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Top 20 Filipino Old Wives' Tales and Quirky Customs

It's a fact: old wives' tales are the perfect ingredient to a colorful culture, and just about every country has its own share of it. Despite technological advances and man's highly evolved intelligence, there are still those who persist in holding on to beliefs reminiscent of days past.

Knock on wood? Check. Salt thrown over the shoulder? Check. Avoided the black cat? Check, check, check!

The Philippines is a country where old wives' tales abound. Previous to Spain’s colonization in the mid-1500s, the natives practiced animism. When the Spanish arrived, religious superstition became the rule of the day. These have formed part of the Filipino culture and, centuries later, many still haven’t gotten rid of these beliefs (and are even fanatical about it).

While some may sound ominous, they are generally harmless and can be quite entertaining. It not only gives you something to talk about, but it also prepares you for when you get together with a Filipino.

Below are only a few of the silliest and most bizarre of the lot.

Apparently, going gaga over a baby isn't exactly a good idea.

Apparently, going gaga over a baby isn't exactly a good idea.

20. A neighbor’s dog howling at midnight foretells a sudden death.

19. If you accidentally bite your lip (or inner cheek), or almost lose your footing while walking, someone is talking about you.

18. If an infant is fussy and unable to sleep, he must be held by the last person who gushed over him.

17. Pregnant women who are glowingly beautiful during their term are sure to have baby girls, while those who look haggard and unkempt will have baby boys.

16. Do not attend a baptism when pregnant; your child and the baptized baby will grow up to be enemies.

15. Avoid going to sleep immediately after eating a heavy meal at a late hour. Chances are you’ll never wake up.

14. Do not sleep on an empty stomach. The spirit is said to leave the body when the latter goes hungry. One would hear the rattling of metal as it attempts to eat from the pot, but beware: the spirit could become trapped inside, never to return to the host.

13. Avoid getting your hands wet after you’ve done some ironing. You’ll end up with shaky and unsteady appendages and sweaty palms.

12. Don’t let your children play outside the house after 6:00 in the evening. This is presumed to be the time when supernatural beings come out and look for children to steal.

An itchy nose means you will soon get a letter.

An itchy nose means you will soon get a letter.

11. Having itchy palms signifies that you’ll be getting loads of money soon. You can expect this to happen especially if you’ve placed a bet somewhere.

10. An itchy nose means you will soon get a letter. (Since this is the age of the Internet, that includes email and text messages.)

9. You know someone is thinking about you when the urge to sneeze is interrupted halfway. To find out who it is, ask someone for a number. If it exceeds 26 (the number of letters in the alphabet), ask whether to add or subtract the digits. Whatever comes up is the first letter of the name of the person who’s thinking about you at that moment.

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8. A kitchen utensil that falls to the floor while you’re having a meal is a sign that a visitor will be coming soon. A spoon represents the arrival of a female; a fork says it will be male.

7. If you find yourself lost in a forest or field, wear your shirt on inside out and you’ll be able to make your way home. They say it’s the supernatural beings trying to lead you to them, but wearing your shirt that way prevents it from happening.

Who would've guessed a lizard could make a great lie detector?

Who would've guessed a lizard could make a great lie detector?

6. Never take a shower after working out at the gym, or during your (menstrual) period; doing so will cause damage to your body that will manifest only later in life. Hands that shake, varicose veins, and flatulence are only some of the supposed side effects of bathing during those times.

5. If you are single, refrain from singing while cooking or else you will never marry.

4. If you cut yourself on a Good Friday (during the Lenten season), the cut will take months to heal.

3. Do not have your picture taken when pregnant, or else you will suffer a miscarriage.

2. When two people are having a conversation and a house lizard suddenly chirps, the last person who talked is said to be telling the truth.

1. If you take a shower before going to bed, make sure your hair is completely dry. Sleeping with wet hair can cause dementia.

Yes, seriously.

I swear I did not make any of this up. For all I know, they're still inventing new old wives' tales even as we speak. In fact, the latest one I heard is that a simple handshake from a politician during election time can bring you luck. If the money appearing magically in the other person's hands is any indication, then it's probably true, right?

Have a fantastic old wives' tale to share?

Andreea on September 18, 2020:

Yes some are real while some are not

Bree on February 17, 2020:

I bite my lip and my cheek

TESS on April 06, 2016:

I'm from Haiti and yes, I bite my lips all the time. People must be talking about me. The rest I don't know.

Marie on September 02, 2015:

In number 5, others say that when you are single and singing while cooking, you will marry an old man.

Literary Geisha on April 25, 2013:

hello ignugent17 and thanks for leaving a comment! much of it is coincidence, but yes, people believe them anyway. :D

ignugent17 on April 25, 2013:

Yes I remember some of them. Sometimes it is funny because some people really believe in them.

Thanks for sharing. :-)

Literary Geisha (author) from Philippines on February 04, 2013:

travmaj, thanks for reading! i agree, it's fascinating. to think that my country has different languages and cultures, but somehow when it comes to these old wives tales, we're all the same. :)

travmaj from australia on February 03, 2013:

I love this - and I recognise many of the tales you mention - and yes, when I was growing up all taken very seriously. In my part of Northern England a black cat crossing your path was considered lucky. Very well done - a fascinating list.

Literary Geisha (author) from Philippines on January 24, 2013:

thank you for dropping by ExpectGreatThings, i'm glad you enjoyed the read. you should come visit too. ;)

ExpectGreatThings from Illinois on January 23, 2013:

These are great! Thanks for sharing. I'm going to send the list to my friend who is headed to the Philippines :)

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