Filipino funeral superstitions and beliefs

Whether it’s a broken glass or seeing a black cat, people follow superstitions to avoid misfortune. The same goes during funerals, especially Filipino ones.

Through the years, elders have passed on such funeral-related beliefs that even young Filipinos just heed these superstitious traditions.

Here are 14 Filipino funeral superstitions and beliefs that people have practiced until today as a way to show respect and avoid bad luck at the same time.

1. Don’t shed a tear on the casket

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS & BELIEFS - don't shed a tear on the casketImage credit: Jaya Fanoga 

When visitors come to view the casket and the loved one who has passed away, most Filipinos know that you’re not supposed to shed a tear on the casket. Otherwise, the loved one’s soul would have a hard time crossing over to the world of the dead, therefore causing them to stay on the land of the living.

That’s why in most funerals, everyone has their handkerchiefs ready in case they tear up. For those who don’t have one, you’ll be asked gently to step a bit further from the casket.

2. Don’t bring any food home from the funeral

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS & BELIEFS - food served at Filipino funerals (wake)
Common food items served at Pinoy funerals
Image adapted from:,

Apart from having many visitors, Filipinos prepare food and drinks to offer them as some visitors come at night or some of them accompany the family members to stay up late and look after the venue.

While you’re encouraged to have some refreshments at the funeral, you should finish everything there as you can’t bring any type of food or drink back home with you. It’s believed that leaving food behind will keep the dead satisfied and full with the food at the funeral home.

If you take food home with you, it either means that you’ll be bringing bad luck into your household or that the dead will follow you home.

3. Pagpag or stopping somewhere first before going home from the funeral

Image credit: @LigaNiLikeman via Twitter 

Similar to the belief that you can’t take food home with you, you also shouldn’t go home right away after having been to a funeral. This is called pagpag in the Philippines. Elders say that if you go straight home, you’ll be bringing the dead with you.

To prevent that from happening, you can stop by a mall if it’s still early or go to a 7-11 nearby that’s open for 24 hours. What most Filipinos do is that they stop by a fast-food chain on the way and buy food to take home.

4. Don’t look back, just look ahead

Image credit: Jaya Fanoga 

For this one, elders seem to be adamant in following this superstition more than others. By the time the casket is taken out of the house or the funeral home, you cannot look back and should walk straight ahead from then on. If you do look back, not only will you have bad luck, but you’ll also be bringing death upon your family.

This also implies that as you follow the hearse on the way to the church, chapel, or the cemetery, you can’t go back to where the casket has been. This is why some families opt for bigger vehicles or rent out a van so that there’s enough space for everyone and making sure that it takes only one trip. Even after the burial ceremony, you’re still not supposed to look back until you’re inside the house.

5. Letting visitors leave or come in by themselves

Image credit: Jaya Fanoga

This is another superstition that has a dark explanation behind it, but ironically, not all Filipinos practice this. Depending on the family, you should either let visitors leave the funeral venue or come in by themselves. It’s said that if a family member welcomes or bids goodbye to the visitors, he or she would be the next one to die.

Because it has such a dark implication, people choose to ignore this as it hasn’t happened to them yet, or that it’s too illogical and seems impossible.

6. Step over burning leaves or grass before going home from the burial ceremony

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS n BELIEFS- stepping over burning leaves:grass
Image credit: This Old House

Stepping over burning leaves or grass before going inside the house is also a superstition with reasons that remain unclear – and it’s also unknown whether it’s only meant to be done by all family members or just the children. Nevertheless, following this superstition is said to prevent evil spirits from following you home.

Quite similarly, this can be considered as an alternative for the passing of an infant over the casket – described below.

7. Passing an infant or toddler over the casket before burial

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS n BELIEFS- passing infant over the casket
Image adapted from: Backpacking Philippines, Jaya Fanoga 

When it comes to funerals, infants and toddlers aren’t old enough to know what’s happening. According to elders’ observations, infants and toddlers are prone to having bad dreams at night during funerals.

Passing them over the casket back and forth before burial is done so that their bad dreams no longer come at night.

8. Taking off any pieces of jewelry worn by the loved one before burial

taking off jewelry
Image adapted from: Jaya Fanoga, Auto Pawn

When viewing the wake of a loved one, you’ll first notice their overall appearance. You’ll see what they’re wearing and how they look compared to when they were alive. Even in death, looking presentable is not an exception. Depending on the mortician, sometimes pieces of jewelry will be put on the corpse to make them look as normal as they can be or as if they’re just sleeping.

