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Exploring the Fascinating World of Filipino Superstitions

One of the Filipino superstitions is sweeping at night.
Filipino superstitions have evolved into a cultural heritage within the Philippines.

The Philippines, a country rich in folklore and traditions, has deep-rooted beliefs in the supernatural. This is evident in the plethora of Filipino superstitions common across households around the country. From the common to the bizarre, these superstitions offer a fascinating insight into the culture of Filipino people.

One of the highest-grossing films in the Philippines is the movie “Sukob.” The story revolves around two separate weddings and a curse that befalls two couples.

Sandy, returning to the Philippines with her fiancé Dale, discovers an old superstition about getting married in the same year a family member dies. Tragedy strikes both weddings as mysterious deaths and strange occurrences follow. The couples seek help from a psychic and unravel a web of infidelity, hidden relationships, a vengeful spirit, and a mysterious curse.

The curse claims the lives of several individuals, including Sandy, who sacrifices herself to save her half-sister Diana. In the end, the curse falls upon the individual responsible for its creation, bringing closure and reconciliation to the surviving family members.

The word sukob means, literally, to share a cover. But it more commonly refers to the superstitious belief that siblings should not be married in the same year or that a couple should not be wedded in the same year a family member dies.

This is just one of the many superstitions that most Filipinos believe and are being practiced today. So where do these superstitions come from? Hop on as we explore the fascinating world of Filipino superstitions.

Origins and Influences of Filipino Superstitions

An amulet that you can name as an object considered to be good luck.
Many Filipinos can easily name an object considered to be good luck to ward off bad omen.

In the Philippines, you can pull someone off the street and they can probably name an object considered to be good luck. And go in just about any establishment or house and you’ll see objects that are believed to ward off bad luck. How have superstitions become so prevalent in the country?

Superstitions have been around for countless millennia. According to an article from The British Museum, the concept of today’s superstitions can be traced back to ancient Babylonia.

In the Philippines, the origins and influences of Filipino superstitions are deeply rooted in the country’s rich culture, even way back prehistoric era. These beliefs have been passed down through generations, which eventually blended the indigenous beliefs into other cultural influences that have interacted with the archipelago.

Before the Spaniard colonization, the early inhabitants of the country believed in paganism. In Philippine mythology, the ancient Tagalog people believed in a supreme being called Bathala. The superstitious beliefs of these ancient people are often tied to their worship of nature, spirits, and other beings.

Many of today’s superstitious beliefs can be traced to the Chinese, been interacting with the native Filipinos through trade and migration long before the Spaniards came. It’s no surprise that Chinese influences on Filipino culture also contributed to the development of superstitions. Chinese beliefs in feng shui, numerology, and fortune-telling merged with local customs, shaping Filipino superstitions related to luck, prosperity, and auspicious events.

The extent and interpretation of various Filipino superstitions depend on the region. Nevertheless, these superstitions remain ingrained in Filipino society, providing insights into the country’s rich cultural heritage.

12 Common Filipino Superstitious Beliefs

There’s a popular manga called Superstitious Nine. We’ll do a few better with twelve in this list of Filipino superstitions:

  1. Sweeping at night

    Many cultures have their own broom superstitions. Some people see a broom falling as meaning you’ll get married soon, or as bad luck.

    But in the Philippines, if you sweep the floor during the night, prepare a scolding from a Filipino grandmother. Sweeping at night is considered bad luck, as you will be sweeping all the wealth away from the household.

  2. “Pagpag”

    Some Filipinos believe that going home after attending a wake or funeral can bring bad luck or the spirit of the dead will go with you. This is why in certain Filipino funeral traditions, they practice “pagpag” which means you have to go somewhere else before going home to shake off the bad luck or lead the spirit away.

  3. “Usog”

    “Usog” is a superstition that attributes the illness of a child to a greeting from a stranger. In other regions, this also refers to excessive admiration given to a baby without making a sign of protection, such as putting saliva on the navel area.

  4. “Pamahiin” for pregnant women

    Pregnant women are told not to attend funerals to prevent the baby from acquiring the spirit of the deceased. They are also advised not to cut their hair during pregnancy, as it might lead to complications during childbirth.

  5. Mirror breaking

    One globally popular superstition is that a mirror breaking isn’t good luck, as you’ll get 7 years bad luck. In the Philippines, breaking a mirror also signifies bad luck, and it also means misfortune will be on your door.

  6. Taking pictures with just three people

    Some countries in Asia, including the Philippines, believe that it is bad luck to take pictures of only three people. They believe that the person in the middle will die soon.

  7. Filipino New Year traditions

    Making loud noises, such as banging pots and pans or setting off firecrackers, is believed to drive away evil spirits. Opening windows and doors is done to invite good luck into the house for the coming year.

  8. One of the loud Filipino New Year traditions is setting off firecrackers.
    Making loud noises to drive away bad luck is one of many Filipino New Year traditions.
  9. “Tab-tabi po”

    Sometimes, you might here a local say tabi tabi po meaning “excuse me” or “please make way.” This phrase is used to seek permission or show respect to unseen entities. By uttering tabi tabi po, Filipinos hope to avoid offending or disturbing these spirits and potentially inviting any misfortune or harm.

  10. “Pansit” during birthdays

    Eating “pansit” during birthdays has become an extremely common Filipino tradition. “Pansit” is a long noodle that’s believed to bring long life and good health to the birthday celebrant.

  11. “Oro, Plata, Mata” chant to count steps

    The phrase “oro, plata, mata” translates to “gold, silver, death” in Spanish. Filipinos believe you should chant this phrase to count the steps to build a staircase in the new house. The last step should be either “oro” or “plata” as they signify good luck. If you end up on “mata”, it is believed to be a symbol for bad luck.

  12. Knee itch

    The knee itch superstition is prevalent in different cultures, including the Philippines. According to this belief, when your knee itches, it suggests that someone will visit your home.

  13. Falling teeth in a dream

    Some culture often associates teeth falling out of a dream with financial troubles. For Filipinos, it signifies that someone close to them will die soon. It may be a family member, a relative, or a close friend.

Impact of Superstitious Behavior in Daily Life

Whether you believe it or not, superstitious behavior can affect both psychological and practical aspects of one’s daily life. It can influence one’s thoughts, actions, and decision-making processes.

For some, believing in these superstitions provides comfort and security. It gives them a sense of control and predictability for the unknown. But for some, it can also cause anxiety. It makes them believe in a false certainty, which may lead to heightened anxiety. They may feel a need to constantly perform rituals or adhere to specific behaviors to avoid perceived negative consequences.

Superstitions Form Part of the Vast Philippine Culture

Superstitions have become part of the culture and traditions of Filipinos. They have been passed down through generations, shaping the beliefs and practices of most Filipinos. While some wholeheartedly embrace these beliefs, others may be skeptical about believing.

But in the end, Filipino superstitions continue to thrive, adding color, intrigue, and a sense of wonder to the everyday lives of many Filipinos. They serve as a unique and fascinating aspect of Philippine culture and traditions.

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