The Pamahiin in Modern Weddings


By Lolita Villa

When it comes to weddings, Filipinos practice a mix of the modern and the mysterious, as the former is a way of life, while the latter is influenced by our superstitious culture. Though still conservative, most modern, altar-bound couples tend to be flexible with their wedding plans, but make no qualms in following some kind of pamahiin (folk belief) to satisfy their families’ concerns. Ultimately, Filipinos are willing to adopt any practice (superstitious or not) as long as the end result is both beneficial and practical.

The Modern Bride

Lani Barlongay, a corporate communications officer of a real estate company, is an example. Though raised by conservative parents, Lani considers herself a modern bride-to-be. Today, with pearls dripping from her soft lobes and neck, she announces: “Our motif is rustic orange. A day before the wedding, my fiancé and I plan to spend the day at a spa to relax.” She also considers last minute preparations. “We may need to distribute invitations as well. I have a friend who distributed hers a day before the wedding.”
With the big day set in December this year, concerns like avoiding pearls before she gets married, or taking care to not see the groom a day before the wedding (to avoid bad luck) seem to be last on her mind.

“It’s about not taking chances. Our parents are older, they would know better about such things.”

Ayoko naman on my wedding day, ang luwag pala or masikip ang gown or something. If we need to practice such beliefs in some way, we should at least tailor-fit them to meet our needs.

On the other hand, Jason Jumaquio, a freelance art director who is getting married to fiancée Minni Ocampo this May, also knows very little about such folk-beliefs. But he remains open minded about them, if only to put his and his girlfriend’s family at ease.
“The parents always tell me that before the wedding takes place, couples are supposed to be accident-prone, and should therefore not travel by boat or plane. There’s nothing wrong if I follow this, since it’s for my own good anyway.” He says.

“The pamahiin is culture bound,” Lani admits. Though she is not averse to following certain practices for the sake of tradition, ultimately, she sticks to what works for her best. “I know that there is a belief forbidding the bride to fit her gown, or else the wedding may not push through. But we have to be practical. “

Jess Macasaet, Lani’s fiancé, agrees but will only follow such beliefs within the bounds of reason. “What would really bother me is if people close to us insist that we go through with these rituals, to the extent that the wedding preparations become a rigid exercise in compliance driven by paranoia.”

Based on Experience

Bing Contador-Gumboc, who got married last January, is inclined to believe in pamahiin, based on her experience and that of her own family members. “The belief that my husband and I took seriously was the sukob (belief that it is bad luck for siblings to marry in the same year),” says Bing, who works as the head of a real estate company’s training department.

“We believe that the blessing given by the parents and by the priest at the altar is meant especially for only one person for each family, in a year.”

Going against this belief seemed to have brought Bing’s siblings bad luck. Her sister and brother both got married in May last year. As a result, a series of uncanny events that followed the newlyweds later on convinced the family that this superstitious belief was for real.

“We saw that when one of them enjoys abundance, the other suffers from the lack of it, or vice-versa,” Bing recalls. “It was like good fortune did not spread evenly between them. We’ve gotten used to it. For example, when my sister’s child is in good health, we expect that my brother’s child will get sick soon enough, you can count on it. But who knows, it might all be just coincidence,” she shares.


For Bing, following the pamahiin that her family teaches her is much more practical than fearing the bad luck that may or may not enter into her married life later on.

“There’s a belief that right after being blessed by the priest, if one of you wants to dominate your spouse or be more progressive in life, you have to step on his or her toes, or be the first to step out of the church. I made sure that nothing like that happened on my wedding,” Bing recalls. Since their respective families heavily coached both of them on what practices they should follow, Bing told her husband,”‘Remember we don’t need to compete with each other. So if you’re planning to step on my foot, don’t even think about it or I’ll just get angry at you.’ He just laughed.”

Nothing to Lose

No matter how open-minded Filipinos are, for these people, not taking any chances on their bet for a happily married life and having fun at the wedding are equal concerns.

Bing, who wanted to have a very slim wedding dress to flaunt her figure, was glad that she deferred to her husband’s wishes on the matter.

“He wanted my gown to have a flowing trail because it signified abundance daw. O, sya! Good enough, because I got promoted right after I got married.”

She rationalizes the bizarre effects of their experience: “Perhaps following superstition has a psychological effect. But, we don’t even have to spend for such things. We might as well follow them, if have nothing to lose.”

Jess stresses that the important thing is not to be too rigid. “My wife-to-be and I should have fun planning for the wedding, and the insistence on rituals shouldn’t dampen that.” Lani adds, “Anyway, the success of amarriage really boils down to how much you love each other.”