MORE THAN once you’ve heard in this space that if you’re looking for scholarly research, hard statistics, or cold immutable facts, then I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint more than a little bit. Bad enough that sometimes I’m so lazy that anything outside TriPeaks Solitaire and my new discovery Candy Crush Saga gets little more than a hmm from me, but to do anything beyond humoring a stray bubble of imagination or spark of interest in the big wintry world outside my room would probably be asking a bit too much these days, after fighting the cold, finishing chores and finding a little quality time with Mahal.
The only thing I can do is give voice to whatever wacky and loony thought entertained in my cranium, play with it a little bit and finally run it through the guys in WordPress, who have incidentally been world-class in hosting my little blog and have been very accommodating in allowing me to vent and rave about my life as an accidental (but for the moment quite comfortable) pinoy migrant in Middle Earth.
Speaking of Mahal, we enjoy attending Pinoy Mass, as we just did last week. Not only do we recharge spiritually, but we also meet kabayan who we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, get access to native dishes sold by enterprising co-faithful, and commune with others in prayer and thanksgiving. Beyond that, I also found occasion to notice something about Mahal after Holy Communion, during which she kept her lips tightly pursed, and I had to ask if anything was the matter. Evidently, it was first priority for her to consume the holy Host without so much as chewing any part of it, as it was drilled into her from childhood that the latter is/was a definite no-no.
Really??? It has no foundation in either the Scriptures or church law, but allowing the Communion bread to melt in your mouth is the accepted thing to do. Anything else and you are asking for trouble, I realized, and as I scrutinized the people queuing up and receiving the sacrament, it was true that nearly everyone I saw kept their mouths closed. And those who didn’t, proceeded at their peril.
If you’ve spent any appreciable length of time in the Philippines as a native or visitor, you’ll know that there are quirky beliefs resulting from religion, tradition, or a combination of both, that have survived generations as well as urban legends that have been so imbedded in our popular culture that to Juan dela Cruz he accepts it as truth :
If you’ve just finished a meal, don’t engage in intense physical activity. And if you suffer a bump on the head, jump up and down to reduce and ill effects of such bump. I combine these two because I never bothered to figure out if they’re sound health advice and I heard about them from way, way back. Right after lunches and dinners, one of the worst things we could do was to start playing tag, habulan, dodgeball or any of those hysterically active games. According to the elders and the killjoys, intense play so soon after eating would inevitably result in appendicitis or some other horrible, dreadful juggling of your innards until you’d be sick to your stomach, literally. About the jumping around after a nasty bump, it reportedly would sort of mitigate the trauma caused by the contusion. It’s been so much a part of routine that a lot of people in my generation accept it as common-sense truth, although I’m not that sure now.
Don’t take a bath on Tuesday, don’t whistle at night, and don’t sing lively songs on Holy Week. The last one is self-explanatory for Catholic Philippines, where the only holidays taken as seriously as the Semana Santa break are Christmas, New Years Day, general elections and, used to be, a Manny Pacquiao prizefight. The solemnity and rituals observed during such feastday week were such that until recently, modern music and regular TV programming were taboo. Whistling at night, according to elders, was an invitation to malevolent spirits and other denizens of the night. And the first? Just another remnant of the old days when every day of the week represented a different day of Creation.
Funerals and wakes. Pregnant women are advised against attending funerals, I’m unaware exactly why but it surely has to do with the unborn child’s welfare and the recently departed who I assume is between the world of the living and the dead. We’ve known from our earliest years that it’s accepted practice to give money to the bereaved during funerals, in fact if you are close to the dead’s family you are expected to give a little something. It is acceptable and very few will frown at people conducting games of chance and gambling during the same, on the rationale that a portion of the winnings are set aside again for the mourners.
Pregnancy. On pregnancy itself, the expectant mother is advised against having sex until the very end of her long wait, on the ground that the baby’s head will be harmed by the father’s emissions; the baby itself soon after delivery is bound by a cloth so that its abdomen will not expand (this is more for cosmetic purposes but is widely practiced to the present time), and cruelly, mothers are advised strongly against bathing or showering for a month after delivery because it will be harmful to their health. I’m glad I won’t ever be a mom, because I can’t abide by these strange practices, no matter what their benefits are.
Urban legend. I have only two here, because any more and I won’t stop. On Balete Drive in the older part of Quezon City (the largest city in the Metro Manila region) there is a persistent story about a ghostly female presence that frequents the area, and there have been so many sightings and testimonial evidence that at least one movie has been made about it. Crazily, dozens of people have sworn that there is a half-human, half-reptilian creature that preys on unsuspecting women inside fitting rooms in the vast Robinsons Galleria mall. This urban legend will not die a quiet death, as it has returned again and again the past few decades.
Quiapo procession. And before I forget, it was a part of my childhood to witness a little portion of the famous Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo Manila where my father managed a printing press in the 1970s. No matter how sinful you were during the year, if you participated in this yearly procession in your bare feet, you could at least get forgiveness for most of your sins, assuming of course you did the penance or punishment. No wonder so many Catholic faithful participated in this event, pictured above. (Now, whether or not your sins were actually forgiven is probably a matter of conscience and conviction, I guess.)
Ask any Filipino, especially those living in Metro Manila past and present about any of the items above and you will likelier than not get a half-hour lecture on their origins and veracity. You will emerge either amused, outraged or a true believer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂
Thanks for reading!
- What is an Urban Legend? (myths.answers.com)
- BuzzFeed Pinoy Pride list: Lea, Charice, more (rappler.com)
- Pregnancy Old Wives Tales | Pregnancy Myths | BabyZone (babyzone.com)
- Pinoy prodigy shines Down Under (rappler.com)
- even for shortchanged migrants, NZ continues to improve employment outcomes (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)