BELIEVE IT OR NOT

SuperstititonsBELIEVE IT OR NOT I have 1/3 Spanish, 1/3 Chinese and ½ Malay in my blood and I grew up in a household riddled with superstitions and ancient beliefs. As it is very well known, the Philippines had been occupied by the Spanish Conquistadores for almost 350 years and merchant trading brought Chinese into the islands of the Philippines. These migrations have enriched our customs and traditions and no matter what colour or ethnicity one may belong to, I have observed that there will always be some sort of interknitting of customs, beliefs and traditions of these cultures,….. superstitions, no exception. For example, if one broke a glass or anything breakable, one needed to break another piece of breakable item meaning that the breakage had been paired,(it was believed that bad luck come in twos) if this was not done, it is bad luck and the next breakage would be an accident of the one who broke it or someone close might encounter an accident or bad luck. Another one is the building of stairs in an Asian especially a Filipino home. I have to mention this because Feng Shui is the norm in Chinese home and is beginning to be adapted by Filipinos with Chinese ancestry. Oro, Plata, Mata which are Spanish words, translated to Gold, Silver, Death. The builder must ensure that the last step of the staircase wouldn’t be mata or death. If it ends in oro or Plata, which is gold or silver, this will attract wealth. Still another popular belief is the spilling of salt which is an omen of evil misfortune and this action can be counteracted by taking a pinch and throwing over your left shoulder where evil is standing behind waiting for open entry to come in. The thrown salt will blind the devil and will be powerless. I have to emphasize that I have consider these beliefs funny and never really affected by it and just ignored it. I was raised in a small military town in a suburb of Manila. I had always remembered having a cook, a maid and a nanny. Even then my mother has always expected the off springs to do their designated chores after school and on weekends. My main chore was to sweep the surroundings of the house where we lived in. We had a 300 square meters corner lot. After school, I usually swiftly do it, not even paying attention if it was done properly, as I wanted to see a live program of a tv variety show. My mother had warned me time and time again not to do my sweeping at around sunset as I won’t be able to see the spirits that come out during those periods of time and might be hurt by my sweeping. I usually used Walis Tingting, which is made of stiff ribs of palm leaves. One early evening, actually past sunset, I rushed to do sweeping and didn’t adhere to the countless advice that my mother had given me, went to finish watching the tv program I started to watch and went to bed the usual time. The next morning, I saw my left leg has swollen to three times its size that I couldn’t wear my shoes to go to school. It doesn’t hurt but when it is pinch, the portion of my leg will leave indentation but will go back to its inflated form after a while. My mother took me to a doctor who couldn’t understand this phenomenon. Took some x-rays and sent me home. He gave me a medical cream for swelling to apply which I did but nothing happen. The doctor called the next day to inform my mother that the x-rays didn’t show any anomaly whatsoever. I had been out of school for a week when an aunt suggested that I go to an Arbolario or a quack (witch) doctor and ask for consultation. She contacted an old man and ask my mother to buy a packet of Cigarillo, a kind of slim small native tobacco, popularly smoked by old men and women specially in provinces not as a payment but a gift, they don’t accept cash. Mang Nonoy is an “oldish” man missing a couple of teeth but gentle and kind. He said that I might have hurt a friendly spirit or Anito. He said that to appease them the solution is to make an offering by putting in a woven basket or Bilao, goodies like fruits, i.e. bananas, apples or any fruit in season, local rice cakes like Bibingka or puto. Then when sunset comes, I must not do any sweeping and go around the house and utter the words in the vernacular translated as follows “I am very sorry, ma’am/sir, I didn’t mean to hurt you, please forgive me”. This must be vocalized over and over again while holding the food offerings on one hand and a lit candle on the other, walking around the areas surrounding the house, where I was particularly doing my sweeping. After this had been done three times, I had to leave the basket of goodies on the centre of this activity. I obeyed what the Arbolario has asked me to do and you won’t believe it, when I woke up the following day, my left leg has come to its original size and form as if nothing had happened. I am able to wear my left shoes and go back to school. When I narrated this to my teacher and classmates when they asked me why I was absent from school for a week, they just couldn’t believe it. But I tell you, I have never done any sweeping at sunset from that time on. My attitude to what my granny, my mother and aunts regarding beliefs or superstitions has changed and as long as I am not hurting anyone by following their advice and opinion, I will follow them.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

