Postpartum and Philippine Culture

Jeanette, a nursing student in Montreal, asks about Filipino cultural beliefs during pregnancy and postpartum, "for the mum & for the BB... anything from the food to any beliefs and their rationales."

Here are some things I could think of, and again I invite fellow Pinoys to email your comments, additions, and stories.

1. The dried-up umbilical cord stump (pusod) is placed next to the dried-up umbilical cord stumps of the baby's siblings -- to make the kids grow close to one another.

2. When a stranger (from the baby's point of view) approaches a baby, the one carrying the baby says: "Pwera usog..."

Pwera means "No" while Usog means... it's hard to explain but when a stranger dotes on a baby, the baby sometimes ends up crying and crying, or even ends up getting a fever.

That's called usog. Some kind of hex placed on a baby.

To counter the effects of the "usog" the stranger/newcomer is asked to put some of his/her saliva on the baby's tummy before leaving the house. The newcomer then leaves while saying: "Pwera usog... pwera usog..."

IMPORTANT NOTE: The saliva is placed on the finger first, before the finger is rubbed on the baby's tummy or forehead. Never ever lick the child.

Some sites define "usog" as "fart" or "flatulence"
See http://www.culturalbridge.com/ph1.htm

Feb 18, 2004 Update
Alex Usog of John Hopkins strongly and floridly disagrees that Usog means a hex or to cry. He suggests that if effing ijots do some homework, they will discover that Usog is a "disease" where the baby doesn't take the mother's milk and is remedied by putting a cross on their forhead (sic), so called because of the Doctor who discovered it.

Interesting tidbit there, Alex. It's amazing that Dr. Usog's discovery found its way into Filipino folk beliefs, and has reached the farthest barrios of the Philippines for who knows how many decades now. I just wonder how the placement of the cross morphed into saliva application.

(In other places, usog is also known as buyag. Sometimes, praising a child can cause usog. I wonder if nabonogan or nabalis--the tummy ache you get when you have a meal near certain people--is a condition discovered by another Doctor.)

3. Some moms of Filipino-Chinese descent practice Postpartum "Ge Lai"

4. Think twice before thinking or talking about someone's baby. If you talk about that baby during his/her nap time, the poor kid will be unable to sleep.


[ First posted on 11/26/2002 by Manuel Viloria ]



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