20 Pinoy Building Superstitions You Should Know
With science and technology dominating modern building practice, it is amazing to see how Pinoy building superstitions—with its roots in the ancient practices of our ancestors—still pervade every step of the construction of our homes and buildings.
Malas and suwerte come into play to satisfy our realistic and supernatural expectations. Good luck, harmony and energy, though unscientific in their basis, have become so widely revered that these guide us almost subconsciously in our day-to-day activities.
It is only natural to desire what is best for us, especially for something as important as building a home. In searching for answers through fact or faith, the old adage still follows: Wala namang masama kung maniniwala tayo. Here are some important pamahiin or superstitions you should heed, at every step of finding and building a home.
ON CHOOSING A LOT
Owing to our Chinoy brethren, we know not to buy a house that is tumbok for the excessive chi energy flowing in, but our ancestors had other considerations as well.
Go for square or rectangular lots
Squares, as shapes in perfect proportion, are revered. Lots with equally long sides (rectangles) are believed to be the most ideal in ensuring a balanced and harmonious home- this is rare of course as rectangular lots create more efficient subdivision cuts.
Other shapes work, too!
But it isn’t always about being perfectly proportioned either. Trapezoidal lots could mean great wealth or poverty depending on their orientation. Purse-shaped lots, with a small frontage and a wider back, recall the pouches our elders used to carry money in, and naturally collected wealth and fortune.
Conversely, the dustpan-shaped lot (or the pun tao with a larger entrance) recalls the shape of a broom sweeping away riches.
This is the lot shape to avoid
Whatever you do however, avoid getting a triangular lot (aside from the fact that its shape poses a huge challenge to architects and designers) as its sharp corners are believed to invite accidents and conflict to the household.
ON PLANNING SPACES WITHIN THE HOME
Filipinos have gone a long way from the single-roomed bahay kubo, and with design logic partly practical and partly based on superstition has developed to determine the best ways to layout and partition our homes.
Main doors should face the rising sun
With an agricultural country like ours, the east and the sunrise are particularly important. Main doors of homes would be oriented toward the rising sun, because it is believes that with the sunrise, warmth and prosperity will enter the home.
Kitchens should be on the east
Likewise, kitchens should be on the east side of homes, or at least the range should be on the eastern portion of the room so that the cook faces the morning sun- this aside from making it easier to prepare food with ample daylight, ensures good fortune and happiness for all those who partake of meals prepared here.
Don’t position toilets near the kitchen
Avoid having toilets open toward the kitchen, and if possible avoid placing them near kitchens altogether—neither above it nor beside it. Aside from sanitary reasons, Filipinos have a high regard for our food, and placing such an unclean area is believed to disrespect the sacredness of dining.
Doors shouldn’t face each other
Bedrooms should be planned so that doors never face each other or the stairwell. These doors should always open toward the side of a bed, never the headboard and most definitely not the foot of a bed. Neither should the headboard rest against window openings—these would ensure a long life, as sleeping facing any large openings tempt an early exit.
Make it airy
The idea of aliwalas or airiness in the home is central to the planning of space. The airy openness achieved through good ventilation and generous lighting creates a welcoming environment for family and guests. Our ancestors understood aliwalas as the opposite of kulob in caves where malignos believed to have resided.
Avoid sunken areas and basements
Thus, in homes, they frown upon sunken living rooms, basements, and depressed floor areas. Aside from not being easily cleaned, these collect bad energy and invite malevolent entities to linger within the home.
READ: Building 101-How To Read Floor Plans
ON CONSTRUCTING THE FOUNDATION
Besides the padugo, ritual sacrifice for the land is necessary to please the spirits and entities who might be displaced, or who might become our “neighbors.” All over the archipelago, there are variations as to what constitute proper alay to ensure a successful project but here are some of the most notable.
Go with the moon
In most construction beliefs, the moon is your friend. The lunar cycles are as essential in housebuilding as they are in agriculture. With that being said, it is believed to be the most auspicious to pour the concrete as the moon approaches or during a full moon.
