[Keywords: San Jose Batangas, Superstition, Superstitious Beliefs in Batangas, Henry Otley–Beyer]From one Agapito H. Mendoza, we get a second set of superstitious beliefs in the town of San Jose, Batangas in the year 1925. The beliefs are contained in a paper1 written by Mendoza, the second to be featured in this web site, which is archived at the Digital Collections of the National Library of the Philippines.
Mendoza divided the beliefs he enumerated into several categories: general beliefs and those pertaining to marriage; death; luck and fortune; planting; rain and storms; and the arrival of visitors. Some of the superstitions will be vaguely familiar to older readers and will also likely sound somewhat amusing to the younger generations.
|The church in San Jose, Batangas in 1911. Image source: The Luther Parker Collection at the National Library of the Philippines. Colorized courtesy of Algorithmia.|
READ and earlier article also by Agapito H. Mendoza on superstitions in San Jose: “22 Beliefs Held in San Jose, Batangas in 1925”Strange as some of these beliefs may seem in the present day, what they do offer is a glimpse at life in Batangas in a much less sophisticated era. They are presented verbatim, i.e. as written by Mendoza, edited here and there to conform to the standards of this web site and annotated where necessary.
▣ When a baby girl is born on a Saturday, she will receive special care from the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout her life.
▣ When a baby is born on the 24th of December, that baby will be lucky during life.
▣ When a baby is baptized on Good Saturday with newly blessed water, that baby will become famous and learned. [Note: Presumably, what Mendoza meant was Black Saturday, which makes this belief somewhat curious because as a rule, no Sacraments are celebrated on this day. That said, Baptism is allowed when there is danger of death2.]
▣ A baby girl born in the month of May is ordinarily fond of flowers. [Note: This belief can probably be explained by May being the month when, typically at least in the Philippines, the first rains after the dry months begin to fall and flora begin to wake up from slumber. To the present day, May is considered in the country the Month of Flowers3.]
BELIEFS ABOUT BIRTH AND THE PLACENTA
▣ If the placenta [of a newborn baby] is placed in a pot and hung, the child will not be easily frightened.
▣ If the placenta is buried with a book, the child will be a wise man [or woman, presumably].
▣ If the placenta is buried with a needle, thimble and thread, the child will know how to sew very well. [This was an era when many towns of Batangas produced cotton and its women were into weaving fabrics, so the ability to sew, presumably in women, was also understandably valued.]
▣ If the placenta is buried with a playing card, the child will be a gambler. [Unstated, of course, is the question why would anyone want to do this in the first place?]
▣ If the placenta is thrown into the river, the child will not easily catch cold.
BELIEFS RELATED TO MARRIAGE
▣ If used plates are removed from the table while a young man or a young woman is still eating, he or she will never get married.
▣ If a young boy or girl sings in front of a stove while cooking, she [or he] will be married to an old man [or woman] or to a widower [or widow].
▣ If you lie down in front of the stove while cooking, you will be married to an old man or a widower.
▣ People who marry in the months of April and May will have a happy life with many children. [June is, of course, the most popular month for weddings. This tradition dates back to Roman times when, it was believed, the goddess Juno (fertility and childbirth) married the god Jupiter in June4.]
▣ Tie a simple ring with your own hair; hold it over a glass of water without moving your hand; the number of times that the ring strikes the glass indicates the number of years to pass before you get married.
▣ If without [it] breaking, you can split a [strand] of hair long enough, your future husband will come from a distant place.
▣ When a newly married couple returns from church, the one who ascends the stairs first will dominate over the other. [There are other traditions similar in nature to this, such as when husband and wife try to step on each other’s toes first at the front of the church.]
▣ On ascending the stairs, the newly married couple should be showered with grains of rice so that they will not lack food during their marriage life. [Contemporarily, this is done more outside the church after the ceremony. This tradition was supposedly intended “to shower the new couple with prosperity, fertility and, of course, good fortune.” In the west, oats, grains and dried corn were also used before rice became preferred5.]
▣ If one of a couple dies during the new moon, the one still alive will be married very soon.
▣ Orange blossoms signify marriage. [Regrettably vague. 😵]
▣ During the marriage ceremony, when one of the couple’s candle burns faster, the person [presumably, either the bride or the groom] who is in front of that candle will live longer than the other.
BELIEFS RELATED TO DEATH
▣ If a girl combs her hair at night, her mother will soon die.
▣ If dogs howl at night at a house where there is a sick person, the sick person will die.
▣ If an own enters a house where there is a sick person, the patient will die. [Owls as omens of death is a belief among some native Americans and Australian aborigines, among others6.]
▣ When a young woman dies, a young man will follow.
▣ If a woman dies of childbirth in a certain family, all pregnant women should wash their hair and bathe themselves in order that they may not suffer the same fate.
▣ All relatives of a dead person should never take a bath when a corpse is still lying in state. It is said that when the dead appears before God, he is asked about how his relatives are. If they take a bath, the spirit generally answers, “They are getting ready to follow, because when I left, they were taking a bath and getting ready to meet You.” 😲
▣ The stairs [presumably leading up into a house] should face towards the east, for if they face west, the owners of the house will die soon.
