[In this article: Batangas Province, San Jose Batangas, Filipino superstitions, superstitious beliefs, historical data]
From the so-called “historical data1” of the town of San Jose in Batangas, we feature these superstitious beliefs, some familiar, some not-so-familiar but all will definitely have the reader scratching his pate and asking the question “why.” Unfortunately, the Eustaquio Ramos who compiled the superstitious beliefs did not explain the reasons for these or the consequences if they were not observed.
“Historical data” refers to documents required in 1951 by the administration of then-President Elpidio Quirino of all District of Education districts around the country to help reconstruct local histories that might have been destroyed during the last World War. It is safe to assume that while Ramos compiled the superstitions around that time, these would likely have been around much earlier than the fifties. It is even possible that there are those who believe in them even to the present day.
Except for minor corrections for grammar and/or spelling, the superstitious beliefs in San Jose are presented below as they were written by Ramos, annotated where necessary.
SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS IN SAN JOSE*
- Plant trees and other plants during a full moon.
- Hair should not be cut during a full moon.
- Papaya trees should be planted below the windows of a house. The papaya’s sap easily comes out which will make the persons in the house cry. [It sounds as though this belief interprets the sap coming out from the stem of the papaya plant as a teardrop.]
- The farmer’s clothes should be clean while planting cadios. The cadios will bear good pods. [There are those in Batangas who use kagyos instead of cadios/kadios. This is the pigeon pea, a legume with scientific name cajanus cajan2.]
- If a cat washes its face near the door, a bill collector is coming. If a cat faces the bedroom, a visitor is coming.
- A roaring fire is a sign that visitors will come.
- Thirteen is an unlucky number. [This is a fairly universal superstitious belief.]
- A baby should eat the first grain of rice from a sharp razor. She [or he, presumably] will become intelligent3.
- If a person chokes or coughs while eating, it is a sign that someone is talking about or thinking of it. [Safe to say that this superstition has withstood the test of time to the present day, albeit often quoted with amusement.]
- If a person will make a trip, he should not start [on his trip] while someone is [still] eating. He might meet an accident. In case he goes out, the person to make the trip will move the plate around.
- The number of steps [pertaining to stairs or staircases] in a house should always be in odd numbers.
- February is not a month for marriage or for moving to a new house.
- A singing insect inside the house is a sign of good luck.
- A bride or bridegroom should not go out of the house before the wedding.
- A bride should not try to fit her wedding gown before the wedding or else the wedding will be put off. [It may be just the writer’s limitations, but the phrase “put off” really means postpone. What the writer probably meant is “called” off or not push through, a fairly universal superstition.]
- The date of the wedding should always fall between the new and full moon.
- A person should close his eyes while planting pineapples.
- The sponsors and close relatives of the bride and bridegroom should not wear black. [Presumably, during the wedding.]
- Either the bride or the bridegroom should try his [or her] best to go out of the church door at once. It is a sign as to who will be the dominant person in the family. [What the author was trying to say was that bride and groom raced each other to the church door. This belief is mentioned in historical data of Batangas’ other towns.]
- A wedding should always have “suman” or “calamay.” [Both rice cakes.]
- As soon as a dead person comes down a house [naturally, what the author wanted to say was “brought down” from a house 😂], the remaining persons [in the house] should clean the floor. If the house has not been polished or swept, nobody can clean the house for nine days.
- If a dead person’s body is soft, it is a sign that another one will follow. [What the author likely meant was that someone living in the house or a close relative of the deceased would die as well soon, a fairly common superstition mentioned in historical data of other towns of Batangas.]
- If her eyes are open, she is waiting for someone. [This belief is rather cryptic, but presumably pertains to a cadaver. A fairly common superstition is that the eyes of the deceased will close shut when the person he or she was supposedly waiting for arrives.]
- The position of the moon foretells the kind of delivery of pregnant mothers.
Notes and references:1 “Historical Data of the Municipality of San Jose,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 “Pigeon Pea,” Wikipedia.
3 There is also a fairly common superstition that a baby’s first haircut should be given by a person generally thought of as intelligent, because then the intelligence would be passed on to the baby.