Bawal ang patiwarik By Ernesto R.

Zárate, FPIA STARTING TODAY, I shall be sharing with you some curious beliefs that I was able to gather in my research for the preparation of the book MORE FILIPINO BUILDING BELIEFS. Literally, “bawal ang patiwarik” means “upside-down is prohibited.” All organic materials have their natural ends—one nearer the roots, the other, the top. It is essential that posts and all the other vertical supports within the structure must have their natural tops up and the natural bottoms down. This holds true even for wooden vertical studs and nailers. Even if the lumber used is placed diagonally like the madre or the stringer that carries the steps in a stairway, or the diagonal supports of a truss, this ruling must be followed. Consequently, posts, supports, truss members, vertical nailers and stair stringers in a completed structure that have been installed upside down will result in “buhay na palubog” or, literally, “life that sinks under”. Now here’s the problem: Take a piece of precision-cut lumber to be used as a post, for example, measuring six inches square throughout its entire length—how on earth can one determine which end is the natural bottom and which end is the top? That seems to be a puzzling question isn’t it? Well, it’s quite simple. Just tie a piece of twine or rope at the midpoint of the length of the lumber. Hold it up from there and let it hang freely. The end that dips is the heavier end and is thus the natural bottom. Trees have greater density nearer the roots, lighter nearer the top. Some experienced carpenters do not do this balancing routine anymore. They just observe the flow of sap of the piece of lumber or inspect its ends. If one end has a stronger smell of sap when scratched, it is the bottom. Sap always oozes downward towards the bottom of the tree, they declare. Another way to determine this is to observe how the piece of wood floats downstream. (In the past, when transportation was not as efficient as now, lumber used to be delivered from the mountains to the lowlands by floating them down a river.) Invariably the end the roots would always lead first. This folk tradition about doing things right-end-up holds true also for bamboo structures —especially bamboo fences. Even firewood for cooking should be burned starting with the bottom end. So remember, BAWAL ANG PATIWARIK!

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