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15 Interesting Filipino Superstitions That Reflect the Local Culture

The Philippines is a culturally diverse country, thanks to its colorful history that has been marked by colonialism and the migration of different races. Because of its strategic location in Asia, the Philippines has become a melting pot of several Asian groups, plus a piece of Europe as Spaniards occupied the country for more than three centuries. 

The Filipinos of today will find traces of Malay, Chinese, Hindu, Arab, Polynesian, and Spanish genes in their blood. Some may even have English, Japanese, and African ties. The influence of such a diversified heritage can be observed in some quirky superstitions that remain quite popular with the locals even now. Here are 15 interesting Filipino superstitions that will help you get to know the people and their culture:

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Wearing Your Shirt Inside Out When You Get Lost

According to Filipino lore, some mythical creatures are harmless but love to play pranks on people. These creatures commonly reside in forested areas or parts of a town where the vegetation grows more abundantly.

One of their favorite tricks is to confuse people who trespass into their territory, making them lose their sense of direction, so they end up going around in circles without being aware of what they are doing. If this happens to you, wear your shirt inside out, and you will soon find your way again.

Eating Noodles for Longevity

Eating long noodles

It is common to see long noodles served in Filipino celebrations, but they are practically a staple food in birthday parties and New Year festivities. This tradition is strongly influenced by Chinese migrants who believe that long noodles will bring good luck to the household or establishment hosting the celebration. These noodles also bless the family members with long lives. The longer the noodles are, the longer your life will be, which is why the noodles should not be cut shorter during the cooking process.

Trying on the Bridal Gown Before the Wedding Day

Filipino brides are not allowed to try on their bridal gown directly before their wedding day because this is believed to bring bad luck and may even lead to the cancellation of the wedding. This superstition is so popular that bridal designers have to work with stand-ins to adjust the fit of the dress or use only the gown’s lining for the fitting.

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Sleeping with Wet Hair

If you shower at night, ensure that your hair dries out first before going to bed; otherwise, you might lose your sight, or you could go crazy. This popular superstition is not based on medical facts but on word-of-mouth recommendation that Filipino mothers have passed on from one generation to another.

Dreaming About Falling Teeth

It is not unusual to dream about having your teeth fall off for some reason, but in Filipino culture, it has a morbid meaning. According to the local superstition, this kind of dream is a warning that someone close to you will die soon. However, you can prevent this dream from coming true if you bite hard on your pillow as soon as you wake up.

Taking a Detour After Attending a Wake or Funeral

Instead of going home directly after visiting a wake or attending a funeral, Filipinos would drop by another place even if they do not have anything important to do there. This is because of the belief that evil spirits will attach themselves to the bodies of the visitors and will follow them home. The stopover will serve as a distraction, as the spirits will go on to wander in this place instead.

Staying at Home Before a Major Life Event

Filipinos believe that a person has a higher risk of becoming injured or getting into accidents when a major event is about to happen in his life, such as an upcoming wedding or school graduation. For this reason, these people are often told to minimize or cancel all their travel schedules and stay home as much as possible. Often, this is a case of having perfect hindsight, wherein people find connections between accidents and life events after the fact.

Saying “Excuse Me” When Traversing an Uninhabited Area

The local phrase that goes “tabi tabi po”, which roughly means “excuse me”, is often spoken softly and politely by Filipinos as they walk through a secluded place or an uninhabited area. This is their way of asking permission to pass through the territory of mystical creatures like dwarves who might have staked their ownership over that bit of land. Calling this phrase out loud will prevent them from offending these creatures in case of a trespass while avoiding injuring them accidentally if they get bumped into.

Sweeping the Floor at Night

Sweeping floor night

Another popular superstition is the belief that sweeping after sunset will bring misfortune to the household. They believe that doing so is equivalent to driving out all the blessings outside the house. The same principle applies to sweeping the floor on New Year’s Day.

Getting Married in the Same Year

Aside from not allowing brides to wear their bridal gowns before the ceremony, another wedding-related superstition in the Philippines is the belief that siblings must not get married in the same year. Locals believe that luck is shared among siblings, especially regarding marriage matters. Thus, when siblings get married in the same year, they will split these blessings in half. In the same vein, weddings are also postponed to the following year whenever a close relative to either the bride or groom dies because of the belief that this will attract bad luck to the marriage.

Predicting a Baby’s Gender

A popular superstition among Filipino matrons is the saying that you could guess the gender of the baby by simply taking a look at the shape of the mother’s belly while pregnant, as well as the condition of her physical appearance. If the belly is round and the mother looks glowing with health, the baby inside her belly is likely a girl. On the other hand, a point belly plus a haggard-looking mother are signs that she is having a baby boy.

Inserting Money in a Wallet Before Gifting

Money in wallet

If you are planning to give a wallet as a gift to someone in the Philippines, make sure to put at least a coin inside before handing it over. This means that they wish financial success for the recipient of the gift. The value of the money does not matter, and it’s up to you whether to insert paper money or coins. A related superstition is to not leave any wallet empty, even old wallets that you are no longer using or rarely use. Always leave a little bit of money inside before putting them away for storage.

Dropping Utensils on the Floor

A utensil that accidentally drops on the floor signifies that a visitor will be coming over within the day. Whether it is a man or a woman depends on which utensil was dropped. A fork means that a male will come to visit, while a spoon means that the visitor will be a female.

Cleaning Up the Table Ahead of Others

If you are single, make sure that the table doesn’t get cleaned up while you are still eating, or else you will never be able to get married. Because Filipinos are family-oriented, they tend to eat together, so this situation is highly likely if one member happens to be a slow eater. This superstition, which is more popular in rural areas in the country, states that unmarried or unattached people will lose their chance at a happy ever after if someone picks up the plates at the table while they are still eating.

Accidentally Biting the Tongue

It can probably happen to anyone, but if you accidentally bite your tongue, Filipinos believe that this means someone is thinking of you. If you want to know who it is, ask someone beside you to give you a random number off the top of his head. Whichever letter in the alphabet matches that number represents the name of the person who has you on his mind.

Wrapping Up

Filipinos are fun-loving and family-oriented people, which can be seen in many of their superstitions related to celebrations, family gatherings, and interpersonal relationships. They also have great respect for their elders, which is why even in these modern times, the younger generation would opt to go with tradition even if this may sometimes interfere with their plans.

However, they are more lenient to visitors, so if you go to the Philippines on your next trip, don’t worry too much about whether you are inadvertently violating some superstition. The locals likely won’t take it as an offense and instead will probably rush to inform you about their customs before you even ask.

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As she grew up reading books on mystery, mythology, fantasy, and adventure, Olive developed an urge to explore the world as an adult. After completing a degree in Mass Communications, she built a career in marketing for the past two decades but has spent most of her vacations backpacking through different countries. During her trips, Olive likes to immerse herself in the local culture to further expand her understanding of other people and their lifestyles, which she now uses to aid her writing.