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Filipino Superstitions About Home Safety

I write a column about home safety from the construction point of view for Enrich Magazine. This was published in July 2019.

Filipino superstitions stem from many historical influences such as animism, (our country's precolonial faith), followed by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islamism. Then came a massive conversion to Catholicism under the Spanish colonists, followed by the introduction of Christianity from the Americans. Many superstitions have to do with construction, particularly Feng Shui (Chinese geomancy), which had a resurgence in the 1980s.

I first came to know of Filipino superstitions during the wake of my mother. The superstitions seemed to be very practical. For example, you shouldn't walk visitors to their cars because the visitor might die. When you have many visitors at a wake, you can barely get to the door to say goodbye to someone. Another superstition is, don't bring home food from the wake. This was also practical because we had many people to feed. But I confess, when there was too much food, we let our relatives and friends take the remainder home, because the caterer was exceptionally good. Third, don't leave your tears on the glass of the coffin. I suppose at that point you may be leaning too much on the coffin and it might fall.

There are also many Filipino superstitions about construction. Here is a list of some of them.

filipino-superstitions-about-home-safety

Before construction

  1. Mount a cross. One month before construction, a cross should be mounted in the middle of the land, according to a paper on construction superstitions by Wendelyn R. Talbo, that was featured in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research. When construction begins, the home owner must lay a pot of rice, egg, water, soft drinks, and wine beside the cross. The offering is meant to appease spirits who may dwell on the lot.
  2. Location. Some lots are more expensive than others, says Engr. Mark Vincent Yap Nodado, head of MVYN Builders. He wrote on his website about construction superstitions, noting that in a village, the lot that faces the morning sun commands a higher price because it is lucky. The owner will likely build the front door facing the sun for the same reason. On the other hand, a less costly property is the lot at the cul de sac or at the middle of the crossroad. ThePampangos of Central Luzon believe these lots are unlucky.
  3. Padugo. Animal blood spilling is an ancient ritual to appease spirits residing in the land. These days, construction accidents are caused by inadequate safety measures. However, it isn't uncommon for workers to slit the throat of a white chicken and sprinkle its blood over the construction site before starting construction. This is to prevent the spilling of human blood, for example through accidents during construction.
filipino-superstitions-about-home-safety
  1. When to start construction. The paper, Ilokano Beliefs and Practices During House Construction and House Blessing by Wendelyn R. Talbo quoted a zodiac expert who said the best times to start building a house are during the days of Virgo (August 23 – September 22) and Aquarius (January 11 to February 18). The worst times to start building your home are the days of Leo (July 23-August 22) and Capricorn (December 22 – January 19).
  2. Coins in the foundation. Coins are placed in the foundation pillars of a house, counterclockwise. This works like a “money tree”. It will enable you to reap a sound return on the investment you placed on your home. The coins are like roots, and the pillars are like the trunk of a tree. This practice originated from the Ilocanos of Northern Luzon.
  3. Turn foundation posts clockwise. If you turn your foundation posts clockwise before permanently cementing and securing the posts, then your home will be resistant to typhoons. Personally, I'm wondering if this has to do with the fact that hurricanes tend to rotate counterclockwise.
filipino-superstitions-about-home-safety
  1. When to start building. Odd numbers are considered “masculine” and are believed to bring good luck, except for the number 13. Even numbers are viewed as “feminine”, and neutral. Numerology experts are often consulted to know what is a good date to start building a house. Of course, a masculine number is preferable, except for number 13. Number one symbolizes importance. Three refers to Trinitarian power. Five is magical. Seven is a perfect number. Nine is triple sacred.
  2. Bad number 13. If you will live in a condominium, don't choose unit no. 13. If you will build a dwelling, make sure 13 is not its address number. This belief is related to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ. Judas was the 13th person to sit at the table of the Last Supper.
  3. Earth mounds. Filipino folklore states that earth mounds (nuno sa punso) on your property are actually homes for dwarves. It isn't uncommon for home builders to hire spirit seekers to check their land for unseen co-dwellers. If they have dwarves, they may build a pond to keep them happy.
  4. Giants (kapre) in trees. It is believed that giants live in huge, old trees. If a spirit seeker confirms this, the tree mustn't be uprooted. Instead, build your home around the tree.
The chocolate hills are a tourist attraction in Bohol, Philippines. One wonders if a community of kapres live here.

The chocolate hills are a tourist attraction in Bohol, Philippines. One wonders if a community of kapres live here.

