21 February 2011

Filipinos and Our Superstitions

I was walking towards the side gate early this evening after training when I caught sight of one of two stray black cats that for some reason have made their home right inside the campus. I am an educated man; yet, in many ways, education has not rid me of certain superstitions, many of which I neither fully understand nor can explain.

Many of these beliefs – naturally – were picked up during childhood; and just never outgrown. In a manner of speaking, they have become hang-ups, even. The black cat is one of these. I do not know. The black cats on campus are – to be perfectly honest – just minding their own business and just doing normal cat things that they need to do.

It is just that I have this thing against them. I understand – from somewhere – that if a black cat crosses your path at night, then that is supposed to bring bad luck. Goodness! Any black cat – I can imagine – probably does not really have much in the way of choices when it is born; or at least, in the pigmentation of its fur.

Yet, this evening, I eyed the black cat warily as it ran around near the outdoor courts. However, my companion and I were in conversation as we walked; and as the cat had disappeared into the dark, I promptly forgot all about it.

But, as we turned the corner leading to the old library, there it went scampering across the corridor just ahead of us. Not one cat; it was quickly followed by the other black cat. Oh, for Christ’s sake; the cats were probably after a rat or just playing the cat version of tag.

My reaction was still instinctive: I quickly changed direction so that – at least to my mind – the goddamned cats were not really crossing my path. Get it? By turning, I was walking parallel to where it was going; and so technically, it was not crossing my path.

My companion, who knows all about this thing I have about black cats, instinctively did as I did. That is, change direction as well… You are probably visualizing the silly scenario; and I hope you choke from laughing! My philosophy is fairly simple: walâ namang mawawalâ if I took evasive action.

But you are right; I always feel a tad foolish about myself even if I know I will resort to the exact same course of action if the goddamned cats scamper across where I am going as they will probably do again in the next few evenings.

The truth of the matter is that we Filipinos are a silly lot when it comes to superstitious beliefs. When one of my nephews was newly born and coming to visit us for the first time – this was many, many years ago – his grandmother on the other side – who had gone along – asked my Mom for some salt which she then proceeded to sprinkle at the four corners of the room where my baby nephew was to stay.

That was either to ward off bad spirits or bad luck; I honestly do not recall. What I do recall is my Mom asking her kumare if she needed some toyo as well. Mom was probably just trying to make light of the situation; on the other hand, there was probably not just a hint of sarcasm in her question as well.

Of course, Mom was being herself by conveniently forgetting that she had her own list of dos and don’ts that were just sabi ng mga matatandâ that she could not really explain beyond that. For instance, she used to warn us never to go to sleep with our hair still wet from taking a bath. There used to be daw this somebody na naluka for doing so. Whoever that somebody was, I never did find out.

That one – unlike this thing with the black cat – I outgrew; and probably because I used to fall asleep with my hair still wet, anyway, and to my mind – or so I would like to think – I never really lost my wits.

She also used to ban taking baths on Good Fridays – it was supposed to bring bad luck. Of course, Good Fridays are always during the hot and humid summer months. I do not recall exactly when, but I was a teenager – and it must have been particularly hot that day – when I decided to throw Mom’s superstition out the window. Nothing naturally happened; and I have been taking baths on every Good Friday since.

To my mind, nothing brings out more superstitions than when somebody dies. Tu-ong naglalabasan! Somebody ought to write a book on the topic alone!

The fire that burns from the wick of the candle during the wake must be kept alive daw until the deceased is laid to rest; else his or her spirit remains earthbound. That is why, before the fire dies down when the wax of the candle has been almost burnt up, the next candle has to be lit from the same fire.

When somebody is killed – say – by way of a road accident, then candles have to be lit where the accident happened. Para daw ‘ata hindî mangaon ‘yung soul of the accident victim…

Tears daw must never fall on the coffin of a deceased person. My brother must have heard this somewhere and warned me the day we were to lay my Mom to rest. When your Mom is about to be buried and you are bawling your heart out, the last thing you need to know is the Science behind some silly belief.

In the old days before a tomb was closed, in certain instances it used to be that the coffin was momentarily opened and the small children carried above the deceased – pinalalakdaw. In some cases, pinamamano; particularly if the deceased was a family elder.

When the coffin is to be rolled or carried out of the church and then pushed into the nitso – help me out – which one is first, paa or ulo? But see what I mean? There are way too many you get confused in the end!

What about you? Got a superstition to share? Feel free to use the Comments Form at the end of this post. Not on Facebook please because I rotate the links.

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