Six Popular Filipino Myths Debunked

Filipino culture is rich in superstitious beliefs, many of which were practiced without knowing the reasons behind them. So as we have commemorated the death of our loved ones earlier this month, let us take a step back and debunk 6 of the most popular superstitious beliefs regarding death, and what really happens after it.

Pagpag, Praying for the dead and Purgatory

If you’re a Filipino, Pagpag may have been a superstition you have already heard, as it is one of the well-known superstitious beliefs in the Philippines. This superstition states that a person coming from someone’s wake must not go home directly but instead make a stop somewhere else, (usually a convenience store) and shake off (pagpag) the spirit of the dead (who apparently went along with them) so that it will not follow them to their homes.

Looking deeper into this idea, this superstition could mean that the spirit of the dead could just be everywhere at the same time because it could follow every person who visited the wake. This belief indirectly discredits the fact that God alone is omnipresent. We can’t hide from Him (Jer. 23:24) and we can’t run away from His presence (Ps. 139:7-10). 

Moreover, believers of this superstition agree with the idea that the spirit still roams around after death which, if you think about it, directly opposes another one of their beliefs that the souls of the dead of those in Christ are in Purgatory and prayers for the dead are needed so that they will reach heaven.

Purgatory is described by the Vatican as a place where the imperfectly purified souls stay to undergo purification for them to achieve the needed holiness to qualify in entering heaven. They believe it is a soul’s stop for those who’re too good for hell but not good enough for heaven. Their reference verse for this is 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. In these verses, Paul was referring to the works of the saints being tested as to identify if they will receive rewards and not about the state of their soul after death. Paul, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, also wrote in Philippians 1:23 that he “desires to depart and be with Christ,” and in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 that it is “better to be away from the body and be at home with the Lord.” This means that if a person who believes in Christ passed away, his soul and spirit will be united with Christ. There will be no other stops or purification process in between. 


Don’t sweep in the place of the wake; don’t take a bath

Some Filipinos follow a belief of not sweeping the place of the wake because this means that you are sweeping the soul of the dead and/or sweeping the souls of its living relatives (and a series of deaths might happen to the family).  This tradition was passed on from generation to generation, with the young cohort of today not knowing the reason behind it. The purpose of this act is to spend time with the dead loved one as much as possible due to them not having the ways we have today. Long ago, they did not have the technology or knowledge sufficient enough to preserve the body, causing its rapid decay and thus emitting a foul smell, leading to little to no time left to spend with the dead loved one. Due to this, they decided not to consume time by doing activities such as taking the bath or sweeping the floor, hence the reason they do not do these in the place of the wake.

Meanwhile, from the Biblical perspective, man’s days are numbered by the Lord (Job 12:10; 14:5, Ps. 139:16). It is not dictated by someone’s actions, but by the Lord. We can’t change or affect someone’s fate with regards to their death  but we, Christians, can be instruments for them to have assurance of life after death.


Bringing food home from the wake

Filipinos also believe that it is not proper to bring home food from a wake for they believe that it brings bad luck to the person who does it. However, the worldview of this belief is more about being considerate, since more visitors are expected to visit the wake. Yet, many people believe that the reason is “malas” or bad luck. The Bible says that “every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). There’s no bad luck and good luck. Everything that happens in our life is permitted by the Lord (Acts 4:28). Our lives’ events are under the sovereignty of the Lord. Yes, our actions have rewards and consequences but they are not brought upon by luck.

As Christians, we should refrain in believing in these superstitious beliefs. They might say that there’s nothing to lose to which I greatly disagree. Following such is letting go of their faith in God and placing their faith and fate on these beliefs. 

Doing such beliefs means that they’re placing these higher than God and that is idolatry. Our Living and Almighty God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He is in control of our lives and He holds our future in the palm of His hands.

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