I have 1/3 Spanish, 1/3 Chinese and ½ Malay in my blood and I grew up in a household riddled with superstitions and ancient beliefs. As it is very well known, the Philippines had been occupied by the Spanish Conquistadores for almost 350 years and merchant trading brought Chinese into the islands of the Philippines. These migrations have enriched our customs and traditions and no matter what colour or ethnicity one may belong to, I have observed that there will always be some sort of interknitting of customs, beliefs and traditions of these cultures,….. superstitions, no exception. For example, if one broke a glass or anything breakable, one needed to break another piece of breakable item meaning that the breakage had been paired,(it was believed that bad luck come in twos) if this was not done, it is bad luck and the next breakage would be an accident of the one who broke it or someone close might encounter an accident or bad luck. Another one is the building of stairs in an Asian especially a Filipino home. I have to mention this because Feng Shui is the norm in Chinese home and is beginning to be adapted by Filipinos with Chinese ancestry. Oro, Plata, Mata which are Spanish words, translated to Gold, Silver, Death. The builder must ensure that the last step of the staircase wouldn’t be mata or death. If it ends in oro or Plata, which is gold or silver, this will attract wealth. Still another popular belief is the spilling of salt which is an omen of evil misfortune and this action can be counteracted by taking a pinch and throwing over your left shoulder where evil is standing behind waiting for open entry to come in. The thrown salt will blind the devil and will be powerless. I have to emphasize that I have consider these beliefs funny and never really affected by it and just ignored it.

I was raised in a small military town in a suburb of Manila. I had always remembered having a cook, a maid and a nanny. Even then my mother has always expected the off springs to do their designated chores after school and on weekends. My main chore was to sweep the surroundings of the house where we lived in. We had a 300 square meters corner lot. After school, I usually swiftly do it, not even paying attention if it was done properly, as I wanted to see a live program of a tv variety show. My mother had warned me time and time again not to do my sweeping at around sunset as I won’t be able to see the spirits that come out during those periods of time and might be hurt by my sweeping. I usually used Walis Tingting, which is made of stiff ribs of palm leaves.

One early evening, actually past sunset, I rushed to do sweeping and didn’t adhere to the countless advice that my mother had given me, went to finish watching the tv program I started to watch and went to bed the usual time. The next morning, I saw my left leg has swollen to three times its size that I couldn’t wear my shoes to go to school. It doesn’t hurt but when it is pinch, the portion of my leg will leave indentation but will go back to its inflated form after a while. My mother took me to a doctor who couldn’t understand this phenomenon. Took some x-rays and sent me home. He gave me a medical cream for swelling to apply which I did but nothing happen. The doctor called the next day to inform my mother that the x-rays didn’t show any anomaly whatsoever.

I had been out of school for a week when an aunt suggested that I go to an Arbolario or a quack (witch) doctor and ask for consultation. She contacted an old man and ask my mother to buy a packet of Cigarillo, a kind of slim small native tobacco, popularly smoked by old men and women specially in provinces not as a payment but a gift, they don’t accept cash. Mang Nonoy is an “oldish” man missing a couple of teeth but gentle and kind. He said that I might have hurt a friendly spirit or Anito. He said that to appease them the solution is to make an offering by putting in a woven basket or Bilao, goodies like fruits, i.e. bananas, apples or any fruit in season, local rice cakes like Bibingka or puto. Then when sunset comes, I must not do any sweeping and go around the house and utter the words in the vernacular translated as follows “I am very sorry, ma’am/sir, I didn’t mean to hurt you, please forgive me”. This must be vocalized over and over again while holding the food offerings on one hand and a lit candle on the other, walking around the areas surrounding the house, where I was particularly doing my sweeping. After this had been done three times, I had to leave the basket of goodies on the centre of this activity.

I obeyed what the Arbolario has asked me to do and you won’t believe it, when I woke up the following day, my left leg has come to its original size and form as if nothing had happened. I am able to wear my left shoes and go back to school. When I narrated this to my teacher and classmates when they asked me why I was absent from school for a week,

they just couldn’t believe it.

But I tell you, I have never done any sweeping at sunset from that time on. My attitude to what my granny, my mother and aunts regarding beliefs or superstitions has changed and as long as I am not hurting anyone by following their advice and opinion, I will follow them.

fact or fiction
Nilda Juliana Johnston
Nilda Juliana Johnston
Read next: Allie on the Sand
Nilda Juliana Johnston

I am an amateur writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. I have lived in the Middle East for at least 30 years and I am well travelled. I have written a coffee table book entitled "The Islands of the Philippines, Country, Culture & Cuisine".

See all posts by Nilda Juliana Johnston