[In this article: Batangas province, Lemery Batangas, beliefs and superstitions, old customs, marriage beliefs, baptism beliefs, beliefs about love, beliefs about death, beliefs about burial, historical data Lemery]
In this article, we feature a collection of old customs and beliefs in the Batangas town of Lemery as contained in the so-called “historical data1,” documents solicited by the administration of President Elpidio Quirino from Department of Education districts around the country in 1951 to reconstruct local histories that might have been destroyed in World War II.
The document did not specify dates, but since much of the information had been written down from the recollections of the elderly (i.e. at the time the Department of Education memorandum was issued), the reader and/or researcher is advised to presume that these customs and beliefs were still observed in the town of Lemery – and likely elsewhere in Batangas – in the early 1950s.
Furthermore, the reader and/or researcher is advised that the customs and beliefs provided have been translated from Filipino. Anybody who wishes to see the original Filipino writing is advised to click the link provided under the notes and references section of this article. The beliefs are bulleted for the reader’s convenience.
Beliefs about childbearing and birth
- If a mother gave birth to a child with a different appearance [original text: “isang sanggol na may kakaibang anyo ang ayos”], this signifies the arrival of good fortune.
- A woman who was “with child” should not become delighted with or angry at anything or anyone with a bad appearance [original text: ano mang bagay o tao na may masamang ayos] because the child might take after the object or person.
- A woman who was “with child” was advised to pray about the moon and stars [original text: patungkol sa buwan at mga bituin] because doing so would ensure the safety of mother and offspring during childbirth.
- During childbirth, the father was expected to go under the house [or what in Tagalog is called the “silong;” the word “basement” is not quite accurate as a translation] with a weapon, so that the birth of the child would not be disturbed a bad souls [original text: masasamang kaluluwa].
- While a child was being born, the members of the family [original text: ang lahat naming mag-anakan] were on their knees praying for the safety of the mother.
- A pregnant woman was not allowed to stay near the door or staircase because it was believed this would make childbirth difficult.
Beliefs about baptism
- A baby who was not immediately baptized was not safe from the invitation [original text: anyaya2] of the “tikbalang” [a half-human and half-equine mythical Filipino creature] and other malignant spirits.
- The choice of godparents for a child during baptism was made using the criteria of behavior, personality and fame or repute [original text: kaugalian, pagkatao at kabantugan] because it was believed that these could be transferred onto the child.
- The privilege of choosing the godparents was given to the parents of the mother.
- The midwife [Filipino: hilot] who assisted during childbirth accompanied the family to the church on the day of the child’s baptism. It was believed that this would ensure the child’s health for the rest of his or her life.
- As the baptismal party returned from the church, flowers were given to the godparents who, in turn, threw coins [original text: salaping mulay] for children and adults to collect as keepsakes. This was done in the belief that the child would become wealthy. [Note: some parts of the text for this bullet is torn in the original document, so some guesswork was necessary.]
Beliefs about love [original text: pangingibig]
- In the old days, no courtship was ever done by the groom towards the prospective bride. Instead, the marriage was arranged solely by the parents.
- Because no courtship was performed, the parents (presumably, because the original Filipino text was ambiguous), relied on signs to determine if there was love between a man and woman. A fan or a handkerchief was used to show these “signs.”
Beliefs about weddings
- No wedding could take place unless all gifts [original text: ang mga bigay] are present. These gifts may come in the form of clothes, gold, silver or jewelry.
- After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom raced for the front of the church. It was believed that whoever arrived at the front door of the church first would be dominant in the marriage.
- Upon arrival at the wedding reception [original text: pagdating sa bahay, not specifying whose], relatives of both the bride and groom would stand by the staircase breaking earthenware pots [original text: palyok] and plates in the belief that this would bring the couple many children.
- Before entering the house, the newlyweds would light twin or tied candles [original text: kandilang magkabigkis] so that they would not be parted for as long as they lived.
- After a wedding, relatives of the bride and groom would gather to present whatever contributions [original text: abuloy] they could give. This was something of a contest. All the relatives of the groom would give to the bride; and vice-versa. When all contributions were made, these would be counted to determine which family gave more. Afterwards, all the contributions would be gathered together and presented to the newly-weds.
- After the wedding, the bride would stay at the groom’s house for four days, while the groom did the same at his bride’s house. They could live together only on the 5th day either at a house built for them or with the parents of the groom.
Beliefs about death
- When a dead person lies in state in his own home, no relative or house companion [original text: kasambahay] should venture far from the house because this would bring the person misfortune.
- Underneath the house [original text: silong ng bahay] of where a wake was being held, a lamp [original text: ilawang may sindi] at night. It was believed this would prevent invasion (presumably, of the house) by the devil or earthbound souls [original text: multong-lupa].
- A person who died in a test of strength [original text: pakikipagsukatan ng lakas] was regarded as a hero. During the way, relatives, friends and neighbors all took turns narrating stories of his goodness [original text: kagalingan] and the many good things he was able to accomplish.
- At a house where a wake was being held could be seen a plate or a small box which people who come to pay their respects could deposit whatever amount they could afford as a way of contribution to the burial expenses3.
Beliefs about burial
- In the old days, the deceased was wrapped with a sleeping mat (or what is called “banig” in Filipino). The corpse inside the mat would then be placed a makeshift coffin made of twigs tied together [original text: pinagdatig-datig na patpat saka tatalian ng maayos].
- When a corpse was brought down from a house, all windows were closed. It was believed that if somebody looked out the window when the corpse had been brought down to the ground, somebody within the same household would also die soon.
- Before a corpse was lowered into the hole in the ground, young relatives of the deceased would be carried from one side of the corpse to the other [original text: palalakdawan muna]. The belief was that this would put the soul of the deceased at rest because the person would always be remembered by the child who took the “leap” above the course.
- If the deceased was one who loved a drink [original text: palabarik], a bottle of wine (or liquor) would be placed inside his coffin as a send-off. The belief was that the soul of the deceased would be happy knowing he had with him his favorite drink [original text: inuming mainit].
- Sometimes, included inside the coffin were things thought important to the deceased like clothes, jewelry and others. The belief was that the soul of the dead would use these while on the other side [original text: langit].
Notes and references:1 “Collection and Compilation of Historical Data Regarding Barrios and Towns of Lemery and Agoncillo, District of Lemery,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collection.
2 The use of the word “anyaya” or invitation is rather curious, but the writer might have meant “spell” or “influence.”
3 A practice which is continued to this very day and not just in Lemery, for the collection of the “abuloy.”