The southwestern window of my home office overlooks the subdivision’s clubhouse pool. Since the school year ended, it’s been filled with the neighborhood’s children almost everyday. From the last week of March up until the week after the Lenten break, all I have been hearing are playful laughter and splashes of water.
But with the daily rains that started several days ago, along came new voices and new sounds. At least twice, I heard the scolding voices of mothers (or yayas, perhaps), ordering the children out of the water whenever it started to rain. “Umahon na kayo at baka magkasakit kayo sa ulan [Get out of the water now or you might get sick from the rain],” I distinctly heard. And I thought, “Isn’t the pool filled with water already? What’s the big deal about more water coming from the sky?”
Of course, it was a rhetorical question because I already knew the answer. Some people still believe that getting drenched in the rain automatically results in a bad cold that can lead to pneumonia and death. You know, just as some people still believe that walking barefoot on cold stone floors can cause polio. There are even more people who insist that it is circumcision that makes boys grow tall and develop low deep voices.
Just yesterday in my food blog, I learned a new one. I recently posted a recipe that I called “Squash, potato and chicken soup with croutons and cheese.” In the comment thread, a regular reader, Natz, shared the following story. This is a slightly truncated version:
After announcing that I would be trying your soup for lunch, my mom suddenly warned me and said that her mother NEVER combined KALABASA and CHICKEN together in the same dish because it causes KETONG (leprosy).
I, of course, questioned her how this could be true; chicken and squash being a traditional western combination either served individually in the same meal or literally cooked together. I laughed and dismissed it as an old wives’ tale. My dad, hearing our discussion, told me that there could be truth to these tales and that westerners have yet to learn more about superstition and eastern ways.
I couldn’t believe that my parents, both being highly educated, could even consider believing in something like this. I even reminded them of our roasted chicken and pumpkin pie dinners in the USA.
… I spent literally the whole morning Googling about chicken and kalabasa combinations and found nothing about it causing any skin diseases. I was hoping to maybe find the origins of the belief but found nothing on the subject matter. Instead, I found hundreds of thousands of recipes with chicken and squash combination.
This, and my experience that you have consistently given us recipes that are always delicious, further convinced me to go on with this recipe… I served the soup with slightly toasted bread on the side and that was a full meal in itself! It was so good that there were no more discussions about the chicken-kalabasa combination causing ketong. Everyone just enjoyed the soup.
Natz is lucky. All it took was some research and his mother was sufficiently convinced to eat the soup. But there are many instances when no amount of scientific data can convince old people that they are wrong. And it is especially trying when it’s a grandmother or mother-in-law imposing child-rearing standards. In a culture where it is considered disrespectful not to bow down to the wishes of the elders, it is devil-or-deep-blue-sea scenario for a lot of parents.
Try these superstitions culled from readers’ comments in a two-year-old entry in my Web log entitled “Causes of the common cold and other old wives’ tales.”
Rolly’s mother-in-law’s advice: In order for your child to be bright, burn paper with mathematical problems and solutions, mix the ash to rice being cooked.
Reader Mommy M’s mother-in-law “insisted I put a bigkis WITH a coin so the baby would be an ‘innie’. I was freaked! I told her I would only be introducing infection, to which she replied, ‘Huhugasan mo naman muna, ah [Of course, you’ll wash it first].’”
Fellow blogger Toe said, “My husband and I have chickenpox right now and my mother-in-law tells us not to take a bath.”
From Kongkong: “Personally, I hate the ‘usog’ theory. Since my mother-in-law is Kapampangan and still has close ties with her pals and relatives in the province, we still go home every so often… When we go, everyone dotes on my kids and puts ‘laway’ on them as ‘pwera usog’. You should see my arsenal of anti-pwera usog. Wipes, soap, alcohol…”
Then, there’s the belief that a woman who had just given birth should not take a bath for a month. And the really weird ones? Putting a volume of encyclopedia under the infant’s pillow to “feed his mind,” never sleeping without underwear because the hot air will enter the stomach either through the vulva or the rectum and cause gas, preventing a baby from turning on his/her stomach because it means he/she is asking for a sibling… I can go on and on.
You know, I’m sure that the oldies mean well with their insistence on following all these practices. But, for goodness’ sakes, one has to draw the line somewhere.