Thursday, July 20, 2017

10 Superstitious Beliefs - which ones are true?

Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.
Dr Abe V Rotor   

1. Avoid laughing when planting kamote otherwise the roots will become liplike.
One who has incomplete teeth (bungal) should keep his mouth closed when planting corn otherwise the cobs will not be filled properly, or become empty.

Do you have a third eye?
 What do you see in this painting?

These are purely superstitious beliefs.  But maybe we look at it this way. One who is not serious in his work is likely to commit mistakes. What happens if the planting materials are not well placed in the soil?  Stray chickens may come after the uncovered corn.  If the distancing of the cuttings is irregular, naturally crop stand will be poor.  Too much fun leaves a lot of work poorly done or unfinished.

2. Bathing the cat will bring rain.
Then farmers will be a happy lot. And there is no need of cloud seeding, and procession for the intercession of San Isidro.

3. Bats swoop on unwary people. Old folks warn us not to go out at dusk or at night - and never alone.
Bats, the only true flying mammals are perhaps the most misunderstood creatures because of their ugly looks and enigmatic life embellished with superstitious beliefs and associated with fiction such as the story of Dracula, a bloodthirsty count-vampire in the world of the undead. Movies, cartoons, and children’s stories have projected a bad image of bats, giving us the impression they are enemies of mankind.   

The truth is that bats are harmless, except for three known species called vampire bats that feed on the blood of animals. Seventy percent of the one thousand species of bats live on insects as their daily diet. One bat can devour 1000 mosquitoes in one hour. The bigger species eat on fruits (fruit bats). Insectivorous bats swoop down on flying insects in the dark which they detect by means of echolocation (natural radar) making it appear that they are attacking people when they get too close to them.

Bats are nature’s biological agents in controlling destructive insects.  They pollinate plants that bloom only in the night, and they are very efficient in disseminating seeds of many plants. By carrying out these functions bats are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance of fragile ecosystems like the desert and chaparral.  Their droppings accumulated for years in their cave dwellings make the best and safest organic fertilizer (guano).  Let us protect the bats instead; they are indeed man’s valuable friends.    

4. Bite your finger after you have pointed at somebody or something.
Pointing particularly at people is indeed bad manners. In aristocratic societies, the act of pointing is reserved only to the royalty that goes with its authority over the people.  Old folks tell us never point at holy objects, the unseen and in the dark. And never point at the sun and moon. Your fingers will get hurt. Pointing at the sun is a grave offense among ancient cultures like the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, because the sun is their god. The act of biting the pointing finger is engrained self discipline from the old folks.

By the way, when you point with one finger, the other fingers are pointing at you - something that reminds us that before we blame somebody let us first examine ourselves.   

5. Black ants in lansones means the fruit is sweet.
Lansones (Lansium domesticum) from Paete has a singular reputation that it is the sweetest lansones. But if you can’t find the Paete variety, you can settle for other sweet varieties.  If there are black ants crawling on the fruit, it must be sweet.

Not really.  The black ants feed on the sugary secretion of mealy bugs and scale insects clinging on the bunch of fruits. Actually they are parasitic, feeding on plant sap. Some unscrupulous fruits vendors sprinkle sugar solution which attracts red ants instead.      

6. Bringing salt under a sour fruit-bearing tree will cause the fruits to fall.
Naturally.  What goes better than a pinch of salt when eating juvenile sampaloc, kamiaskasoy or green mango? 

7. Cat grooming at the doorway tells of visitors coming.
Cats are fastidious clean creatures.  Like birds at rest preening, cats lick their paws and fur clean especially after eating. But what has this to do with their alleged ability to forecast? Well, let’s look at it this way.  It is customary in the province to cook something especially for our guests.  And fond that we are with cats, we let them have their fill while we are cooking.  
8. Conceiving mother who gets near a fruiting tree causes its fruits to fall prematurely.
There is no scientific evidence to link a conceiving mother with the premature dropping of fruits, but let us look at it this way.  Craving for certain food, such as those rich in Vitamin C - green mango, young sampalockamias, guava and the like - is generally observed among conceiving mothers. It is not unusual to see them in the orchard, holding a bamboo pole or some pieces of stone. Such craving for special foods is a physiologic function of the body, but it may be psychological, too.  Old folks interpret it as maternal impression (pinaglihi-an), which is of course an unfounded belief.

9. Eating shark influences human character with the animal’s behavior.
For a long time people would just let the sharks live alone.  In fact they were feared and revered creatures until someone discovered that shark fins taste good and its liver has curative power.  The shark since then became the prey, and no longer the predator.

What is mysterious about the shark? The shark does not only live very long, it is a living fossil, which means it has not changed for the last 100 million years or so.  What could be its secret?

The US National Institute of Health discovered a previously unknown molecule in the liver of the dogfish shark.  Called squalamine, the natural steroid fights cancer by cutting off blood flow to tumors. Now we are saying, “Eat shark and be as healthy as the shark.”

10.  Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.
The explanation is similar to that above.  The practice includes offering a plate of food and drink the host has prepared for the occasion.  It is placed on the family altar, or any place the souls and spirits are deemed to be around. Respect (pag-galang) is true Filipino and Oriental tradition to the living, the dead and the unseen. It strengthens camaraderie, keeps memories of loved ones alive, and adds quaintness to village life.


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