Thursday, August 1, 2013


THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. A new mom bottlefeeds her baby, who is all swaddled in clothes, as was typical practice in the 1920s.

Birthing rituals are rooted in many cultures, and in Pampanga, there are folk beliefs and practices attendant to the delivery of a baby and his period of infancy and many more traditional customs observed in this important life event.

 An expectant mother, for example, is discouraged from eating twin bananas, as this may result in the birth of twin babies. A mother should also finish the food on her plate so that everything will come out during delivery, leaving her womb clean. If someone ate her leftovers, he will suffer bouts of sleepiness and drowsiness at work. Cutting her hair during pregnancy is not also advisable as the baby will be prone to baldness.

To avoid a difficult delivery, a pregnant woman should not have her house remodelled during her term and should avoid watching scary movies, lest her baby is aborted. Nor should she wear tight clothes so as not to deform the fetus. Participation in funeral activities is also a no-no. It is believed that both mother and child’s well being were dependent on the kinds of food she eats during her term.

To promote healthy eating, she should eat a diet of rice, monggo beans, raw eggs (for strength during labor), pigs tail ( for fetal movement) and kalamunding, a local citrus, so that her baby will have a flawless complexion. Scratchy root crops like taro or gabi should be excluded from her diet because it would cause her perineal area to itch.

 A child’s gender was determined by the way the mother looked during her pregnancy. If a mother’s tummy was set high and is pointy, the baby will be a boy. If a mother looked beautiful all throughout her term, the baby will definitely be a pretty baby girl. Pre-natal care rituals were the domain of women, and during health screenings, an infanticipating mother was often accompanied by a female family member rather than her husband. In rural areas, women turned to the local comadrona (midwife) or a female hilot to assist in the delivery.

 To ease a woman’s labor, windows and doors were flung wide open. A bath before delivery is thought to facilitate the birth of a child. In one barrio of Guagua, relatives of a woman about to give birth make noises (shouting, beating tin cans and exploding firecrackers) to help expel the baby faster. Children born on a Sunday were favored with a rich, long life. They were thought to be safe from from drowning and hanging. Those born on midnight, old folks say, will be brave, while those who come inot the world at the break of dawn will have short tempers.

 In the first few months of his life, a baby was looked after and doted on unlike any other. If a baby suffered from hiccups, a water-soaked cotton ball was placed on his fontanel to relieve him. A baby’s sneezing fit foretell the coming of rain. To keep him from harm’s way, babies are kept in the house in the belief that they are not yet fully protected. It is not good for a visiting person to praise a baby as this is thought to bring “usug” ( a spell of bad luck), making him cranky and sickly. To ward off “usug” and evil elements, a dot of red lipstick is dabbed on a baby’s forehead.

 A baby had to be baptized in the first six months of his life. In Mexico, Pampanga, the baby is brought to the church by a group of boys and girls, borne on a gareta (carabao cart), accompanied by a band. All expenses are paid for by the godparents. During the christening of a child, the godfather must give money to the “hilot”; otherwise the baby will always be afflicted with sore eyes.

 Bringing a baby into this world entails responsibilities that can often test the mettle, patience and endurance of parents. But for a Kapampangan mom, a baby is the center of her universe; fulfilment comes from raising him, nurturing him, watching him grow. It is a 24/7 role that she has come to embrace, and if there ever was a slogan to capture this unconditional maternal commitment, it’s got to be this—with apologies to Gerber’s-- “Babies are our business…our only business!”.

No comments: