Filipino superstitious beliefs

We all know the Philippines is a beautiful place and has a colorful history, culture, traditions, and of course its superstitious beliefs or ‘pamahiin‘. Let me share with you why ours is unique.

How did these superstitious beliefs start? 

Our ancestors believed in many gods, animals, and spirits. Worship was done through a variety of ceremonies, sacrifices, and customs. However, as a result of a long history of colonization in the Philippines by Spain (333 years to be exact), the religious beliefs have shifted from animism to Christianity.

Still, superstitious beliefs or pamahiin continue to influence the daily lives of the Filipino people, from fortune, love, and marriage to family, illness, and death. It may seem unusual since there’s no scientific explanation or whatever but many still believe because it typically serves as a warning for potential hazards. 

Here’s the list of the unique pamahiin or superstitious beliefs of the Philippines:

1. Stepping over a child will impede his/her growth.

Step
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This belief is so common in previous generations. When your younger sibling is laying down on the floor and you stepped over him/her, your mother will yell at you and will say ‘balikan mo yang kapatid mo di na lalaki yan!”, which means you need to step back over your younger sibling so that his/her growth would not stop. Obviously, there is no scientific explanation for this since we all know a child’s development is caused by several variables such as nourishment, genetics, gender, hormones, and socio-economic status.

2. No double weddings in the family!

Wedding superstitious belief
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This superstition is known as ‘sukob,’ if your sibling is going to get married this year, then you should not tie the knot this year as well. The belief is it will split the luck fortune between the two marriages and the death of a close relative.

3. Always serve pancit (noodles) on birthdays. 

Birthday superstitious belief
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Many Filipinos eat and serve noodles or “pancit” on their special day to represent long life. According to legend, the longer the noodles, the greater the yearning for long life. Hence, on every special occasion, there is always a pancit, which is a tradition we share with the Chinese. While Filipinos nowadays may joke and laugh about believing that this noodle dish gives long life, it is still a tradition at almost every birthday celebration.

4. After attending a wake or a funeral, don’t go home right away

Funeral superstitious belief
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This is locally known as pagpag. After attending a wake, you must do a ‘pagpag‘ or go somewhere else before going back home. It is needed to remove the bad spirits from following you to your home.

Another superstitious belief about wakes, if the funeral is held at your home, mirrors should be covered with fabric since the deceased may try to appear in them. One must also avoid looking at the mirror and brushing your hair throughout that time since these also bring bad luck.

5. You say ‘tabi-tabi po‘ whenever you’re outdoors

Nuno sa punso
Photo courtesy: https://whatculture.com

Don’t ever forget to say “tabi-tabi po” whenever you enter an unknown area because elementals and demons may play with you. Saying ‘tabi-tabi po’ translates to “excuse me” or “step aside, sir.” it’s a sign of respect for the unknown creatures or elementals.

This is uttered aloud while out in nature, especially when going through the forests or trekking up mountains. People are also more cautious when they see anthills, also known as “Nuno sa punso,” as this is a typical sign that dwarves live nearby. The words “Nuno” and “punso” refer to dwarves and anthills.

Filipinos also believed that if you point your finger in a bushy area, the dwarf or elementals will get angry. After that, bad luck and poor health may follow. To remove the bad luck you must bite your index finger.

6. Sweeping at night is ‘malas‘.

sweep
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This superstitious belief is common to Filipinos. Sweeping is allowed at any time of day but not after sunset, they believe that it will sweep away all the good fortune, and the ‘malas‘ means bad luck will come inside your home.

7. When you are giving a wallet/bag, put some money or coins. 

gift superstitious belief
Photo courtesy: https://otep.wordpress.com

Filipinos love to give presents. When someone gives a wallet as a gift in the Philippines, it should always contain money. This belief is supposed to assure the receiver’s financial prosperity. Even a few coins or paper notes in the wallet are sufficient to bring good luck.

These are some common superstitious beliefs that are still existing nowadays.

We Filipinos have a lot of beliefs and until now, we still believe in them. Maybe these superstitious beliefs are true or not, and it is still up to us whether we practice them or not.

It is a good thing though that even though these superstitious beliefs have no scientific reason, the tradition continues to be passed on to the next generation, thus keeping our culture somewhat alive.

If you’re not the type of people believing in these kinds of superstitions, then all you have to do is to respect the beliefs of others.

For more unique Philippines stories, visit Unique Philippines.

Written by

Joemie Prudente

A communication student, a writer, and a photographer. Music is my quiet place, my dogs and cats are my stress reliever, and watching K-dramas is my hobby (I wish someday I'll meet my Oppa in Korea). I shouldn't probably include this since I'm promoting the Philippines ?. Keep on dreaming until you achieve those dreams!