Having a father who was in the military, I was born in Sunny California, lived in the Lone star state, Texas, for a few years, then the beautiful Island of Guam till I was a tween. The life I knew up until then was an “Americanized” life. I celebrated American holidays, ate American food, and learned everything I needed to know about the history of my Country. Being half Filipino, I really didn’t know anything about my Filipino heritage. There were always the occasional Filipino potlucks where we would chow down on delicious Filipino food and sing karaoke, the desserts were my absolute favorite! I could literally live off of leche flan and kutsinta, but other than the food and the little bits of Tagalog that I picked up from my mom and her friends, I knew absolutely nothing about the Filipino culture.
We moved to Guam from Texas when I was 4 years old. I was taught how to make coconut candy, how to make a ball out of coconut leaves, and learned about the Guamanian legends during Chamorro week. I even learned the Chamorro language in school which made me feel at home while living there. After learning about the Guamanian heritage and ways of life, I realized that I was missing out on a whole other culture, my culture, my Filipino half. I didn’t know how to speak the Filipino language and knew nothing at all about the Philippines. So when it was time for my dad to retire from the Navy and move us there, I dreaded the thought of living in a country that I knew nothing about.
Fast forward to my first day in my moms hometown, Sebaste, Antique. Sebaste is a municipality that is about a two hour drive from the province capital, San Jose. The first thing I noticed as we were getting closer to my moms hometown were the majestic mountains and the view of the ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking. I instantly felt all my worries disappear after seeing the view! Finally, after a long day of traveling by bus we finally arrived in my moms Barangay, Aguila.
The first few months were extremely tough on my sister and I. We lived at my Lola’s (Grandmother) house for the first year while we were waiting for our new home to be built. We had to adapt to my Lola’s way of life. We learned how to wash clothes by hand and collect water from the water pumps to fill buckets in the bathroom and kitchen. We were entertained by the sound of AM radio dramas, a single TV channel that we could not understand, and the minimal amount of movies that we had on VHS. We no longer had a telephone, cable TV, or paved roads to roller blade on. It was a complete change for us since we were born and raised in the United States, but all that was just the beginning. Along with the change in lifestyle came a change in beliefs. There were so many things that we were not allowed to do because my Lola and almost everyone else in my moms family were very superstitious. At first we thought nothing of these superstitions, but after a while their beliefs became our beliefs. Here are a few of the beliefs that we had to accept as part of our culture,
- Showering at night is not allowed. if you showered at night you will get sick or wake up with a headache.
- If you have a uni brow, or if your eyebrows meet in the middle (which mine did) you must remove some of the hairs so you won’t see supernatural beings.
- You must say “tabi tabi” (excuse me) when passing big trees, mounds, or graveyards, in respect of the spirits inhabiting the area.
- You are not allowed to travel on your birthday or Black Friday because the risk of you getting hurt on these days is higher.
- You are not allowed to sweep the floor at night because you will sweep away all the good luck in your home.
- Cutting your nails at night will attract witches.
- One must not take a shower after strenuous activities because it will cause nerve damage.
- You must not throw stones because you might hit a spirit or a gnome.
- If you have a dream about losing teeth it means there will be a death in the family so you must bite a tree branch, or something made out of wood so that the dream will not come true.
- If you get a fish bone stuck in your throat you must find a child that was born breach and have them rub your throat to clear the bone.
- If you have a stye you must have the youngest child in the family pull a single lash out of your eyelid so that the stye will go away.
- Wearing red clothing on Fridays attracts the supernatural.
- You must not sing while cooking at the stove, if you do you will have a bad marriage or not marry at all.
- If your right hand itches that means you are about to acquire some money, if your left hand itches you will lose money.
- If a rooster crows at night, it means there is an Aswang (monster) nearby.
- Moths and butterflies contain the spirit of loved ones.
- If you bite your tongue it means someone is gossiping about you. You must ask the person you are with for a number, the number picked associates with the beginning letter of the name of the person that is spreading rumors.
- if you trip while walking someone is talking about you.
- If you accidentally step on poop, it is considered good luck
- You must wear a hat, or cover your head while walking at night to avoid sickness.
To not follows or believe in these superstitions was frowned upon by the elders. We understood where most of the origins of the superstitions came from and why everyone believed in them. I found it fascinating how almost everyone in the Philippines, and not just my moms hometown believed in these superstitions. After living there for years, I too learned to respect these beliefs.
Living in the Philippines changed how I perceived everything. I went from being a child that grew up with all the luxuries and necessities that living in the United States provided to literally having nothing. I learned to live the simple life and appreciate everything that it has to offer. It was terrifying, yet rewarding. I was born half Filipino, but never considered myself a “true” Filipino until after living in the Philippines and experiencing the lifestyle. I learned different dialects, recipes, and traditions. I even learned a few cultural dances and songs. I believe that in order for one to learn about a certain heritage, one must become a part of it and experience it for themselves. Moving to the Philippines brought me closer to my roots and showed me how proud I should be of my culture. The Filipino people are some of the most hospitable, kind, compassionate and hardworking people in the world. They have so little yet live so happily. It is their faith and beliefs that make them who they are. These qualities make me proud to be a Filipino-American.
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