How your home is constructed could be a source of good luck or misfortune. At least that’s how superstitious Filipinos view this outcome based on age-old beliefs and influence from other cultures when it comes to building their home.
It’s ironic that in a deeply religious country like the Philippines, reliance on superstitious beliefs is high. Just like the checklist associated with prosperity during New Year — wearing polka dots, lining up auspicious fruits and all — planning for house construction can be a carefully prepared list of traditions that date back to pre-Spanish times.
Even at present times where scientific findings are a foundation of a strong house foundation (concrete mix composition, depth of foundation, etc), many Filipinos take extra measures to ensure the safety of homes and the prosperity of those who live there. Such Filipino beliefs and rituals on building homes are handed down from generation to generation mostly through word of mouth communication.
Part of daily life is ancient beliefs that proper setting up of homes and buildings translate to good luck and avoid misfortune. Even in this modern age where rational thinking dominates, beliefs rooted in cultural history continue to pervade. And for every attempt to dismiss them as old-fashioned and archaic, the common defense will always prevail: wala namang mawawala kung susubukan natin.
Check out some of the most common superstitions Filipinos practice when building their homes.
When selecting the lot
Never mind if the lot is expensive, securing those that show prospects of fortune and avoiding those that manifest tell-tale signs of bad luck is a big deal.
- Go for square or rectangular lots as they are thought to usher a well-balanced and harmonious home. Other shapes are also welcome: trapezoidal lots could mean great wealth, and purse-shaped lots, with a small frontage and a wider back, are thought to naturally collect money and fortune. Triangular lots, as challenging as they are from an architectural perspective, are discouraged as they are believed to invite accidents and conflicts.
- Good luck awaits those who wish to buy that tract of land that has the presence of black ants.
- Certain regional groups discourage buying of dead-end lots as they cause financial misfortune or death in the family.
- It is best to cut down aratilis/mansanitas trees that grow on a lot you bought to prevent your daughters from getting pregnant out of wedlock in the future.
- Finding a snake in the lot may be scary and dangerous but these reptiles are considered good luck. Just make sure to remove the animal promptly — getting bites is not a sign of luck.
Laying the foundation
Laying the pillar of the house is a momentous event and a milestone that summons lady luck and blessings to fill into the house.
- It is believed that embedding loose coins or religious medallions inside the foundation can bring good luck. It is believed that St. Benedict’s Medals mixed in with each foundation can guard against misfortune. Burying the medallion of St. Joseph, a carpenter in the Bible serves the same purpose.
- The blood of a pig or chicken smeared on the house’s foundation prevents bad spirits from wreaking havoc on the home.
- Wait until the full moon before pouring in the foundation concrete as lunar cycles are auspicious and as essential in housebuilding as they are in agriculture.
- Turning the posts in a clockwise position as they’re erected and fixed to the ground makes a house resilient to typhoons that often wreak havoc in certain regions in the Philippines.
- Turn your home into a financially-blessed dwelling by placing an old coin on its doorstep.
Placement of elements of the house
Orientation of homes follows a certain Chinese geomantic system to invite prosperity and discourage bad luck.
- The house front should face the rising sun/east to encourage sunshine through the front door, which also brings warmth and prosperity to the home. Likewise, kitchens are ideal to face the east to both allow ample brightness in food preparation and good fortune and happiness to those who partake of the food prepared in such auspiciously located kitchens.
- The house should not face the west, as this can bring financial difficulties, quarrels, or immediate death to its residents.
- Avoid placing toilets close or open towards the kitchen. In addition to sanitary reasons, food must be held in high regard and its preparation close to the kitchen is perceived to be a disrespect to the sacredness of dining.
- Avoid placing a mirror across the main door of the house to prevent deflecting good luck that enters.
- Bedrooms should be planned so doors never face each other or the stairwell. Doors should not open towards the foot of the bed nor a headboard rest against a window opening to ensure a long life. Otherwise, sleeping positioned at any large openings invites an early exit.
- Make the surroundings airy by allocating a generous amount of space to allow good ventilation and sufficient lighting to create that aliwalas effect. Its opposite, kulob, is thought to be the presence of unwanted entities.
- Avoid sunken areas such as basements and depressed floor areas as they are believed to collect bad energy and invite malevolent entities to linger in the house.
Designing the stairs
Even the design and placement of stairs have to follow certain superstitions. While it is difficult to prove these claims of wealth or misfortune depending on how stairs are built, it does no harm to keep them in mind and implement them.
- Steps on a staircase should not count in a multiple of three (3, 6, 9, etc). This takes the pattern “oro, plata, mata” (translated as “gold, silver, death”). When climbing the staircase, the final step should not match “mata/death”.
- The stairs should always turn to the right, as this direction denotes the moral path. A flight of stairs turning to the left might cause infidelity in a marriage.
Planning house details
There are intricate details inside the house that may spell doom or good luck.
- The best time to move in into your new house is during the full moon, and avoid doing so during the Holy Week leading up to Holy Saturday, All Souls Day, and the Chinese Ghost Month of August. Also, ensure that you schedule a blessing of the house.
- Doors inside the house should not face parallel to the door facing outdoors so the flow of luck through the house continues.
- Do not reduce a two-story house into a single-story structure because it will cut short the lives of the house residents.
- Never use 13 as a house number.
- An auspicious start to a new home can be achieved if you move into your new home no later than six in the morning during the new moon. This will ensure fortune in your new home.
- Before bringing over other things in the house, bring over salt, rice, and coins to symbolize the continuous entry of blessings in the house. There is a special order on which item should be brought in ahead of the others: salt, vinegar, soy sauce, uncooked rice, sugar, a glass of water, and coins. Each should fill a container regardless of size. Doing so will ensure the home would never run out of provisions.
“Walang mawawala kung susubukan mo lang.” This is a usual retort to an owner who is unsure if following these beliefs will indeed bring prosperity or avoid misfortune.
And it’s not that homeowners insist that they be implemented. Locally-trained architects already incorporate such customs into their designs.
Whether you are a firm believer of these beliefs and traditions, your actions as a homemaker will determine your fortunes, and how you manage your lifestyle cannot be attributed to
But maybe, just maybe, welcoming the sunrise at your doorstep or orienting your staircase to the right can boost your desired luck forward.