  1. Balete tree. Folklore warns that this tree should never be cut as it is haunted. Cutting a balete tree will cause attacks on construction workers and the homeowner.
  2. Doors inside the house shouldn't face each other. Nodado said, “This is one of the most common requests that we get. They believe that this will bring bad luck. This may mean moving the other door even by just a few centimeters.”
  3. The front door should not align with the back door. LaEura Benko, author of The Holistic Home, says, “When there is a direct line-of-sight between the front door and the back door, it means the chi (energy) is shooting through the house too fast. [Instead] you want it to move in a graceful undulating way that goes around your whole home evenly.”
  4. If you place a new roof on top of the old roof, you will have a short life. In a practical sense, it is not necessarily wrong to place a new roof on top of the old one. Sometimes if your first roof was well built but is old, it's okay to put a new roof on top. However, if your roof is really bad with lots of leaks and misshaped tiles, you really have to tear down the old roof and replace it with a new one.
  5. A sunken living room brings bad luck and sickness to the house. Cecil Lee, founder of geomancy.net says it can be bad luck, depending on circumstances. Merlina Merton, in her book, Feng Shui for Better Living, said that floors should all be on an equal level. However, if you have a sunken living room, you can raise the chi with overhead lighting and potted plants. I personally had a friend with a sunken living room. When a huge, very strong storm occurred, the entire house was flooded and the sunken living room was filled with water.
filipino-superstitions-about-home-safety
  1. The dining room should be higher than the living room.Lee says the dining room is usually close to the kitchen, so if it is higher than the living room, it will attract good luck and prosperity.
  2. To foist off evil spirits, place palm fronds at different corners of your house and ask a priest to consecrate them. This practice may have to do with the Catholic Holy Week when palm fronds were used to welcome Jesus, and Jesus later died on the cross for us.
  3. The number of steps in Filipino staircases matters. They should follow the “Oro, plata, mata” plan. This means that the first step is oro (gold), the second step is plata (silver), and the third step is mata (death). Then repeat. The fourth step is oro, the fifth step is plata, and so forth. For good luck, the top step should be either oro or plata. This belief is popular among the Tagalogs of Southern Luzon.
  4. Don't have 13 steps. A 13th step is bilang Hudas (traitor). It is also interpreted as the devil's number. Some buildings don't have a 13th floor. Instead, from 12 it goes straight to the 14th floor. This belief could be a cross between numerology and Catholicism, as Hudas refers to Judas, who was the 13th person to join the Last Supper.
  5. It is bad Feng Shui to have a bathroom that faces the front door. This is because bathrooms are believed to heavily drain energy.
Cross made from palm fronds.

Cross made from palm fronds.

  1. Do not place a stairway at the center of your home. The center is the core of your home, so you want good energy to revolve there. A stairway will suck the energy upwards and away.
  2. Septic tanks constructed higher than ground level would require a human sacrifice. So make sure the septic tank is below ground level instead, and it shouldn't be near the kitchen. Otherwise, in a psychic sense, it may contaminate food and bring sickness to the family.
filipino-superstitions-about-home-safety

Moving In

  1. The owner must transfer to the new house not later than six in the morning during the new moon to attract good luck and prosperity, and the first things that must be brought inside the house are salt, rice, and coins.
  2. House blessing. A priest is usually called to bless a house. While doing so, the homeowner follows holding a cross and a rosary, which at the end of the blessing, will be placed on the family altar. If the family is Baptist, they will have a gathering as a way to bless their house.

Comments

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 08, 2021:

Yes, I remember the horseshoe. That was a very long time ago. I love horses, so I also loved the idea of hanging up a horseshoe over the door. Thank you for visiting and for reminding me of the horseshoe and all the memories I connect it to.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 08, 2021:

I get what you mean, Devika. I wonder what all the superstitions from all the cultures in the world would reveal about humanity. Thank for visitng and for commenting as well:)

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 08, 2021:

Hi Peachy, thank you for visiting! Many of our superstitions are the result of people who came here for trade, including the Chinese and the Asian Muslims. I guess our superstitions became a mixture of the different influences, as well as the Spanish, British, and the Americans. Underlying it all was probably our own indigenous culture as well, which is Malay.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on February 08, 2021:

It is always so interesting to read about other cultural superstitions. There are a few here that make total sense to me, like the locations of the doors and the stairs.

Many years ago every home here would have a horseshoe with the opening part facing up toward the sky on an outside wall or the door of their house or shed. It was hung to bring the family luck. If it was hung the opposite way, you brought bad luck into the home. You don't see people doing this anymore though.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 06, 2021:

grand old lady it is interesting to know of Filipino Superstitions. I like to know about other cultures and this is no exception.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 06, 2021:

Your culture superstitions are almost the same as the Chinese too. I guess that our generations had been passing down these rules for years

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 06, 2021:

Mr. Bill, thank you for your kind words. I feel very good being an "ambassador" of my culture:):):)

Mel Carriere, thank you for stopping by and for your kind words about my article. I know that you and Mr. Bill are such wide readers, so your liking my article makes me feel very, very good. I hope that by now Maven has allowed comments because I am gonna stop by and see what you and Mr. Bill have written of late. :):):)

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 05, 2021:

This is fascinating stuff. I am wondering if there is more to this energy thing than meets the eye, if there are extra-dimensional, quantum forces at work.

Here in Colorado, where I now live, houses that face the sun fetch a higher price, because the snow melts faster in Winter. I am certain that is not the case in the Philippines, but there could be some other practical aspect. Maybe the rain water evaporates quicker.

Great work.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 05, 2021:

A fascinating lesson in your culture. Makes me want to know more, and that is a testament to you.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 05, 2021:

I agree with you Ms. Dora, it would be nice to learn why some people believe in some of these superstitions and why others don't.

Hi Emge, I'm glad to know that you liked this article.Thank you for stopping by and for your comment:):)

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 05, 2021:

This is a nice article that gives me an insight into superstitions in the Philippines.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 04, 2021:

We can guess the reason for most of these superstitions, but others are so far beyond understanding like building a home around a tree. It would be good to hear stories from people who subscribed to the beliefs and people who didn't.