(first published as Book Review: Don’t Take a Bath on a Friday by Neni Santa Romana-Cruz on Blogcritics.)
Superstitions. They’re everywhere.
We learn them from our parents and our elders. We learn them from our neighbors and fellow city folk, town folk, village folk, any local we may come across as you get older.
As we get older, we get wiser and we eventually learn that many of the superstitions we grew up with were simply just superstitions. Even if that was the case, however, as we start entering the new phases of our lives, such as entering high school to even beginning of our first job, we even start learning more new superstitions from our classmates or co-workers.
A few weeks ago my parents bought a Philippine-imported book called Don’t Take a Bath on a Friday, selected and compiled by famed Filipino children’s author Neni Santa Romana-Cruz. This delightfully hilarious and entertaining 69-page book (in English) introduces many of the famous Filipino superstitions collected from various regions of the Philippines (there are over 7,000 islands that make up the archipelago).
Being a Filipino-American, born in the Philippines but raised in the United States since the age of 10, I admit that I have lost touch on majority of my cultural roots. I still speak my native language, still somewhat can understand my parents’ dialect of Ilocano, and still eat the food that I’ve gotten used to eating since childhood, but in terms of historical roots and the old country’s eclectic culture, I could barely remember or even acknowledge them.
Just reading this book and learning various superstitions I was unfamiliar with from childhood really made ma laugh. However it also helped me reconnect and remember a few of the cultural details that I’ve forgotten since we immigrated here.
This compilation of Philippine superstitions is divided in to different categories, from love and marriage to illness and death. There are silly ones such as “If you bathe a cat, lightning will strike you” to scary ones such as “When three people pose for a photo, the one in the middle will be the first to die.”
There are even ones we wished was true, such as “A house frequented by black ants means that its owner will be rich” to even Western superstitions like “A black cat crossing your path is a bad omen for the black cat is a demon in disguise.”
The number 13 is also bad luck in Philippine superstition, such as “It’s bad luck for a house to have 13 posts” and “The number of persons sitting down to a meal should not add up to 13.” The list is simply endless.
This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone from the curious to those who enjoy a laugh. At the same time it also helps identify how the Filipino mind works in daily life. No matter where you come from, this book definitely provides pure amusement.