I WAS in a bookshop looking for a craft book when I chanced upon a less than hundred page book on the Filipinos’ list of beliefs, folklore and superstitions whatever one may want to call it, entitled, "Don’t Take a Bath on a Friday" by Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz.
I had actually half read this book from way back because it was the first of Cruz’ books on Filipinos quirks. I had a copy of one of her books -- You Know You’re A Filipino If…--published after the superstitions book that was personally selected and edited by the same author. The book is a funny but real depiction of how to spot a Filipino in a crowd, for instance.
It was while reading the book that I had a good laugh because without us knowing, our habit and mannerisms really make us different from other nationalities. Like—we point with our lips as if it was our index finger. A lot of us also have this fondness for adding “H” to names like Mhel, Rhon, and Jhun. Lately, it has been LL to names like Jullie, Rollie, and Mellie. A classic Filipino habit to this day is when we draw a rectangle in the air when asking for the bill from waiters in the restaurants where we eat. I, myself, do this, too. And how we all turn around when we hear “Pssst”.
While Cruz’ book on Philippine superstitions and folk beliefs was published more than a decade ago now and even with the changing of the times, a lot of the beliefs (it is said that Filipinos have around 8,000 documented beliefs and superstitions) it is surprisingly still being followed and practiced to this date.
I took fancy on the book because just two weeks ago, a classmate-friend’s brother was buried after a tragic accident. My husband who attended the burial narrated to me how our classmate was pissed off at his mother-in-law because she would not allow his wife to pay her last respects to her brother-in-law as he was laid to rest. The mother-in-law averred that her daughter was pregnant and it was not allowed to have women heavy with child to take part in such activities.
When I gave birth to my son seven years ago, I had a similar complaint. My mother-in-law followed several beliefs that run counter to mine and to how I would have wanted to do things. I said to myself that if we were to subject ourselves to all the Filipinos’ beliefs and traditions, there is very little we can do because we would be stifled by them. As our elders used to say—“wala namang mawawala kung gawin o sundin natin eh.” However, there is only little I can do if age and experience come into the picture. Of course, our parents think what have been practiced ought to be done through the passing of time.
Cruz aptly wrote in the book’s introduction — “Whether these superstitions charm or amuse or seem unbelievable today, who among us has the temerity to trifle with luck and taunt fate itself? Chuckle if you must…but don’t say I didn’t warn you if you fail to heed their advice!”
I admit though that reading Cruz’ book on Philippine superstitions and folk beliefs, a number of them are very much in practice not only by myself but a number of us as well. Here are some of the beliefs that are still very much adhered to and believed in until today:
* A person with big ears will have long life.
* Never sweep the floor at night, or you’ll lose all your wealth.
* The first things one should carry into a new home on moving day are rice and salt.
* If your palm itches, it means you will soon receive a lot of money.
* If a spoon falls during a meal, you’ll be visited by a woman. If it’s a fork, it will be a man and if it’s a teaspoon, a child.
* Going to bed with wet hair leads to blindness or insanity.
* During a wake, never see your visitors off at the door of the chapel or funeral parlor.
* Thirteen is both a lucky and an unlucky number.
* If frogs croak in summertime, it is a sign of coming rain.
* The bride-to-be shouldn’t try on her wedding dress before the day of her wedding, or the wedding will not take place.
* Cutting a baby’s eyelashes during the first month will make them grow long and beautiful.