By Sherry Tenorio
With over 7,000 islands comprising the Philippine archipelago, it would be safe to presume that Filipinos would be distinctly different in terms of regional and provincial customs and traditions. Yet, there are utter instances wherein these ways of life have transcended into general and national level, influencing Filipinos shape strangely familiar habits and lifestyles. More so, these mundane but conspicuous behavior and thinking are certainly recognizable wherever and whenever one meets a Filipino. In other words, we have formed signature imprints in various means, making us stand out proudly and clearly Filipino.
This time, Illustrado celebrates the small but recognizable behavior that Filipinos do (and think) that are within the norms, yet in the eyes of other nationalities would be quite bizarre. Read on as we recount a few of odd Pinoy antics, and try to assess if such really makes us peculiar.
On food and dining
Filipinos eat rice in the morning, at lunch and for dinner. Some foreigners would politely comment on how they admire the metabolism of the Filipinos – despite our allegiance to rice, they barely see obese Pinoys. Well, they would probably be more surprised had they known that Pinoys actually need to eat three times a day; otherwise, we would think we’re poor and malnourished.
Since we are so into cooking rice or “kanin” in Tagalog, we have developed our own means of properly crafting it to perfection. Whether we use rice cooker or traditional pots, we would measure the water in our “kanin” through our fingers. Try sharing that technique to Martha Stewart, and let’s see how she would roll her eyes in surprise.
Pinoys eat under-developed duck eggs. The infamous “balut” would make any foreign national think of us as cannibals but nevertheless this delicacy has been used for many years as high-energy snack, saving some people from potent intimacy problems.
We drink from plastic bags. Filipinos who would be buying Pepsi or Coke from sari-sari stores, wll receive the softdrink wonderfully packed in a small cellophane bag coupled with plastic straw. Well, it is known that the softdrink bottle would cost a “deposit” so it is better to just take the drink in a plastic bag than cost us extra for the bottle.
Given our practical views in life, we also have been accustomed to everything in sachet. From mayonnaise to ketchup, from dishwashing soaps to shampoos, we use and buy almost all our groceries in sachet packets.
When someone has to leave before every one else has finished eating, we have to rotate our plates so that the person leaving would be travelling safely. Whether we believe in this custom or not, we still do it out of habit.
We serve “pancit” or spaghetti during birthdays. These dishes are very important fixtures in any Pinoy birthday especially during children’s parties as we believe that they’d bring long life to the celebrant.
On health and hygiene
We have been told not to sleep with our hair wet – it would make us blind if not crazy.
Ever wonder why Pinoys do not clean up in the evenings? Well, we have been trained not to sweep floors at night – even if it the place is in deep mess – because that would bring out all the fortunes and luck away.
Pinoys put so much importance on moles. When someone has a mole on his foot, the person is born adventurer. If the mole is on the face, he/she will be successful in business. When there is mole in hands, the person is lucky in money. Every where in our body parts, moles would signify some kind of essential marks in our beings. Plus, this is one great conversation opener for any Filipinos.
After we Pinoy accidentally bit our tongue, we would initially think that we are the subject of conversation of our loved ones. And, when our palms itch without reason, we think that we’ll be having luck in money.
On weddings and special occasions
Despite the many foreign influences and fashion constraints, Pinay brides are not allowed to try on their wedding gowns before the wedding day otherwise the wedding will not push through.
Pinoys defy “sukob sa taon”, meaning no siblings should marry within the same year. The event would mean misfortune for the whole family. If it happens, there will always be life competitions between the two couples.
Filipinos cannot turn down any offer to sponsor a baptismal, confirmation or wedding. It is supposed to be considered as a blessing, even though there would be twenty other who are also sponsoring.
Giving an arinola (chamberpot) as wedding gift is believed to bring good luck to newlyweds. But, knives and other sharp and pointed objects are said to be a bad choice for wedding gifts for this will lead to a broken marriage.
During New Year’s Eve, Pinoys fill up canisters with rice, sugar, salt, etc. in order to ensure abundance in the coming year.
Also during New Year’s Eve, Filipinos open all the windows and doors so as to welcome prosperity. We also try to wear polka-dotted clothes, fill up our pockets with coins and money, put on rounded fruits on dining table, hung seven fruits by the window, and light up some firecrackers in order to drive negative energies away.
Pinoys have millions of superstitions, quite different from every province, but one thing is for sure, when a dog is howling or making spooky cries at the middle of the night, it means that death is coming to someone close in the family.
Filipinos believe that they should not be taken picture if there are only three of them. The middle person in the photo would be the first one to die.
Tears must not fall on the dead or on the coffin; this will make the dead person’s journey to the next world a difficult one.
After the coffin has been lowered to the grave, all family members should take a handful of soil, spit on it and throw it in the grave. Doing so will not only bury any evil let behind by the deceased, but also lessen the burden of grief on the family as well.
We believe that taking pictures of a pregnant woman will cause an abortion or a difficult delivery. So forget about capturing the moment and sharing it in Facebook, because apparently it is a big no-no for Pinoy traditions.
Pinoys also do not share with the food that pregnant women are eating. We avoid doing so because it is believed that we’ll feel drowsy or sick.
Pregnant women are not allowed in Filipino funerals. Those who are traditional and religious in the family would go all the way to stop pregnant women from attending funeral.
Filipinos believe in creatures that eat the unborn baby from the pregnant woman’s womb. So, in order to fight them away, we put rosary and bunch of garlic next to the pregnant woman while she sleeps at night.
On constructing houses or buildings
During housewarming, Pinoys throw coins on the floor of the new house/building in order to bring luck to the new construction.
Not every one believes in feng shui but Pinoys make sure that the steps/stairs in the house would not total to 13. We do not want the unlucky number to be part of the house, do we?
Before any one gets to live in the new house, Pinoys see to it that we bring rice, salt and cross first inside. This act would bring prosperity and harmony in the household.
Other habits and beliefs
When we go to the forest or highly deserted land, we always say “tabi-tabi po” as if uttering these words would excuse us from passing by the houses of the supernatural creatures. Though these houses or creatures are hidden from our naked eyes, we still say the words to be polite to them.
Pinoys believe in the power of quack doctors in curing the sick. There are a number of people in the provinces mostly who specializes as faith healers. We see people crowding them, hoping that they really had the power to heal terminally-ill people.
We believe that when a child has unexplainable sickness then it must be “usog”, meaning there was someone who has shown extra attention to the kid. This can be cured by faith healer using hot water and candles plus some incantations to drive away the bad spirits.
We also come to fortune tellers in order to get a glimpse of our future or of the things that are presently confusing us. We believe that these people are gifted to tell us what lies ahead, and to show us the answers to the questions that are bothering us.
More Filipinsms on Illustrado Life.