Common Superstitious Beliefs in Cebu

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Cebuanos believe that the last step in a flight of stairs should not be divisible by 3.

Have you ever been told not to leave the table if someone is still eating?  

Or witnessed someone knocking on wood and making a sign of the cross to ward off bad luck?

Well, these are just some of the many superstitious beliefs that Cebuanos are accustomed to. To this day, many of these beliefs remain relevant and interesting. 

Some beliefs are influenced by foreign cultures, while others originated in a typical Filipino household. These beliefs often have certain customs that are observed depending on the occasion, time of day, a person’s age, and so on.

For those of you who are new to Cebu, culture shock is something to be expected. Whether you’re a tourist or an expat who is planning to settle down in Cebu, you’re bound to encounter some of these superstitious beliefs when interacting with the locals.

8 Superstitious Beliefs Observed by Cebuanos

1. The number of stairs at home should NOT be divisible by three.

If you plan on building your own house in Cebu, there are many traditional beliefs to consider. One thing that you may have to be particular about is the staircase construction.

For sure, locals will tell you that the last step should always end with “oro” (gold) or “plata” (silver), and it should never end with “mata” (death). This is done by counting the number of stairs starting with oro, plata, then mata.  

It is believed that if the last step falls under “mata,” it will bring bad luck or misfortune to the house and the people living in it. But if the last step falls under “oro” or “plata,” it means good fortune and abundance. 

Other Superstitious Beliefs When Constructing a House:

  • Building a house on a dead-end must be avoided.
  • Embedding the foundation posts with coins brings good fortune.
  • The house must face east (sunlight entering the front door ushers in prosperity).
  • Doors inside the house must not be directly parallel to other doors that lead outside (it means easy exit of money and wealth).

2. Include money when giving a wallet or bag as a gift.

Cebuanos believe that you should add money whenever you give someone a wallet as a gift.

Many Cebuanos will consider superstitious beliefs when giving gifts to the people they care about, especially when it comes to items that are said to bring good fortune.

It is believed that whenever you give someone a wallet as a gift, it would be much appreciated if you put money in it (even if it’s just a small amount). This is said to ensure success for the receiver.

3. Don’t point your fingers at night.

Many Cebuanos believe that trees have spirits or souls living in them. So if you accidentally point your finger at a tree in the dark or at night, you must bite the tip of your finger to avoid a string of bad luck.

4. The Anti-Dumb Gesture

This may seem hilarious to you, but a lot of people in Cebu practice this superstition. 

It’s believed that if someone or something hits you in the head, or if you accidentally bump your head into something, your intelligence will most likely be affected. Or there’s a big chance you’ll grow up to be dumb, unless you do the “anti-dumb” gesture. 

This is done by tapping your chin three times using the back of your hand. Doing this is said to put your brain back in place after it was forced out of position from the impact.

5. The Fish Bone Dilemma

Got a fish bone stuck in your throat? Cebuanos believe that using a cat’s paw to gently scratch the outside of your throat will remove the lodged fish bone.

6. Always serve pancit (noodles) on birthdays.

Pancit is a traditional food served on almost every occasion.

Many Cebuanos eat and serve noodles, or “pancit,” on special occasions like birthdays, weddings, christenings, and many more. According to them, pancit symbolizes long life. Plus, the longer the noodles, the greater the yearning for life. 

7. Say “tabi-tabi po” whenever you’re outside.

Some Cebuanos will say “tabi-tabi po” whenever they enter an unfamiliar place in case evil entities are around the area. It’s basically like saying “excuse me” as a sign of respect so you don’t get cursed. 

This is especially important if you’re in the countryside where there are many trees around. You might also see a lot of anthills, also known as “nuno sa punso,” wherein you will need to be cautious.

Cebuanos believe that if you step on these anthills, the dwarves and other elemental spirits living in them will become enraged. You’re more likely to experience bad luck and poor health if you do this.

8. Say “simbako” when talking about bad things. 

“Simbako” is a local variation of knocking on wood. Many of the locals believe that saying “simbako” can prevent any untoward incident from happening. 

If you want to do this, simply tap on a piece of wood while uttering the word “simbako.” If you can’t find any wood, you may knock on a wall or your head instead. 

Truth be told, many Cebuanos believe in many things, even if there is no logical reason for their superstitious beliefs. If the practice is rather odd or hilarious, Cebuanos will simply say, “Walay mawala nato kung mutu-o ta.” (We’ll lose nothing if we believe in it.)

Superstition as a Product of History

Before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines and started spreading Catholicism, many of the island’s inhabitants were Pagans or Muslims. 

These ancestors believed in a supreme being called Bathala. They believed in anitos, or spirits, that live in forests and mountains (a belief that many Cebuanos still hold).

Apart from the Spaniards, the Chinese have had the most significant influence on Cebuano culture. 

Cebuanos have adopted and practiced some traditional beliefs like the wearing of clothes with polka dots, preparing round fruits for New Year’s Eve, serving noodles on every occasion as a symbol of long life, and so on. 

So Why Are Cebuanos Superstitious?

All kinds of traditions and beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation. Some Cebuanos may not be even aware that they’re behaving a certain way because of a superstitious belief that was taught to them when they were young.

Even so, superstition has become a part of Cebuano culture, shaping the way decisions are made, how people treat each other, and so on. Whether or not they believe in superstitions, they tend to observe the practice anyway. 

That being said, you might be wondering if you’re required to practice these beliefs when you’re in Cebu. The answer is no. But it would greatly help to have an idea about them so as to avoid offending Cebuanos and their culture. 

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