▣ If you smell the odor of a burning candle at night when candles are not used at all in the house, it is believed that a certain relative had died.
▣ If a black butterfly flutters about you, a certain relative is dying.
▣ A “kasay–kasay” (a Tagalog word for a certain kind of bird) [the kingfisher, actually] flies about the house with great noise, it [was believed] that it was announcing the death of a member of the family.
▣ If a patient is transferred to a newly built house, the patient will never recover.
▣ If the root of a tree enters the ground under a house, the people of that house will soon die.
▣ When the corpse is taken to the church or to the cemetery, close all the windows so nobody could peep, and subsequent deaths will follow.
▣ Sleeping with the head towards the south brings early death.
▣ Sleeping parallel to the ridge pole of the house brings premature death.
▣ If you eat the fruit of a tree struck by lightning, you will die.
▣ When a hen cackles in the dead of the night, a person in the neighborhood will soon die.
BELIEFS RELATED TO LUCK AND FORTUNE
▣ When a person steps over another who is lying down, it is a sign of bad luck. If, however, the person steps over him again in the opposite direction, the bad luck is overcome.
▣ If you go on an errand and hear somebody sneezing but once while you go downstairs, you will meet bad luck.
▣ Occupying an unfinished house brings bad luck or misfortune to the family.
▣ A “katuray” [scientific name aeschynomene coccinea, the vegetable hummingbird] tree planted near a house drives away the owners of the house.
▣ When a gambler meets a woman on his way to a gambling place, he will lose. If he meets a man, he will win. If the man is in black, however, he will lose.
▣ A fighting cock crowing without being answered by another cock will win the following Saturday.
▣ Leaving the house while somebody is still eating brings bad luck.
▣ A snake crossing your path while you are travelling is a sign of good luck.
▣ Breaking a mirror or glass while starting for a place is a bad omen. [The act of breaking a mirror or glass is considered a bad omen in many cultures. Mendoza’s “while starting for a place,” however, is mystifying.]
▣ If you meet a man on your way to sell goods, you are lucky. If you pat that same man on the back, you will be luckier.
▣ The boboy fruit (of the kapok tree) signifies bad luck.
▣ Owac [presumably “uwak” or the crow, regarded universally as an omen of bad luck] signifies bad luck.
▣ Thirteen is usually considered an unlucky number. [This is another fairly universal superstition.]
BELIEFS REGARDING PLANTING
▣ In planting banana, one must never look up for if he does, the banana will grow too tall to bear fruits. [This superstition is also mentioned in another document about those in the town of Taal.]
▣ In planting “ampalaya” [bitter gourd], one should have a piece of sugar in his mouth so that the fruit will not be very bitter.
▣ In planting a coconut, one should carry a child on his back so that the tree will bear plenty of fruits.
▣ In planting rice, carry a betel nut so that the grains will be large.
BELIEFS PERTAINING TO RAIN AND STORM
▣ When you bathe a cat, it will rain.
▣ Black cats climbing the posts of a hat signify the coming of a flood.
▣ When herons go eastward, they go and ask rain from God.
▣ Red clouds signify storms. [Not superstition at all. The “reddish glow of the morning or evening sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region7.”]
▣ When the moon is enclose by its halo, bad weather is coming.
▣ When the halo of the moon is broken, the weather will be very windy.
▣ Cockroaches flying about the house indicates the coming of a storm. [Supposedly, cockroaches fly to seek cooler places when temperatures exceed 85°F, so this may not entirely be superstition8.]
▣ When cicadas are seen chirping, it will rain. [The word usually used to describe the cicada’s mating call is sing rather than chirp, which is used to describe the sound of birds.]
▣ Pigs roving restlessly indicate the coming of a storm.
BELIEFS PERTAINING TO VISITORS
▣ A “butiki” (house lizard) making noise near the door indicates the coming of a visitor.
▣ When the fire laughs while cooking, visitors will arrive. [Unfortunately, Mendoza failed to describe how a fire was supposed to laugh.]
▣ When a cat licks its mouth facing the door, visitors will arrive.
▣ If you upset a glass of water, you will have a visitor.
Notes and references:
1 “Superstitious Beliefs in San Jose,” by Agapito H. Mendoza, 1925, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 “12 things you need to know about Holy Saturday,” by Jimmy Akin, 2013, online at National Catholic Register.
3 “May, month of flowers, festivals, and Santacruzans,” published 2017, online at the Manila Bulletin.
4 “June Brides: History and Tradition,” online at The Bridal House.
5 “The Bizarre Origins of 8 Wedding Traditions,” by Jenn Grabenstetter, 2008, online at Mental Floss.
6 “5 Myths and Superstitions about Owls,” 2018, online at the Mother Nature Network.
7 “Red sky at morning,” Wikipedia.
8 “What are Flying Cockroaches?” online at Terminix.