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Philippine Superstition: Bati - A Greeting That Can Cause Harm

A charm pinned on clothes of babies is believed to ward off the greeting-induced malady called bati.

A charm pinned on clothes of babies is believed to ward off the greeting-induced malady called bati.

What is Bati?

One superstition that Filipinos today still strongly believe in is bati, also known as usog and bales. I can't say, or can't find the exact English word to explain it perfectly but the word "bati" literally means greeting. So it's safe to say a bati is a greeting that can give off maladies to the person being greeted without the greeter's intention of causing any form of ailment or harm.

To better explain bati is, think of evil eye instead as it is similar to the evil eye and some thinks or believes that the greeting-induced ailment can come from an envious person giving the compliment. Bati, sometimes called usog or bales would afflict mostly children but also even adults can suffer from it.

Babies tend to be the most susceptible to bati, usog or bales. It is hard guessing reasons for why babies cry as this could be hunger, diaper change needed, feeling sleepy, discomfort or pain. The later is associated with usog or bales specially when the baby cries just after a visitor left though all other possible reasons had been ruled out such as feeding and changing. This doesn't only occur with visitors coming to the baby's house but can happen everywhere such as in public when a stranger greeted how cute the baby is. This could also be in other situations such as attending parties with the baby or simply visiting friends or relatives or taking a walk in the park or in the neighborhood.

Not only with strangers but any of the neighbors, relatives or anyone can afflict the greeting-induced usog or bati. This could be anyone who have a strong personality or is domineering.

Stories of Bati

One story I want to share is when my aunt and uncle dropped by to visit. They used to live in the same province but went back to Manila for good. Having to take care of some things, they went back to the province and decided to visit us since they're going to pass by our town anyway. They're not familiar where our house exactly is but they knew they have to get off the bus before going up the small bridge. And so they had gotten off the bus and asked neighbors around. My dad was not home that time and was in one of our neighbors home while I and my younger brother were at school. One of our neighbors attended to them, had some chit-chat and called dad for uncle and auntie.

Dad came home in a couple of minutes and was surprised and happy to see uncle and aunt. They stayed a bit longer, chit-chatted and when they decided to head home, auntie started not feeling well. She was sweaty and had stomach ache. They were about to leave despite that but dad thought she was probably afflicted with bati. Dad asked our neighbor, also his good friend whom they had chit-chatted earlier to counteract the usog.

After saliva was smeared on my aunt's stomach, she was feeling fine again after a short period of time, as if nothing happened.

As for me, I was trying to recall if I can remember any encounter with bati, but can hardly remember any. I doubt it that I never had any since childhood but maybe I just couldn't remember it. Also it is said that some are less susceptible to bales or usog. Maybe I'm one of those.

Anyway, I do remember that whenever we would have a vacation back in the province where I was born and elder relatives would come by, I would hear them say "Pwera usog," as they touch my head few times, or the shoulders, or a pat in the back, while saying something in the province's dialect before leaving so I won't be overpowered by this greeting-induced malady.

What To Do to Counteract or Cure Usog, Bati or Bales

"Pwera usog" or "Pwera bati," is usually said after giving a compliment. It means no malady intended, said as a counter-utterance to compliments such as, "You look great today and fit," "I like your skin, it looks healthy and vibrant," or "You are so cute/beautiful."

If the counter words aren't said and a greeting-induced ailment such as a sudden stomach ache or headache occurred afterwards, the affected person have to seek the greeter and ask the person for the cure. This is done by the greeter smearing saliva on the affected person's forehead or abdomen while saying "Pwera usog" and making the cross sign. Good if the greeter lives in the neighborhood but if not, and the bati was from a stranger, the help of a folk healer is seek instead.

Also, to prevent being affected by bati, the person who received the compliment may say, "Thank you, hope you don't have usog," in a friendly way. This serves as a reminder for the greeter to say "Pwera bati/usog." Hearing this, the greeter will likely say so.

And for the babies, a talisman believed to repel the effect of bati or usog is made or bought and tied into their clothing until the baby becomes less susceptible to greeting induced ailments. The one I've seen pinned to my younger brother when he was still a baby, to my nephew and nieces and that I probably had worn too was this red seeds tinged with black color on one side. The seeds can be gathered once the pod opens, then place or wrap inside a red cloth. This is pinned or clipped on the baby's clothing.

