To be perfectly honest, the methods described in this article were probably more universally used than the title suggests. Still, they will be nostalgic to readers who have personal remembrance or who used to hear from their parents of when these were still being used. For younger readers, this article will provide insights into a bygone era when wristwatches were not ubiquitous and information about the weather was not as simple as checking an Android app.
The information contained herein is taken from a fifties document entitled “Historical and Cultural Life of the City of Lipa1,” submitted by the Department of Education District of Lipa to the Division of Batangas and presently archived at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Our assumption is that although the source document was written for Lipa, the content was valid as well elsewhere in Batangas.
According to the document, “The first crow (of the rooster) was about ten o’clock in the evening, and that was the time for people to go to bed. The crowing went on at intervals of one hour. The last crow was at about four o’clock in the morning. This marked the time for getting up and preparing for work in the fields.”
The rooster crowing in the morning was probably more universally known as the signal for people to get up in the morning. To make sense of this crowing however, roosters follow an internal clock that allows them to anticipate sunrise and, therefore, the hunt for the day’s food.
They crow from a vantage point partly to define territory and partly to warn off other birds from encroaching on this territory. Sometimes, a rooster with a faulty internal clock could trigger a spate of crowing from other roosters in the neighborhood hours before dawn2.
If there were no roosters in the neighborhood, people listened to the singing of the hornbill, called “kalaw3” in Tagalog. This bird used to be found in eleven islands in the Philippines, including Luzon. I do not recall ever having seen one in the wild anywhere in Batangas, however.
At any rate, the hornbill was said to first sing between 9 o’clock and 10 o’clock at night, followed by the second singing around midnight. From this, presumably, people calculated whether it was still too early or too late to go to bed. The bird sang again between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning; and this was taken as a signal by farmers to get up to prepare for a day’s work at the fields.
People in Batangas also turned to the “morning” and “evening” stars to decide when to retire to their beds or get up in the morning for work. Both the morning and evening stars were, in fact, just the planet Venus4.
When the morning star was 45° (in elevation from the horizon) in the eastern horizon, this was taken as the signal to get up in the morning and prepare for work. At night when the evening star was similarly 45° in elevation in the western skies, it was estimated to be between 9 and 10 o’clock and, therefore, time to go to bed. Both occasions were similarly referred to as “hampas tikin5.”
Finally, people estimated time by taking note of the sun’s position in the sky. Sunrise was thought of to be roughly 6 o’clock, although of course this is something that varies depending on the time of the year.
The sun being 45° in the eastern skies was also called “hampas tikin” or roughly 9 o’clock. When it was directly overhead, it was presumed that the time was roughly 12 o’clock, the time to stop working and get a meal. “Hampas tikin” in the western skies was 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the signal to stop working.
Predicting the weather
In the old days, people in Batangas also had simplistic ways of predicting what the weather would be like for the rest of the year. The methods to do so were called “bilangan at balis.”
In the “bilangan” method, the first twelve days of January (i.e. January 1-12) represented a month of the year in chronological order. It was believed that what the weather was in any of these twelve days would be the weather for the entire month that the day represented.
“Balis,” meanwhile, was the exact same thing except that the days used for predicting weather were the 13th to the 24th of January and the month each day represented was in reverse chronological order. In other words, the 13th of January represented December while the 24th represented January.
How the people in the olden days reconciled the two methods, the document regrettably did not elaborate on. Needless to say, either method was just a baseless superstition which invalidated itself. For instance, if it rained on New Year’s Day, and it was believed that the whole of January would be rainy as well, neither method was really useful, was it?
Notes and references:1 “Historical and Cultural Life of the City of Lipa,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 “What makes a rooster decide to crow?” published 2012, online at EarthSky.
3 “Kalaw,” Wikipedia.
4 “Venus, the Morning Star and Evening Star,” published 2008 by Fraser Cain, online at Universe Today.
5 “Hampas” is slam or smack; The Online Filipino English Translator, meanwhile, says that “tikin” is a pole. The term “hampas tikin” must have been colloquial Tagalog, if at all, and already archaic as this is the first time I am hearing of it.