Filipinos have an incredulous number of superstitions. We have one for every event and even for our daily lives.
Your logical mind tells you that breaking these superstitions will do you no harm, but when the elderly are breathing down your neck with little reminders, you follow it anyway. You follow it even if you don’t believe it. Our culture has an abundance of “pamahiin sa patay” that to follow and remember them all is enough to keep everyone at edge.
Attending a wake almost sounds so deadly when you consider all the things you cannot do. It’s impossible to follow all of them, especially when a Filipino wake can stretch to a week or more.
During my grandfather’s wake, which spanned for almost two weeks, we tried to follow the superstitions in the first few nights. But after a few more days of consistently avoiding the mirrors, it’s just impossible to do it. Am I really not allowed to comb my hair or to take a bath for two weeks?
While some superstitions have a supernatural reasoning behind it, sometimes no one remembers the repercussion of not following the do’s and don’t’s. However, most reasons of following the superstitious beliefs is to avoid death to happen again or to banish bad luck in the family.
Here’s an exhaustive list of “pamahiin sa patay” still followed by most Filipinos.
1. When the wake is held in a household, cover all the mirrors with cloth.
They said that the dead tries to show themselves in mirrors, so they must be covered with a cloth. You must also avoid looking at your reflection in mirrors, too.
2. Family members aren’t allowed to take a bath or comb their hair in the house where the wake is being held.
But they can do it in another house.
3. Avoid sweeping the floors during a wake.
This applies most specially to family members. Apparently, cleaning means you’re trying to banish the spirit of the dead from the household.
4. Do not go straight at home right after attending a wake.
If you do, the dead will follow you home. Instead, drop by someplace else. Be it somebody else’s home, the neighborhood’s sari-sari store or the mall, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you do not directly go home.
5. Do not bring home the food served in a wake.
It’s customary for Filipinos to give takeout food to visitors, but it’s not practiced during a wake. They said you’ll bring bad luck if you take home the food with you. Another reason provided is so the dead won’t be hungry in the afterlife.
6. Avoid any tears from falling on the casket.
The spirit of the dead will have a difficult time transitioning to the afterlife if tears fall on the casket.
7. Pregnant women are discouraged to attend a wake or to look at the dead.
Doing so can serve as bad luck for the baby.
8. When the person who died is old, it’s good luck to eat the food served.
Many believe that you will gain the person’s luck of living into old age just by eating the food served in a wake.
9. Pinch anyone who sneezed during the wake.
Sneezing supposedly invites the dead to visit you. To avoid that, ask someone to pinch you.
10. The fist of the dead foresees the fortune of the family.
If the dead’s fist are clenched, it means that the family they left behind will have troubles with money. But if the palms are open, the family won’t have financial difficulties.
11. The dead shouldn’t be wearing shoes.
To avoid hearing the steps of the dead echo throughout the house, they must not be buried wearing shoes.
12. You must enclose cash on the hands of the dead during the wake, then take back the money before the funeral.
The money serves as the dead’s “pamasahe” on his way to the afterlife. It’s also said that anyone who uses the money or includes it in the capital to start a business will find success. Not spending the money can also bring luck to those who keep it.
13. Place a broken rosary on the hands of the dead.
Make sure that it’s broken so that there won’t be consecutive deaths in the family.
14. Immediately change clothes upon going home coming from a wake.
In Visayas, you must immediately take off the clothes you wore in a wake; don’t roam around the house and go to the second floor wearing the clothes.
15. It’s forbidden to eat malunggay during the wake.
In the Ilocos region, eating malunggay during a wake is forbidden because the manner of preparation strips the leaves one by one. Serving it in a wake might mean the relatives will also die one after the another.
16. Some people practice whispering their wishes to the dead.
They carry your wish into the heavens, so your wishes have a bigger chance to come true.
17. If the cause of death is murder, place chicks on the coffin.
Doing so will bring the murderer to justice. The chicks’ “pagtuka” symbolizes eating away the murderer’s conscience.
18. In the province, they throw a “palayok” on a pile of sand or soft soil.
If it doesn’t break, it means another one will die soon.
19. Pancit must not be served during the wake but must be eaten after the funeral.
Eating pancit during the wake will lengthen the mourning period, while eating it after the funeral will lengthen the lives of the relatives.
20. There must always be someone watching over the casket.
There must be at least one person to stay awake, or else, an entity or negative supernatural being will take the soul of the dead. Some elderly say that someone must be watching at all times so that an “aswang” won’t snatch the dead away and replace it with a trunk of a banana tree disguised as the dead. to reverse the spell, the casket must pass through the window, where the disguised will transform back into a banana.
21. You can’t say thank you to those giving condolences.
It’s as if saying you’re thankful that someone’s dead. It’s a difficult tradition to follow, as saying thank you is the first thing you’re tempted to do when people offer their condolences.
22. When carrying the casket out the house, avoid bumping it anywhere.
A practice observed so no one dies next.
23. Once the funeral procession starts, returning and looking back at the house are forbidden.
To avoid bad luck and more deaths, many people still strictly follow this superstition.
24. The widowed women can’t join the procession.
It’s advised for them to take another route, because they might follow their husbands to the afterlife.
25. All the flowers used in the wake must be buried together with the dead.
From the petals of the orchids to the little flower rosaries lining the casket, everything’s buried six feet under. However, the names of relatives decorating the casket must be kept. It’s forbidden to take a flower from a wake to avoid succeeding deaths.
26. Those who pass by a funeral procession must throw coins.
It will also serve as the dead’s “pamasahe” on their way to the afterlife.
27. Kids are passed to and fro overhead the casket before the grave’s permanently covered.
This is done so the ghost of the dead won’t visit the little kids. Another reasons is because it symbolizes “burying” the kids’ sickness along with the dead.
28. Coming from the funeral, the relatives must wash their hands in cold water with bayabas leaves before entering the house.
This will wash away all the bad luck from the dead.
29. All the food served and bought for the wake must be eaten within the day of the funeral.
No casseroles left uneaten, no crumbs left forgotten.
30. After the funeral, all the curtains and bed-sheets used during the wake must be removed.
A general cleanup is necessary, besides for the reason that hundreds of visitors coming and going during the wake can be pretty messy. It’s strip away all the bad luck and negative energy from the wake.
This list is probably not complete. But even with these superstitions alone, it will be difficult to strict follow each and everyone of these beliefs. It’s safe to say that they may not be true at all. Death is a natural occurrence, and breaking superstitions may have nothing to do with it.
There are many contradicting superstitions. While one say you can’t say no when offered food, others say you shouldn’t eat food from a wake. It must be because different regions have different beliefs.
Do you know other superstitions? What’s the weirdest one you’ve heard? Sound off in the comments!
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)