A few days ago, I had a dream that one of my molar tooth fell off. Here in the Philippines, dreaming of a tooth falling off means that somebody is going to… DAN DAN DAN DAN… die. Morbid, right? That’s according to the urban legends, myths, or superstitions, that has been passed onto people for generations.

I recently went to a wake and I realized that we do have a lot of “traditions” and superstitious beliefs when it comes to death. I don’t know how it is done in other places but here we call the wakes, “lamay”, family and friends gather in funeral homes or even at their own homes – if they decide to conduct the wake there – and stay up all day and all night. People spend the time by catching up (wakes can also be a reunion especially for families who have lived in abroad), reminiscing the life of the deceased, or playing card games (like tong-its) and sometimes even mah-jong!

10 Things, People, and Other Weird Traditions You’ll Probably See in a Typical Pinoy Wake:

1. Coffee. Lots of 3-in-1 coffee… in styrofoam cups.

2. Nuts, biscuits (ones that come in big square tin cans), and candies.

3. Lots of people you don’t know. It is believed that the dead should not be left alone, that’s why wakes here in the Philippines are packed with people even if it’s 2 in the moring. You’ll see friends of your neighbors, old women in groups who’ll conduct a sort of prayer session, and distant relatives you’ll probably meet for the first time.

4. People playing cards, mah-jong, and some, get this, are even drinking a few beers.

5. Relatives are not allowed to sweep the floor. I don’t actually know why. My friend wipes the floor instead during his grandmother’s wake. Well, nobody said that wiping is not allowed, right? Smart ass. 😛

6. Relatives are not allowed to send off visitors when they leave. When my grandmother died, I had to give directions animatedly just to help my visitors find their way out of our village cause we weren’t allowed to accompany them as they leave the wake.

7. Families place a rosary and money on one hand of the dead body. Before the burial, the rosary needs to be destroyed – ok, destroy is a strong word – needs to be cut into two. According to the superstition, if you fail to do this, other family members will follow the death of the deceased and die one by one. I say, that’s one SCARY superstition so we did that when my lola  died. *Goosebumps* The money, on the other hand, should not be spent and be kept until the end of time. Too bad, one of my aunts “accidentally” used the money. As of this writing, she is very much alive and kicking so I guess, it’s okay. 🙂

8. As mentioned earlier, the dead should not be left alone. Thus, having the wake with relatives staying up all day and night.

9. Politicians! Yes, politicians especially those in the local government units go to wakes of constituents. I’d like to think that they are there to really mourn and console the family and that it’s not some publicity stunt to secure votes for the elections.

10. For individuals who died because of a crime, family members place chicks (baby chickens) on top of the casket. They say, this will make the criminals feel guilty and that their conscience will not let them sleep for doing such crimes. I don’t know if that actually works, but I guess it gives the family members of the deceased some kind of comfort.

There you have it, some of the superstitions/myths/legends, observations, and traditions when it comes to death in the Filipino culture. I’m sure they have their own superstitious beliefs and traditions in different cultures all over the world.

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