Many Filipinos believe that calling rats by their Filipino term “daga” could potentially have dire consequences.
How it goes: As the pre-colonial belief goes, when someone calls a rat “daga,” the creature tends to hold a grudge and later exact revenge by terrorizing the person’s life. It might resort to property destruction, such as clothes or furniture, or even snatch food from the dining table.
A workaround: Some older Filipinos refer to rats as “mabait,” (“kind” or “good ones” in English) to ensure that they live a peaceful life free of rodents and keep their belongings safe from imminent destruction.
How it started: While it is unclear exactly how or when this belief started, the use of “mabait” when referring to rats is reportedly tied to animistic belief, where practitioners consider animals, inanimate objects and natural earth formations, such as mountains, to be alive and have spirits or souls capable of bringing good or bad luck to people.
Animism should not be confused with anthropomorphism, as the latter is the “cognitive inference that inanimate objects are human.”
About the belief: Before the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 brought Catholicism to the Philippines, many early Filipinos were animistic. They worshipped a supreme deity known as Kabunyan to the Ilocanos, Laon or Aba to the Bisayas and Bathala to the Tagalogs.
Despite the major shift to Catholicism across the Philippines, some of the practices of early animism remain to this day and have been integrated into modern religious practice, such as the use of “mabait” and saying “tabi-tabi po” (“Excuse me/us” in English) before relieving oneself in nature as to ensure that the entities living in that spot are undisturbed.