I was on the phone with my mother-in-law yesterday and I told her that I would be bringing the twins to the pedia later to have their cold and cough checked. She immediately said to keep her posted and to not let the twins drink cold water. My antennae twitched a little bit at that last one, as it sometimes does when I encounter traditional beliefs that can possibly be myths.
So later on I asked our pedia if it’s true that the kids shouldn’t drink cold water while they’re sick. No, she very definitely said. In fact, in cases like sore throat, cold water can even be helpful and soothing. And it makes sense, right, because what causes the common cold is the common cold virus, and not cold weather or cold drinks or whatever.
“O, ano pa?” my pedia asked me after she finished explaining, clasping her hands in front of her and all but saying, “okay let’s demolish these myths one by one once and for all.” And that’s one of the many things I like about her—her willingness to answer our questions lengthily no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be (and if it’s health-related nothing is insignificant anyway).
Of course, I didn’t monopolize all of her time by thinking up one question after another, and not a lot of things were coming to mind at the moment anyway. I just asked if it’s true that we shouldn’t give the twins baths when they have a fever. And her answer is yes, and no. While the fever is raging, a bath can be really uncomfortable to the skin. But sometimes there are short spells when the fever would abate, then a bath won’t be at all amiss.
When the twins were born, and even while I was pregnant, a lot of these superstitions or traditional practices came out of the woodwork. People tell you all sorts of stuff. They mean well, of course, and I’m grateful they care enough to give advice. One has to be discerning, though, and my usual reaction to such advice is usually polite acknowledgment, while mentally saying to myself, “I wonder if there’s a scientific rationale for that?” I did a lot of Googling, and the usual answer is no, there isn’t.
Some of the beliefs/advice I’ve heard:
- You can tell if a baby’s hungry or not by feeling the top of her head (bumbunan). If it’s soft or there’s a little depression, then baby is hungry. I don’t know if there’s science behind this, but actually, when babies are hungry usually they would bloody well let you know about it, and they wouldn’t care about the state of their bumbunan. Exceptions are early hunger cues on newborns, which new mothers really have to know about. Here’s a helpful graphic on that.
- You have to cut their hair and/or eyelashes so it would grow back lush and healthy. Cutting up my tiny babies’ eyelashes were a definite no-no to me, and I repeatedly told my mother that. But of course she went ahead and did it anyway. She did one twin first, and when she got to the other she only managed to do the lashes in one eye. Today, there’s no difference in the eyelashes of either eye so yeah, that particular belief is pretty much shot down.
- When baby’s having the hiccups, place a tiny damp spool of thread on her forehead. I’m sorry, what? I couldn’t understand the connection, but it seemed harmless enough so I would just watch when my mother or mother-in-law would pull out a couple of strands of lampin, moisten it and place it on baby’s forehead. When the twins’ Ninang Abby came to visit, her version was moistened cotton wad instead of thread, and she had an explanation: the coldness of the water would distract the baby, which would somehow cause the hiccups to stop. Aha, at least that sort of makes sense! Parang pag sa adults, ginugulat. But sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, right?
- Masama daw pag umiiyak sa hapon, patahanin na agad. Duh, as if ayaw ko naman patahanin kahit anong oras umiyak diba?
- Makokomang/masasakang/masasarat ang ilong pag blah-blah-blah. Fill in the blanks, there are a lot of versions. The nose thing sometimes irks me, but I’d just say okay lang yan, kahit matangos or pango pa yan! Hay, Filipinos and their traditional concepts of beauty…
Again, things like these I usually just take with a grain of salt. Especially if it’s purely superstition because there’s a spiritual aspect to that. Your actions should be guided by faith and your relationship with God, and not about certain practices. Some people say, “wala namang masama/walang mawawala pag sinunod niyo.” My reaction is, yes, something suffered. Your faith.
We even ignored the classic sukob superstition! My sister and I got married the same year. There was also a death in the family in the same year (which happened before both weddings). Today, my sister and I are happily married and happily raising our babies.
So yes, listening to advice is good, but we should always be discerning and in a position to make our own informed decision.
How about you, what are the some of the more unusual traditional practices or superstitions have you heard? Do you follow? Ignore? Or maybe have proven some to be true?