There is a Chinese belief that I only got to know just recently that seemed to resonate a little bit more than I hoped it should. It’s the belief in the Chinese ghost month. It’s the 7th month in the lunar calendar, generally August, but for this year, it started August 20. Some say it ends September 18, some say it ends September 19. SUPPOSEDLY, it’s like their equivalent of the Catholic Good Friday. Traditional Chinese believe that during the ghost month, the barrier between the living and the dead is open wide and there is a “summer vacation” lawlessness abounding, at least spirits-wise. Some good, some mischievous, some downright evil, the ghosts are supposed to wreak havoc on whatever or whoever they want and therefore, it is advised for the living to keep their heads down during this spiritually tumultuous period.
Of course the modern interpretation is not so much ghoulish, but more practical in nature. Now, people translate this time as an inauspicious one, in plain Tagalog, malas. So people are advised not to make any major decisions or make any major purchases during the whole month. No moving houses, no changing careers, no buying new cars, and some even go as to ill-advise travel of any sort. And especially no derring-do, like extreme sports or any of the sort. Many Chinese avoid swimming, or bodies of water in general.
Of course anyone who’s not into superstitions or who are wary of Feng Shui would pooh-pooh such claims, but it’s just funny that even in the U.S., there is an ongoing (as entertainment scribes have dubbed it), “summer of death”, with all the high profile deaths in a span of a couple of months (including Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, DJ AM, Patrick Swayze). If you were to include the deaths of major personalities here in the Philippines (Pres Cory Aquino, Ka Erdy Manalo), the total body count is unusually high profile. Many people have noticed an odd surplus of deaths around.
And it’s not just death. Supposedly, difficulty shrouds many aspects of life. Personally, maybe it’s just coincidence, it’s been an uphill climb since August started. And not just in one aspect of my life, but all around. Some I’ve shared, like Cairo getting sick, many I’d rather keep to myself, or at least write about them in my memoirs to be published long after I’m dead. Even as recent as yesterday, the hits just kept on coming, as if the worst blows were being saved for the last stretch. Like in a whip, the most painful part is at the very end. Sometimes, I just find myself smiling as I shake my head in disbelief, as if any time now, someone will tell me, “Are you scared? Well you shouldn’t be! Coz you’re on Scare Tactics!” Alas, the ending is rarely quite as fun as that. I’ve aged eons in the past month alone. I feel raped by fate, to be honest.
So if there’s anything good about this supposed ghost month, is that it’s about to end. By the weekend, this nightmare should be (hopefully!) over. The phantoms will return to whatever chasm of the netherworld they were belched from, and simmer there for another year. As for me, I feel like a tiny battle-scarred village ravaged by war. You get up from the rubble, rebuild what you can, discard what cannot be salvaged, and pray for mercy. I’m still hedging if I buy into the concept of the ghost month. Some would blame the foul luck on ghosts, while others would argue that ghosts are only scapegoats when we reap mere consequences of our actions. But what I do choose to believe, is whatever it is that’s plaguing us, is soon to end. I believe in the duality of nature. So if, like in the song, “some good things never last”, then I take comfort in the fact that bad things don’t either.