Filipino Folk Beliefs

September 30, 2010

A folk belief or superstition is a common notion that an object, action or circumstance has a consequential, often ominous, influence on the outcome of a course of events and is widely accepted by members of a group even without logical or scientific basis. In the Philippines, the terms used are paniniwala (belief), kasabihan ng mga matatanda (sayings of old people) and pamahiin (superstitions).

Pamahiin has been a part of the Filipino culture and may vary from province to province, reflecting the particular traditions and customs of different groups based on their religious beliefs, old practices or opinions passed down from one generation to the next.

Today, some people mostly ignore these beliefs due to lack of logical or scientific proof, but others still cling to them with a “wala namang mawawala kung susunod” (there’s nothing to lose if we comply) attitude that is also passed down from the elders along with these superstitions. The pamahiins still adhered to cover anything from love, courtship and marriage; conception, pregnancy and childbirth; babies and children; money and fortune; food; home and family; illness and death; numbers and colors; animals; signs and premonitions; bad and good luck; and others.

Below are some examples of Filipino folk beliefs:

Sleeping and dreaming
* Turn your pillow upside down to avoid recurring dreams.
* Always sleep facing east, or you will not face a bright future.
* If a person sleeps on her book, she will have a good memory.
* After studying at night, place the book you’ve been studying under your pillow, and you will retain what you have read.

During nighttime
* Cry at night and you will be happy tomorrow.
* Don’t comb your hair at night, lest you become bald, orphaned, or widowed.  But if you must comb at night, bite the tip of the comb first.)
* When walking with friends, especially at night, always travel as a group of even number.  If it is an odd number, one of you will be taken away by the spirits to make the number even.
* Washed clothes should be taken from the clothesline at night, lest they be stolen and worn by dwarfs.
* Don’t trim your nails at night or one of your parents will die.

* Whatever you do or feel on New Year’s Day will continue the rest of the year.
* Better to find money on New Year’s Day than spend it.
* Jumping on Easter morning hastens growth and makes a person taller. (Another variation says that “jumping when the clock strikes 12mn on December 31st will make the person taller”)
* When the bells ring on Easter Sunday, shout at the top of your lungs and you will have a long life.

Dos and Don’ts
* Don’t gamble if you’ve just had a haircut, for you are certain to lose.
* Never give a pair of shoes away for free.  Either throw up the shoes up in the air and let the prospective owner pick them up, or let him or her buy it for five centavos.
* Don’t seat on books, or you will be dumb.
* Before throwing hot water onto the ground, give a warning to the elves.  When harmed, they may retaliate by making you sick.
* Before stepping on an anthill, first ask to be excused.  Otherwise, a spirit may play tricks on you.
* Carry a piece of ginger on your body when you visit a place not frequented by others, so that the evil spirits of that place will not harm you.
* If you walk in the forest, rub your feet with garlic to prevent animals from harming you.
* Do not harm or cut down a balete tree, because it is a dwelling place of fairies and enchanted spirits.
* Don’t whistle or sing in the forest, lest the enchanted spirits imitate you and cause to fall ill.
* If someone sneezes while you are about to leave your house, postpone your trip or something bad will happen to you.
* To overcome stage fright when speaking in public, tuck one-centavo coin inside the shoes you are wearing.
* Don’t cut your nails at night, or on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
* If you happen to get lost, invert your clothes and you will find your way.
* To prevent rain, take ashes from the kitchen and spread them over your yard.
* Don’t go out on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, for evil fairies are roaming around to hurt people.

When Not to Take a Bath or Shower
* Don’t take a bath on a Friday.
* Don’t take a bath in the afternoon.
* Don’t take a bath in the evening.
* Don’t take a bath on the first Friday of the month.
* Don’t take a bath on a Good Friday.
* Don’t take a bath on New Year’s Day.
* Don’t take a bath on the feast day of St. Lazarus.
* Don’t take a bath on the thirteenth day of the month.
* Don’t take a bath when you are hungry.
* Don’t take a bath after eating.
* Don’t take a bath before gambling.
* Don’t take a bath after going to church.
* Don’t take a bath when there is a rainbow.
* Don’t take a bath during a full moon.
* Don’t take a bath when you have your period (for women).


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