Fri­day the 13th Y

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION -

ESTERDAY was Fri­day the 13th.

That date doesn’t have as much im­pact as it did decades ago. I was around seven years old when the first Fri­day the 13th movie came out and scared ev­ery­one out of their wits. I never saw any of the movies, only some trail­ers but they were enough to keep me aw ay.

It didn’t help that one day, I saw my older sis­ter watch­ing a hor­ror flick (I for­got what the ti­tle was -- maybe Poltergeist), and there was this guy in an old house run­ning from some­thing. He was on the sec­ond floor and he tried es­cap­ing through a win­dow. It was one of those big win­dows that opened up and down. He had got­ten half of his body through the win­dow when it sud­denly slammed shut on his waist and con­tin­ued press­ing down un­til the poor scream­ing guy was cut in half. His up­per body fell to the ground be­low where it con­tin­ued to writhe in its death throes.

I would have night­mares of that scene many times af­ter that.

I had a lot of fears as a child and the fear of the su­per­nat­u­ral was one of them. Oh I’ve heard about demons in church but see­ing on them en­acted on TV was just hor­ri­fy­ing. It didn’t help that my Sun­day School teacher as­sured us that the devil and evil spir­its were real.

That was my en­try point into the world of su­per­sti­tion. My class­mates would talk about Fri­day the 13th, both the movie, and the ac­tual su­per­sti­tion -say­ing that we weren’t sup­posed to do any­thing risky on that day, which was a dou­ble­whammy be­cause 13 was an un­lucky num­ber, and Je­sus died on a Fri­day. So if you went swim­ming, for ex­am­ple, you risked drown­ing. If you climbed a tree, you risked fall­ing. And if you got wounded, the bleed­ing wouldn’t stop, and so on and so forth.

From there, I heard about Filipino su­per­sti­tions, like we weren’t sup­posed to pee on trees that sur­rounded the large fields of our schools, un­less we said, “tabi-tabi po” (“ex­cuse me” or “pardon me”). Oth­er­wise the an­gry duwende (dwarves) liv­ing in that tree would af­flict us with a scorch­ing fever. We were sup­posed to hang cloves of gar­lic around the house to keep away the aswang -- a myth­i­cal shapeshift­ing mon­ster com­monly used to scare chil­dren into obe­di­ence. “You bet­ter fin­ish your food. You bet­ter be­have, or the aswang will come and get you while you’re sl eepi n g.”

The Chi­nese cul­ture also has a lot of su­per­sti­tious be­liefs mostly coming from feng shui or ge­o­mancy. I was shielded from most of those be­cause my fa­ther (a rare breed among Chi­nese) didn’t be­lieve any of that stuff, claim­ing that his be­lief in Je­sus Christ su­per­seded all of those. I would learn of these su­per­sti­tions later on and would mar­vel that many busi­ness­men would pay huge sums to ge­o­mancers to give them ad­vice on how to build or re­model their houses, of­fices, or stores in or­der to bring in more luck. I re­mem­ber notic­ing a house in our old neigh­bor­hood one day be­cause the gate and the roof were sud­denly painted a gar­ish red and there were four golden 8’s at­tached to the gatepost. My dad chuck­led as we drove by and ex­plained to me that was a prod­uct of feng shui.

I’m sure those brought a lot of luck (and cash) for the geo m an cer.

Peo­ple take their be­liefs very se­ri­ously. I know some­one who won’t go into busi­ness with some­one else whose Chi­nese zo­diac sign clashes with his own. There are peo­ple who won’t open a store or live in a new house un­less it has been blessed by a cler­gy­man of what­ever re­li­gion they pro­fess. Taxi driv­ers touch the rosaries hang­ing from their rearview mir­rors and mut­ter a prayer when they pass by a church.

These same peo­ple laugh at others’ su­per­sti­tion but would get deeply of­fended when you call their own be­liefs as such. I know be­cause I did too.

It took me a while to shed off my be­liefs, like old tat­tered clothes. Now I have dis­carded most of them.

Fri­day the 13th? Bring it on.

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