Photo of the seeds used and is believed to protect babies from the greeting-induced malady called bati.

Photo of the seeds used and is believed to protect babies from the greeting-induced malady called bati.

For those who can add information about bati or anyone who have their own story to share or know someone who experienced bati, feel free to leave it on the comment section below. I would love to read about your own story and I know other readers will appreciate it too.

More from this Author

Quiz time, fun time!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Another word synonymous to bati.
    • Greeting.
    • Pwera usog.
    • Usog.
  2. Used to counteract bati.
    • Finger damped with the greeter's saliva on the afflicted person's forehead or navel area.
    • Wearing a bracelet.
    • Not going out so no one can greet you.
  3. Even adults can get afflicted of this greeting-induced malady.
    • I don't know.
    • No.
    • Yes.
  4. Pwera bati means?
    • No harm intended. Just giving out compliment and the greeting-induced malady isn't intended.
    • Except greeting.
    • I didn't mean to greet you.
  5. A bracelet made from certain seeds is worn by babies as protection from bati.
    • True.
    • It isn't true.
    • I didn't read the whole thing so I don't know.
Scroll to Continue

Answer Key

  1. Usog.
  2. Finger damped with the greeter's saliva on the afflicted person's forehead or navel area.
  3. Yes.
  4. No harm intended. Just giving out compliment and the greeting-induced malady isn't intended.
  5. True.


belle on November 11, 2015:

I also experienced being nausog and I had head ache for several days, I did not believe in such before even my mother that's why we did not seek for help or cure, my aunt suggested after a day for me to smell a specific plant.

And then one time we were at the market with my sister, I was so stressed and I have a lot of things in my mind, we were rushing because we have to buy some stuffs that we will give to my mothers friend at a specific time and there wasn't much time because of the traffic...

After buying stuffs, we I went to see my mom's friend and my sister is about to go home, but I forgot to give here something so I went straight to our jeepney line because I know my sister is there, when I saw here she was very pale and she felt stomach ache, she was nauseous and she felt that she needs to use the bathroom at the same time. Also she was sweating cold. So I held her hand and touched her ears.. after she vomitted, we sat for 10 minutes and then she was ok.

So I realized, maybe, nausog ko sya, because my aunt told me that when you were not cured by the person na nakausog sayo, nakakausog ka rin.

I felt really bad because all those she felt that time was what I felt when I was nausog, And I don't have any intention na mausog sya. So at that time I believed in 'usog'.

I'm here because I wan't to know if there is a cure para hindi ako nakakausog. Because I don't want others to feel ill because of me, if I am nakakausog and I still don't want to believe that I can do such thing.

precy anza (author) from USA on August 04, 2012:

@drbj: I see there's similarity with the cloth color being used :) but without the seeds or barks of trees with the cloth. Sounds much easier, I'll keep that in mind. Who knows maybe one day I could spot a baby in my home country with just a red ribbon or string. :)

precy anza (author) from USA on August 04, 2012:

@ jpmc: I agree to that, it is interesting with our faith and the ancestral traditions. Even here in US, I still hear my mom say "tabi-tabi po" when she pours anything on the ground in the afternoon or just before darkness. And with the saliva on babies, I can understand you on that, specially when it was an stranger you hadn't even met before or known. The "pwera usog" would be just fine.

@ Avian: as I think of it, with the opposite of the greeting like ," you look healthy!" and the person will get sick, hmnn... I don't think so. It could be also like ," that was a pretty dress!" or something else. And, sometimes there's even not a greeting being said, there are those people with the "usog" in them that just talking to them could give you the "usog" or "bati." I had heard many times one asking the other or the greeter if "they have the bati or usog?" If the greeter doesn't have the "usog" in him/her, he/she would reply " I don't have an usog/bati." :) Then the one being greeted can rest assured there's no ailment coming her/his way pretty soon after being greeted or talking to that person even without the counter-utterance being said.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 04, 2012:

With reference to talismans or good luck charms, an old eastern European custom was to pin a tiny red ribbon or string to the clothing of an infant to ward off the 'evil eye.'

