baby crying in your presence out of mourning for the funeral you had attended? Not sure, but it might be something like that. Sorry for your loss and hope you’ll be able to visit your grandchild soon!

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