15 May 2016

20 Forgotten Filipino Superstitions from an Obscure Lipa City Historical Document


The superstitions enumerated in this article are from an obscure document entitled “Historical and Cultural Life of the City of Lipa” which I downloaded from the National Library of the Philippines’ Digital Archives.1 The document is incomplete and the date is missing, but given the papers’ yellowed state when scanned and the use of a typewriter to create it, my guess is that it must have been created at the latest in the fifties, but most possibly even earlier.

While we Filipinos generally continue to be superstitious even in the present day, suffice it to say that knowledge in the modern day has taught most of us to take these superstitions with a grain of salt. The superstitions listed in this article, however, give great insight about Filipino beliefs half a century ago.

The superstitions are lifted verbatim from the document. To be perfectly honest, not all of them are obscure even to me; and I make annotations at the bottom of this article to expound on those that sound familiar.

Superstitions:
  1. When a pregnant mother cuts her hair, she will give birth to a hairless baby.
  2. It is not good to leave the house when someone is still eating. Bad luck may come on the way.2
  3. Putting plates one over another when there is a dead person is bad. Other members of the family may die.
  4. It is good to plant bananas after eating a heavy meal so that the bunches (of bananas) will be big.
  5. It is good to plant fruit bearing crops on the first day after the full moon so that the plants will continuously bear fruit. On this day, the sun and the moon are first seen both in the sky.
  6. It is not good to cut fingernails at night or on Fridays.3
  7. It is not good to begin a certain piece of work or activity on Tuesday or Friday as it is bound to fall.
  8. A black cat, a lizard, a rat, or a snake seen crossing the way is a sign of bad luck and one should not continue his journey.4
  9. If the bride puts on her wedding trousseau before the date of the wedding, bad luck will befall her.5
  10. When one's foot hits an object soon after coming down the stairs, there will be danger on the way.
  11. When dogs howl in melancholy tones at night, ill, fate will befall someone in the neighbourhood.6
  12. When a married woman eats twin bananas, she will give birth to twins.
  13. When one dreams that one of his teeth fell, somebody in the family will die.
  14. When a comet appears in the sky, war or famine is coming.7
  15. When a girl has white spots on her fingernails, she is not a constant lover.8
  16. When a cat wipes its face, a visitor is coming.9
  17. When a young girl sings before a stove or fire she will marry a widower.
  18. When a hen cackles at midnight, an unmarried woman is giving birth to a bastard child.
  19. In building a new house the owner puts coins as one-peso, fifty-centavo, twenty-centavo piece while erecting the posts of the house. The coins are placed at the base of the posts.
  20. When a wife is on the family way, the husband should not mend the floor of his house or other parts of it which need hammering or tying, because the wife will meet hardship in delivery.
Notes and References:

1 National Library of the Philippines Digital Archive
2 The version I know of this superstition is more about leaving the table when somebody is still eating; and less about how it could bring bad luck and more a matter of being rude.
3 I used to hear something like this from my mother and the admonishment was always that cutting fingernails at night would result in the “taingang-daga.” This was really just a cuticle lodged in the corner of the fingernail.
4 Superstition about black cats crossing one’s path, I believe, is universal; but this is the first time I am hearing that the same superstition once applied to snakes and lizards as well.
5 Superstition about putting on the wedding gown, I believe, is also present in other cultures.
6 At least in my own family and circle of friends and acquaintances, the belief was that the howling dog was seeing the soul of someone who just died.
7 Another fairly universal superstition.
8 “Constant” in the context of this superstition probably means “loyal” or “true.”
9 My mother’s version of this superstition was a spoon dropping to the floor meant a female visitor was going to arrive; and a fork dropping meant a male visitor.

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