I am a Filipino who is very fond of travelling, and aside from spare clothes, money, food, a camera, and a curious spirit, I also bring along some superstitious beliefs with me during my travels. I don’t strongly assert that I strictly follow superstitions, but it just became a part of my life because of the influence from my grandparents.
It is a part of the Filipino culture to believe in superstitions. There are numerous superstitions of different categories that Filipinos, especially the elderly believe in.
The fear of death, misfortune, sickness, evil spirits, as well as the dream of a good life, luck, and health, are the common reasons for these beliefs. However, due to modernization there are only a few people left who are still considering these superstitions in every aspect of their lives. The new generation rarely believes in them nowadays. But some youngsters may be interrupted by their elders if they encounter something that is in accordance or in contradiction to these beliefs, just like me when I was young.
As a child, I grew up in an old house in Manila, capital city of Philippines. It was the ancestral home of our family, thus I was surrounded by old things and old people. It kind of felt like living in the past because I got used to listening and observing my grandparents, and along with other things, their strong belief in superstitions became a part of my daily life.
I can not say that I believe strongly in these things, but after hearing them my entire life, it became a part of my system unconsciously. When I was young, my grandmother always told me that I’ll grew up to be an adventurous person, because of my mole on the right foot. It didn’t make sense to me, and so I asked her why is that so. She told me that it is a “pamahiin” (superstition), different body markings may mean something about a person. My “lola” (grandmother) was right, or I think she was right, because there was not a single day that I didn’t stay in the same place in one day.
I always go out and have fun with my playmates when I was a kid, and now as an adult, I always travel and discover something new for myself. I encountered a lot of other superstitions because of this attitude. My grandfather would scold me if I leave the table before finishing my meal, especially when I am set out to travel that day. He would ask everybody eating in the dining room to turn the plates clockwise before allowing me to leave the table.
According to him, this practice will keep me safe during my travel. Before I leave the house my grandparents always reminded me of some other things. They told me that if I go out with my friends at night, there should be an even number in the group, if it is odd, one of us will be taken away by evil spirits in order to balance the number (maybe the evil spirits don’t like odd numbers? 666 even right?)
And if ever I happen to pass by a forest or some place with thick trees, I should rub garlic on my soles so that the animals will not harm me, aside from that I should not whistle while passing through the forest so that the evil spirits will not imitate me because if it does, one of my company will die.
It scared me, so as a kid, while on a camping trip in the forest, I remembered what my grandparents told me, and I shared it with my companions, who resorted to believe it as well. Until now, as an adult, even though I doubt these superstitions, I tend to practice it because I got used to them since I was young.
Sometimes in my travels, I end up eating in different places. Even in eating, my grandparents never failed to put some superstitions in my mind. They always reminded me that if I eat in a house of a stranger, I should only eat the food that is in the middle of my plate, because they believe that witches put curses at the edge of the plates.
I find this one a bit ridiculous compared to others though. I don’t think this one is true because of my love for food I always forget to follow this superstition, but nothing bad has ever really happened to me. Except for this one time that I knew I ate something bad and that wasn’t because of witches, but bacteria!
Even though there are superstitions that didn’t really result into something strange like the previous one I told you, there are some that really made me believe in them for a reason. When I was in high school, our class was supposed to have a field trip in Baguio, before I left the house, I tripped on a rug and fell on the floor. My grandmother tried to stop me from going on the trip, because she believed that something bad will happen.
Being a teenager at that time, I was hardheaded and did not listen to my grandmother. She couldn’t stop me. She allowed me to go but told me to sit on my bag during the trip, I asked her why, but she did not tell me the reason. Before leaving the house, my grandfather sneezed three times, and it made my grandmother worry some more, because it is another sign that I should not go on the trip. I got scared a bit because they are my grandparents and it is important for Filipinos to listen to the advice of the elderly.
I really wanted to go on the trip because I didn’t want to miss any part of my high school life. In order to clear my conscience, I still went but decided to follow my grandmother’s advice and sit on my bag during the trip. I knew I would look silly and I didn’t even know what it meant but I did it anyway. On our way to Baguio, our bus was stopped by an earthquake. I was so afraid and realized that my grandparents were right. Our trip was postponed because a destructive earthquake struck Baguio really bad.
When I got home, my grandmother told me that sitting on my bag saved me, because it will cause me not to get to my destination, and I realized that it was wise of my grandmother to counteract a superstition with another superstition. Whether it was a coincidence or not, it’s still kind of amazing that something like that happened to me.
Aside from these superstitions about travelling, there are still many others that I learned from my grandparents, and up until now, I always remember them in some situations. Even while travelling abroad, it can’t be denied that I am a Filipino because I still tend to practice these beliefs.
These are other beliefs that I heard from my grandparents. Do not travel in a red vehicle, because it is prone to accidents; when posing for a picture during a trip, do not pose in threes, because the one in the middle will die; and if a month starts on a Friday, do not travel on that month, because it will be full of accidents.
It’s up to you if you will take it, but remember that these are only superstitions and most of them have no concrete basis, always remember that God is in control of every situation, and we cannot rely on these superstitions to direct our lives. That’s why it’s called ‘superstition’ in the first place.
As I end this story, I want to leave you with a very important advice about travelling… Pray!