Bury medals or coins
It is believed that St. Benedict’s Medals mixed in with each foundation can guard against misfortune. Still, others swear by burying medallions of St. Joseph (he was by biblical accounts, a carpenter for success in construction). Coins, both old and new, of any currency and denomination ensure that the family would always have wealth.
Or use pepper (and wine!)
Some older folks believe sili or chili pepper placed under the posts combined with salt for purification (and as a traditional termite deterrent) may repel bad spirits. For good measure, expensive wine should be poured down the footing excavation to please any entities residing within.
Another reason to buy books
Most peculiarly, old books buried under the structure are believed to ensure that children growing up within the home would be learned and knowledgeable, and that burying sheets of music will promote harmony within the family. (Personally though, I find these a waste of good reads.)
And bury more coins
As the stairs of the house is constructed, and if there are multiple storeys, coins should be embedded under each stringer to continue the flow of wealth into the home. Coins from newlyweds, or the parents’ weddings (arras) are said to be particularly effective (be sure you’ve kept those), so long as they are all correctly oriented with the coins facing up.
READ: Here's A Complete List Of the 46 parts of A Filipino House
ON INSTALLING WOODEN PARTS OF THE HOUSE
Did you know that wood could be installed upside down? Apparently, our elders paid particular attention to the orientation of wooden members—with the root end being installed down a must for any essential structural member.
Don’t install wooden parts “upside down”
“Bawal ang patiwarik” is a rule that should be heeded, because if your columns, stringers, or vertical joists are ever installed upside down, this would result in a life with a fortune that is bound to sink.
But wait, it’s easy to determine which side of a tree trunk is up, with crown and root intact, but how about milled and sawn lumber? Older carpenters got this covered—they’d tell you that wood is denser near the roots and lighter than the top, and a simple string tied at the center of a piece would readily point at the root end.
Avoid knotty wood
When choosing wood, avoid knotty variants as well, meaning those with a lot of eyes or mata—remnants of where branches used to attach to the main trunk. Aside from these parts being weaker than the surrounding wood, these knots are believed to be the eyes of forest spirits, and having them in the home subjects its inhabitants to constant observation.
Nowadays, with predominantly reinforced concrete construction used in homes, these practices are slowly fading into obscurity, but keep it in mind the next time wood factors into your design.
ON MOVING IN
Just like construction, days leading up to a full moon, or during a full moon are the best days to move into a new home.
Don’t move in on Mondays (and other days, too!)
Then again, as with all other superstition it isn’t that simple: aside from non-full moon days, Mondays are off limits, as are days assigned to the sorrowful mysteries—so no Tuesdays or Fridays.
Holy Week is included
Neither can you move in during undas or Holy Week leading up to Black Saturday. Year’s close on the 31st of December brings bad luck to new movers as well.
Owing to the Chinese yet again, moving in during Ghost Month is a no-no.
READ: 8 Things To Avoid If You Believe in Ghost Month
Move in at dawn
When you’ve finally selected a day for the big move, don’t forget to give yourself a head start as moving in with the rising sun at the dawn of a new day, signals a prosperous beginning in a new residence.
Salt, vinegar, and rice
On bringing things into the home, one follows a particular ritual: certain items should ideally be brought first into a home to guarantee a healthy, happy home, and this includes salt, vinegar, soy sauce, uncooked rice, sugar, a glass of water, and coins. These are brought into the home one by one, with the requirement that all containers should be full, regardless of their size.
These should be kept in a secluded but visible corner of the kitchen cabinet, and constantly topped up to ensure that the home would never run out of good graces, as the old building superstition goes.
SOURCES: Oro, Plata, Mata!: Filipino Building Beliefs by Ernesto Zarate; and Mga Pamahiing Pilipino, by Generoso Parado
To see the rest of the beautiful home of Wendy Regalado (seen in the Main Photo), click here
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