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Philippine Superstition: Bati, a Greeting That Can Cause Harm
What is bati?
One superstition that even Filipinos today still strongly believes in is bati, usog and sometimes also known as bales. I can't say, or can't find the exact English meaning of it to help with the explanation but the word "bati" literally means greeting. So it's safe to say a bati is a greeting that can give off maladies to the person being greeted without the greeter's intention of causing any form of ailment or harm.
So what does bati or usog mean? I think to better explain "bati" is, think of evil eye instead as bati would be similar to the evil eye and some thinks or believes that the greeting-induced ailment can come from an envious person giving the compliment. Bati, sometimes called usog or bales would afflict mostly children but also even adults can suffer from it.
Babies tend to be the most susceptible to bati, usog or bales. It is hard guessing reasons for why babies cry as this could be hunger, diaper change needed, feeling sleepy, discomfort or pain. The later is associated with usog or bales specially when the baby cries just after a visitor left though all other possible reasons had been ruled out such as feeding and changing. This doesn't only occur with visitors coming to the baby's house but can happen everywhere such as on a public when a stranger greeted how cute the baby is. This could also be in other situation such as attending parties with the baby or simply visiting friends or relatives or taking a walk in the park or in the neighborhood.
Not only with strangers but any of the neighbors, relatives or anyone can afflict the greeting-induced "usog," or "bati." This could be anyone that was said to have a strong personality or is domineering.
Stories Of Bati
One story that I was told about with my dad was when my aunt and uncle dropped by to our home. They were in the province and going to pass by our town so they decided to go for a visit. They're not familiar on where our house exactly is but they knew they have to get off the bus before going up the small bridge. And so they had gotten off the bus and asked neighbors around. My dad was not home that time and was in one of our neighbors home while I and my younger brother was at school. One of our neighbors attended to them, had some chit-chat and called dad for uncle and auntie.
Dad came home in a couple of minutes and was surprised and happy to see uncle and aunt. They stayed a bit longer, chit-chatted and when they decided to head home, auntie was already wasn't feeling well. That feeling of stomach ache and being sweaty. They were about to just go but dad thought could she been afflicted with bati? Dad then asked our neighbor, also his good friend whom they had chit-chatted earlier to counteract the usog (bati or bales.)
And after that, she feels fine again after only a short period of time and so uncle and auntie went on to their travel.
As for me, I was trying to recall if I can remember any encounter with "bati," but can hardly remember any (or maybe I had when I was a kid but had forgotten about it?) Anyway, what I do remember was that whenever we would have a vacation back in the province where I was born and elder relatives would come by, I would hear them say "pwera usog," or they would either touch me in the head few times, in the shoulders, even at the back, kind of like giving a pressure with their hands while saying something in the province's language before they leave for me to not be overpowered by this greeting-induced malady known as bati.
Counteracting Usog, Bati Or Bales And The Cures
After a greeting, the greeter would usually say, "pwera usog" or "pwera bati," meaning no malady intended as a counter-utterance after a compliment such as, "You look great today and fit," "I like your skin, it looks healthy and vibrant," or "You are so cute/beautiful," are just few examples.
If the counter words aren't said and a bati-induced ailment such as a sudden stomach ache or headache occurred afterwards, the affected person have to seek the greeter and ask the person for the cure. This would be done with the greeter's finger damped with his/her saliva and making a cross sign on the affected person's forehead or abdomen saying "pwera usog" while making the cross sign. Good if the greeter lives in the neighborhood but if not, and the "bati" was from a stranger from the mall, work, market or transportation, the help of a folk healer is seek instead. Also, if the greeting was made by a stranger, the person receiving the compliment may say, "Thank you, hope you don't have an usog," in a nice way of course and wear that smile of yours to seem more friendly. This would send the message across the greeter and will prompt him/her to say, "Pwera usog/bati."
And for the babies, let's say a talisman, believed to repel the effect of bati or usog is made or bought and tied into their clothing until the baby becomes less susceptible to greeting induced ailments cause by "bati." The one I usually see pinned to my younger brother when he was still a baby, to my nephew and nieces and that I probably had worn too was this red seeds with a part black color on one side that can be gathered once the pod opens, then place or wrap inside a red cloth. This would then be pinned or clipped into the baby's clothing. (See below photo.)
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For those who can add information about "bati," or anyone who have their own story to share, or know someone who experienced usog, bales, or bati, feel free to leave it on the comment section below.
I would love to read it and I know other readers too, will appreciate it.
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