Chicken Footings and Padugoats –
Inherently Macho and logical, construction is largely a process and numbers game. Throw enough muscle and money at a project and it will get built. Like actual macho games or sports though, it’s also steeped in superstition. Construction in the Philippines is no exception. Superstitions and ceremonies surrounding the home and therefore construction generally fall under the catch-all label of Filipino Feng Shui. (You have to qualify it of course – Geomancy, like any idea, tends to be subject to cultural drift.) Like a migrant religion, it’s blended native practices with the imported dogma, creating an odd hybrid along the way
Auspicious now, prosperous later
It all starts with Auspicious dates. Set around your general construction schedule, your Feng Shui Master generally indicates possible lucky or unlucky dates around your phases of work. For the believers or really anyone who can afford a Feng Shui master, critical dates are selected for 3 events – your ground breaking, foundation pouring, and house blessing. Again, the dates are more or less set around your construction schedule, and don’t run it. So they can actually occur even after you’ve started excavation in the case of ground breaking, or two months before you actually move in, in the case of the house blessing.
As a practice in construction though, what might be the most interesting part of Filipino Feng Shui happens during the first pouring or concreting of your first foundations. As the concrete is pumped onto the matted steel of your house’s footings, coins or religious tokens like medallions are thrown in to sink into the concrete, and become a permanent part of the house. Then comes the padugo or blood letting ritual or more dramatically the blood sacrifice (dundundun.)
An animal, most often a white chicken (whether it’s one or more depends on who you ask) or a goat is held over the footings being poured. It’s throat is slit and the blood is dripped across the foundations being poured.
WHY this is done seems to differ depending on who you ask. The physical rituals themselves have so often been so mechanically repeated that they’ve all but lost their original meanings and symbolism.
Supposedly it’s to appease the spirits disturbed in the moving of the earth. Why the practice is done during the first pouring as opposed to the ground breaking isn’t clear. I’ve recently heard of a site in Quezon City that’s had to stop all works because construction workers were supposedly falling asleep on site, and not waking up. And, supposedly, the owner didn’t have the padugo performed on site. Unprovable gossip for sure, but have fun putting that out of your mind if you’re anxious and superstitious.
Another explanation is that the sacrifice as well as the tokens prior are meant to bring in good fortune. Even the choice of animals is supposed to have meaning. A chicken supposedly lives isang kahig isang tuka – or hand to mouth, and would only bring the same to the home owner. A goat on the other hand is constantly eating, meaning it should constantly bring in money to the home owner. All of this of of course is being pushed hard by the goat lobby. Whether it’s true or not is anyone’s guess. What do you have to lose, right?
Nothing goes to waste of course. The bled animal is taken away and cooked, and served on site to the workers. In the grander scheme of things, it was always destined to be food. (And if you think it gets more humane treatment in the agro-industrial industry — I’ll let you hold on to that fairy tale.)
At least this way you get the value of ritual in the whatif that it’s true, and you keep your builders happy. It’s a long road ahead. The smoother it goes the better.
Have your own meanings in the practice of padugo, or interesting input on Philippine Feng Shui in general? I’d like to hear about it!
I’d especially LOVE to hear about it if you’re a vegan and built a home and how you went about or around the ritual.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see if we can’t share it with the rest of the class.