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 04, 2012:

precy this like the power of suggestion? Once you mention something, can it just have an opposite effect, like saying, "I hope it doesn't rain today?" And just because you mention it or think of it, it happens?

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on August 03, 2012:

I had a grandmother who was really in to this. Superstitions are part of the culture and sometimes I just don't follow them for the sheer grossness and health risk it may have. Just imagine allowing someone to put their saliva on my baby. Who knows what infectious disease the person has.

However, I do not mind people mentioning pwera usog as it's already ingrained in the culture.

Also, it's interesting to note how our Catholic faith has merged with ancestral traditions.

Foreigners may not understand the custom but this hub is a good start for them.

precy anza (author) from USA on August 03, 2012:

Thanks Diyomar :)

@ Don Baldera: That's pretty scary. Sounds like you had endured a strong "bati." I love listening or reading stories such as these about "bati," "nuno," and such. And since you said you were from Bicol, I'm going to ask my dad about "sibang." :) He'd be surprised how I learned the word. ^-^' He's from Albay btw. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

DON BALDERAS on August 03, 2012:

I remember how hard it was to go about this particular 'bati' you say because for more than three days, I could not understand how it weakened me with fever, blowing, and loose vowel movement. I was already thin, thinner than my thinness, trying to help find something to hold so I could stand and walk towards our rest room, and thinking that anytime, I would already fall down to my weakened legs and failing grips. I went into thinking that I had flu, but the amount of medicine I took did not change the way I felt. I live in a place far from the city where doctors can be consulted, so I requested for a quack doctor or 'herbolaryo' whom we call also as albularyo. Her findings was that I had the so-called 'bati' illness which I could not believe could afflict me. A certain ceremony with 'ikmo' and other elements she used was performed by her during the fourth day of my affliction. Soon after, I felt better and I could not believe it was as fast as it happened. Until now, it still is a big thing for me that when I feel something wrong, I consult her and would easily feel better.

Here in Bicol, we call it also as 'usog,' sometimes 'sibang.'

precy anza (author) from USA on August 03, 2012:

Wow! Thanks Lowelshubby and to your wife too for confirmation :) I wonder if they don't have any equivalent in Mindanao? (where Diyomar is.)

John Beck from Pasig City, Metro Manila on August 03, 2012:

Asawa ko is Visayan and she agrees with Precy on usog or bati being the words. She says it is from the Bisayas. Thank you for the welcome Precy, and I like your hubbing. Pwera usog!

precy anza (author) from USA on August 03, 2012:

@ Diyomarpandan: I haven't heard of "buyag," or maybe I had but I wasn't familiar with the Visayan language so I did a little search with the word and "buyag" would be similar to "usog," or yes "bati" where "pwe buyag" is said as counter utterance. :)

precy anza (author) from USA on August 03, 2012:

Yes, lowelashubby, that's exactly the "bati." :) And congrats with the baby. And I'm having this thought that with the baby, you would be hearing "pwera bati" a lot from people. And maybe you would be seeing that small, red bag too pretty soon. :) Welcome to Hubpages and thank you for the story with your experience with it! I did enjoyed reading it. :)

John Beck from Pasig City, Metro Manila on August 03, 2012:

I recently ran into Bati just a week or so ago. I was outside the Mandaluyong Mega Mall waiting in line with my asawa. I was particularly excited as we had just found out that my asawa is pregnant. As we where in line, I said to her, "Buntis Buntis" and patted her belly.

Later that evening as we got home, she got ill and started vomiting. She told me that it was because of my saying "Buntis buntis" and patting her tummy while we where in line. I was confused, and until I read this article, did not understand.

I just asked my asawa about 10 minutes ago about "Bati" and how to pronounce "Pwera usog" and she told me that Bati was the reason for her illness. I then understood the article better, and promptly licked my finger, and said "Pwera usog" while making a cross on her forehead to which she was happy to receive.

Filipinos have many superstitions, and I learned before even stepping foot in this wonderful country not to make fun of them or ignore them as my Asawa believes in some of them, and to do so is insulting to her.

I was very happy to read this article, and I thank you for posting it!

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