Sugbuanong Tuo-Tuo – Superstitious Beliefs Among Cebuanos

Filipinos are quite superstitious and religious, more so Cebuanos. We, Cebuanos, believe in a lot of things and observe a lot of traditional practices, even if there is no logical reason behind it. If the practice is rather odd or ridiculous, we would simply say “walay mawala nato kung motu-o kita” or we lose nothing if we believe. So yes, even in modern times, we can still find people observing one or more of these Sugbuanong tuo-tuo. Perhaps you do, too.

Palina when giving birth


Palina or incense smoking is the act of burning leaves and roots of various plants to drive away evil spirits and to help the mother and child during the labor process. The incense may also help the mother to relax and to ease her pain.

Palina or paaso after visiting tombs

Palina When Giving Birth

When you visit a cemetery, it is ordinary to find a small, smoky fire in here and there. This is used by people for getting rid of bad spirits. Kids, in particular, are made to walk or jump over the smoke as a way of cleansing them from clingy spirits, which might bring about disease or bad luck. In addition, it is strongly discouraged to visit an old tomb (of a long-buried person) after burying a fresh corpse of someone else (first-time burial) as this brings bad fortune. It is best to visit some other time. However, it is okay to visit multiple old tombs in one day.

Restrictions for a non-baptized child

mid section view of a priest baptizing a baby boy

Mid section view of a priest baptizing a baby boy

A child who has not been baptized is prohibited from traveling very far or crossing the sea as they do not have protection from God. Parents are very protective of their children who have yet to be baptized, not even taking them out by nightfall because night is when most evil spirits bring havoc to people, especially cute babies. And during baptism, the child must be woken up because he or she will not fully receive God’s blessing if he or she stays asleep during the ceremony (pouring of the holy water).

Timing a child’s first haircut

Timing a Child’s First Hair Cut

Not cutting the hair of a child who has not celebrated his or her first birthday. When the child has had his or her haircut, the hair is wrapped in a cloth and then buried next to a banana tree. Because the banana trunk is watery and cold, the child will grow up cool-headed and not easily angered.

Sweeping the floor at night

Sweeping the Floor at Night

It is discouraged to sweep floors at night. But when sweeping is necessary, all the dirt must not be swept out of the house but kept inside by a corner or a bin. This is to prevent blessings and good fortune from getting out.

Planting during full moon

MonTerey Farm Resort, Pinamungahan

MonTerey Farm Resort, Pinamungahan

Local farmers usually start a crop, particularly tubers like camote, during a full moon. They say that planting according to the phases of the moon ensures a bountiful harvest. However, this may have scientific truths because it has been found that the moon affects the water content in the soil.

Visiting farms during menstruation

MonTerey Farm Resort, Pinamungahan

MonTerey Farm Resort, Pinamungahan

Ladies are prohibited from visiting farms and gardens during their period because doing so will destroy the crop. So in farmlands, ladies get extra days off when they have their monthly visitor. This must be a regional thing because in other parts of Southeast Asia, ladies are also banned from visiting temples during their period because they are thought to be impure during this time.

Itchy hands mean wealth

They say that when someone finds the palm of their hands mysteriously itchy, they may be in luck. The itching of hands means that wealth and favor are coming to the person. Now, this is not unique to Cebuanos as other cultures and peoples also believe this, with a slight distinction between the itching of the left palm (money coming in or receivables) and right palm (money coming out or payables).

Saying “tabi-tabi” when peeing

Saying Tabi-Tabi When Peeing

It is important to say “tabi, tabi” or excuse me when peeing just about anywhere else as an act of respecting enchanted beings, which might be disturbed in the process. Also, it is customary to spit into one’s pool of pee after the urinating, so as to ensure no harm has been done. However, the spit-pee habit is also something that most people do, specifically men, as some sort of conditioned reflex.

Being in the middle at picture-taking

Being in the Middle at Picture-Taking

It is bad luck to sit down or stand up between two people, especially when taking a picture. It could mean that the one in the middle will not get married or will die. Also, when someone’s face gets blurred on a photo, it is a warning about a disease, death and other forms of misfortune.

Drinking from the same glass

Drinking from the Same Glass

When sharing the same glass or cup of water, the oldest child should be the first to drink followed by the second oldest, down to the youngest. If this hierarchy is not observed, it could suggest disrespect and the youngest may grow a mustache as punishment.

Cleaning up the dining table

The Cliff Top Bar and Restaurant

The Cliff Top Bar and Restaurant | Source: Instagram

It is disrespectful if one stands and leaves the table, or starts to clear the table (even if it is just his or her own plate) or cover leftovers if someone else is not done eating yet. If this happens accidentally, the person still eating must turn his or her plate to fend off bad luck.

Serving rice the proper way

Serving Rice the Proper Way

When serving rice, one must scoop out the rice and then carefully lay it onto a plate, making it slide from the scoop to the plate. It is not good to flip the scoop upside down like scooping ice cream onto a cone. The rice must face the same direction as it did when it was still inside the pot. It is also bad luck if one fails to scatter or spread the rice onto the serving plate. It must not retain its scooped form. One must scoop out from the pot evenly from top layer down to the bottom, not focusing on one side of the pot only.

First flow of menstruation

First Flow of Menstruation

Ladies having their first flow must follow several steps to ensure smooth-sailing puberty. No matter how gross it sounds, elder women say rinsing or wiping one’s face with bloodied underwear during the first flow helps keep pimples away. In addition, ladies must jump three flights of stairs at the first flow to limit their period for three days only. If this were true, then would jumping only one flight make the period last for just a day?

Restrictions on taking a bath

Fantasy Lodge Kawa Hot Bath

Fantasy Lodge Kawa Hot Bath

It is okay to take a bath every day, except Friday and on days when the ladies have their period. Taking a bath on a Friday may diminish one’s ability to fight evil spirits or bad fortune. Meanwhile, ladies having their period are better off not taking a bath as the act may cause or worsen dysmenorrhea and may cause hair loss. Guess this is applicable in the older days when people don’t have enclosed bathrooms, but rather go to rivers or springs to wash clothes, fetch water and take a bath. It is awful to take a bath with cold water while having menstrual cramps, not to mention the wind chill. Brrrr!

Long trips before a special day

tandem skybiking baguio de cebu

Tandem Skybiking in the Clouds at Baguio de Cebu by Yen Malasaga

Elders prohibit young people from taking long trips when a special event is coming up such as birthday or graduation.  Based on tradition, people who are about to celebrate a huge milestone in their life are vulnerable to accidents.

Stopping dogs from pooping or peeing


It can be annoying when there is dog poop or pee anywhere. So when you see a dog about to relieve itself in the wrong place, you can try to stop what they are about to do by hooking together your two index fingers (pointers).

Do you find these superstitions strange and unnecessary, or customary and important? Tell us what you think. Or perhaps you know or observe a unique Cebuano superstition. Come and share your tuo-tuo with us!