However, by the time you arrive at the burial site, the casket is opened for the last time to take off any jewelry that the loved one is wearing. Jewelry made out of gold or silver can sometimes be heavy. Therefore, elders believe that if jewelry is left in the casket, the soul of the dead will have a hard time crossing over as they’re carrying something heavy with them.

9. Keeping watch at night

keep watch
Image credit: Jaya Fanoga

Managing a funeral can be quite a taxing duty. Not only do you have to entertain the visitors and make sure there’s still food on the mini stations, but you also won’t get much sleep as you need to look after things at night.

Keeping watch at night or staying awake is also believed to stop an aswang (a shape-shifting creature in Filipino folklore) from stealing the dead body. Additionally, it’ll stop evil spirits from taking the dead’s soul. This is where card games, mahjong, or bingo come in handy to keep people from falling asleep.

10. Souls wandering in a different form

souls wander in a different form such as butterfly
Image credit: Jaya Fanoga

The belief that souls wander in a different form often gives comfort to most Filipinos because it somehow assures them that their loved ones are in a better place even though they’re no longer present.

The most common form that Filipinos associate their loved ones with is a butterfly. Upon observation, around the time that a loved one had just passed away, you’re bound to notice a butterfly fluttering around as if expressing that your loved one is doing okay and that there’s no need to be sad anymore.

11. Placing broken rosaries or scapulars inside the casket

broken rosary or scapular in the casket
Image adapted from: Jaya Fanoga, Stella Maris Beads

Following the removal of jewelry from the dead, this time, placing broken rosaries or scapulars inside the casket – often placed or wrapped around the loved one’s hands – is another belief done to make sure that the loved one crosses over peacefully.

According to elders, doing this can also break all possible curses that may have been placed upon them.

12. Don’t say anything negative about the loved one that has passed away

don't talk about the dead
Image credit: Jaya Fanoga 

Naturally, when a loved one has died, one of the ways to cope is talking about them and how they lived their life while still alive. Talking and reminiscing about the good things is no problem. Talking about the bad things, however, is a different story.

Just like some of the aforementioned superstitions, saying anything bad about the loved one that passed away can give them a hard time crossing over.

13. Pregnant women shouldn’t view the casket

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS & BELIEFS - pregnant women shouldn't view the casket
Image adapted from: freestocks via Unsplash, Smack_07 via Flickr

Pregnant women are rarely seen at funerals, and there’s a good reason for it. Aside from the obvious factors, such as the stress and sadness that funerals entail, Filipinos prefer pregnant women to stay at home during such occasions. However, convincing them to heed this advice is not always easy, as some may insist on attending the funeral.

If circumstances dictate that a pregnant woman must attend, certain precautions should be taken. Above all, it is crucial to ensure that the expectant mother does not view the casket under any circumstances. According to traditional beliefs held by elders, such an act could pose difficulties during childbirth. Moreover, there is a darker superstition that associating with the casket may bring bad luck or even harm to the unborn baby.

14. Whisper your wishes to the dead

FILIPINO FUNERAL SUPERSTITIONS & BELIEFS - whisper your wishes or bulong
Image credit: Jaya Fanoga 

On a more uplifting note, this belief held by Filipinos offers a comforting perspective on the passing of loved ones. It is a widely held belief that departed souls ascend to a better place, and whispering your wishes to them is a ritual that accompanies this belief.

Referred to as bulong (whisper), it is believed that the departed can carry your wishes to heaven, ensuring that they are heard. While the veracity of this belief may be debated, many people embrace this practice for its potential for good luck or simply as a way for their departed loved ones to watch over them from above.

Filipino Funeral superstitions and beliefs as paying respects

Whether they’re true or false, superstitions and beliefs are there to remind us that we care for our dead loved ones enough to make sure that their souls rest in peace, even if we have to perform rituals that we’re not sure of.

For more reads like this, check out our Lent and Holy Week superstitions, Filipino Halloween movies, and unsolved crime stories in the Philippines. For all things cultural, visit The Smart Local Philippines.

Cover image adapted from: Jaya Fanoga, Jaya Fanoga.

Article originally published on 22 March 2023. Last updated  20 June 2023.

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