22 Superstitious Beliefs and Folkore During Holy Week in the Philippines

Holy Week is also known as Mahal na Araw or Semana Santa in the Philippines. It is the time of the year where people in many parts of the country practice several well-known superstitious beliefs and practices.

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In a country where almost 81% the general population belongs to Roman Catholic faith, some of these superstitious belief are still practiced. The practice had underlying pre-Hispanic influences, Malay, Indian, Chinese and religious origin.

22 Superstitious Beliefs and Folklore

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photo courtesy :Dariusz Sankowski

22.) Try to finish reciting the Passion of Christ ” Pasyong Mahal” and the reader will be protected and luck will bestow the family. The uninterrupted recitation or Pabasa of the whole epic is a popular devotion especially among older generation.

21.)  Travel is reduce or limited at home- It is widely believe that during the Holy Week, unseen spirits and demons are out in the open, owing to the fact that on these days Christ is suffering and cannot protect people. Anyone who travels during the Holy Week is likely to have an accident on their trips.

20.) Moving to another place or house is not the recommended. This must be postpone until after the Holy Week. Moving in to new house will brings bad luck because it is unprotected. You should let the Holy Week pass because Jesus Christ has risen again and will fill your house with bountiful blessings.

19.) Placing blessed palm frond or “Palaspas” on one’s main door or windows can ward off evil spirits or bad fortune starting Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday. When mixed with coconut oil or holy water, these blessed fronds are believe to miraculously cure illness or antidote against kulam  ” sorcery or witchcraft”.

18.) Holding and using of pointed objects and knife is reduced to a minimum. It is widely believed that since Jesus Christ suffered and died during this time, using pointed objects or knife will do some harm.

17.) Wound Takes a Longer time to Heal – old folks believe that getting hurt and wound heal slower during this time.

16.) Swimming and Any outdoor activity is discourage- Swimming, playing basketball or any physical activities must be reduced or discourage.

15.) Avoiding Meat – Meat is associated with impurity and bad luck. It is generally practice  without eating meat for the week. Most older Catholic will also make some fasting especially “Good Friday” to atone their sins. Some would start fasting and eating only vegetables during “Ash Wednesday” and every ” Friday” Although few Catholics would observe and practice.

14.) Placing blessed sting rays tail ” Buntot Pagi” near a pregnant woman’s room to help protect against evil spirits, aswangs (vampire shape shifter ghouls) and manananggals (viscera sucker),tiktik. People believe that these evil beings have the most power during this time of the year.

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13.) Excessive Noise Making is Reduce – Many believed that everyone shall not make any unnecessary sound or noise so as not to distract others’ meditative focus.

12.) Wearing of somber colors- Avoid wearing loud colors like red, pink which are colors of celebration. People would wear white, green, grey, brown and light colored shirts during this time of the year.

11.) Best time to hunt for amulets or “Anting-anting” – Some people in the provinces and mambabarangs would make amulets and herbal concoctions during this time of the year.

10.) Visiting albularyo, mananambals or mambabarangs – Visiting local albularyo, mananambals or mambabarangs during Holy Week especially “Holy Thursday or “Good Friday” is touted to be the time when the native local albularyos are the most potent. Some would visit Mount Banahaw, Mount Cristobal, Siquijor, Mount Apo in order to get holy water or some potions made by local quack doctors. This belief can trace back to pre-hispanic shamans and folk religion.

9.) Putting blessed cross or rosary on one’s door to protect the inhabitants of the house. Although very few pious Catholics had been practicing this. There were still old folks who still practices this.

8.) Taking a bath after 3:00pm during Good Friday is observe – This traditional belief also had some parallel belief with burial customs and practices. This could be influenced by Chinese or Malay traders.

7.) General Cleaning of one’s house is strictly prohibited.

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6.) Washing clothes or drying clothes especially during Good Friday is not allowed.

5.) Sweeping the floor during Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday is not allowed. Old folks believe that sweeping the floor will release any luck, grace of blessings contained within the home or that could come in.

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Photo courtesy of : ErikaWittlieb

4.) Covering Mirrors and One must not stare at the mirror after 3:00 pm. Some pious Catholics in the provinces would cover their mirrors with black or white cloth. Mirror serves as a portal for the ethereal beings to visit and haunt living people. Bad elements are strong after the death of Jesus at 3:00 pm onward. A gaze at mirrors during these time will invite evil spirits or demonic spirits.  The cloth is then removed after Easter Sunday celebrations.

3.) Children must hop to grow tall – When one hear of bell tolls during Black Saturday morning, It is believed that the act will make the children grow taller, just like doing it on New Year’s Eve.

2.) Shaking of fruit bearing trees on black saturday or sabado de gloria. It used to be widely practiced among Ilocanos is to shake the main trunk of fruit trees on every sabado de gloria.. and chant ” gloria, gloria, ragsakan ti agbunga” ( glory, glory, fruits be bounty). This will make the fruits trees more fruitful and harvest will be bountiful.

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Photo courtesy of : diego_torres

1.) Rain on Easter Sunday has therapeutic powers. One is encourage is take a bath whenever rains fell on Easter Sunday. Aside from healing powers, Easter rains is said to brings good luck.  Old people called these “Agua Bendita” or Holy Water in which they collect and used for healing or anointing of the sick.

Sources, Reference and Bibliographies:

Insight Guides, Philippines, APA Publication 4th Printing 1991, pages 54 to 60

Personal communication -Ms. Erlie Querubin, Aling Cita Arenas, Mrs. Pilar San Jose, Mr. Rodolfo Enalfe

Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines

Mendoza, Liwayway (September 1977). “Lenten Rites and Practices [The Philippines]”. The Drama Review. 21 (3): 21–32.

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