Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
I am writing this on 11-11-11, believed by some to be a lucky day. After all, this date only comes once in a century, or 36,500 days. The next will be on November 11, 3011.
In a USA Today article, Tania Gabrielle, a numerologist in Los Angeles (LA) said that the number 11 signifies “beginning”. She asserted that 11-11-11 is a good day to start money-making ventures or relationships because the day is one of “extra powerful beginnings.”
The same article notes a heavy increase in the number of couples getting married in Los Angeles: three times more than the usual. This is mirrored in the Little Church of West Chapel with 150 weddings against the usual 10 or 12. These couples must believe that 11-11-11 is indeed, lucky.
The perceived significance of this day is not lost on Filipinos who have been discussing this for days.
Some establishments are doing events because it is 11-11-11.
There are couples who timed the birth of their babies for 11-11-11. I even know one woman whose scheduled Caesarean procedure is at exactly 11:11 A.M., officially making her baby’s birth 11:11 on 11-11-11!
We all want to be lucky. Filipinos, because of our general adherence to superstition, believe in luck.
Many times, when we encounter difficulties, we wishfully say, “Sana swertehin naman ako.” We commonly hear the phrase, “better luck next time” when we fail to get something we want. When the Lotto pot gets huge, we fall in line “to try our luck.”
In the countryside, there are those who still believe that sweeping at night means “winawalis ang swerte.”
The birth of a new child to poor parents makes them wish, “Sana siya ang magdala ng swerte.” There are also those who believe that we should take care of a child with disability because s/he is the family’s “lucky charm.”
Even the modern Filipino would rather not try something considered “malas” or unlucky. After all, we have nothing to lose.
Why else would we do all these if we do not believe in luck?
But not everyone believes that 11 is lucky. It is said that for the Chinese, it’s a bad number because when you write it, you make a downward stroke.
According to Natalie Wolchover’s article (Science on Msnbc.com), in the medieval times, numerologists sought for mystical significance of numbers and believed that all numbers have both positive and negative aspects except for 11.
The 16th century scholar Petrus Bungus said that 11 had neither a connection with divine things nor any merit. Stuck between divine numbers 10 and 12, 11 was said to be pure evil and represented sinners. 11-11-11 as an ominous date even inspired the making of a movie with the same title.
Ah, what then should we believe? Perhaps science can tell us.
According to Wolchover’s piece, psychologists say that 11-11-11 is not a supernatural warning sign. Instead, “it is a classic case of ‘apophenia,’ or the human tendency to find meaning or patterns in randomly occurring data. This condition feeds on itself because the more conscious you are of something such as repeating 11s, the more often you will notice this in the world around us, and thus, the more certain you’ll become that the pattern is real.”
She concluded that there is no reason to be fearful of or be optimistic about 11-11-11.
Wake Forest University physics professor Eric Carlsson also said that there is no mystical significance to the repeated 11s. He explained, “People are attracted to repetitive numbers because our brains are just pattern-matching machines”.
Thus, for science, 11-11-11 is just a series of numbers.
Personally, 11 is significant to me. I gave birth to my eldest on 11-11. As a young woman then, my daughter’s arrival changed my entire life. Motherhood is not a bed of roses no matter how much some romanticize it. It entails a lot of work especially when one is unprepared.
My daughter is doing better. She got married only when she was completely ready, and also in November (another 11). Her pregnancy was planned and gave birth to our Diwa also in November (yes, 11) last year. Thus, this 11-11-11 is, for us, a day to celebrate.
But it’s not the same for everyone. On this date, because Congress continues to sit on the Reproductive Health bill, about 11 women would have died because of pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. These women would leave behind 11 families and numerous children. For these families, 11-11-11 is a day of great sorrow.
Moreover, given our 2.04 percent population growth rate (National Demographic and Health Survey 2008) and present estimated population of 95 million (National Statistics Office), about 5,310 babies would be born on 11-11-11. Since the unmet need for family planning is biggest among the poorest women (NDHS 2008), it is logical to think that a very significant number of these infants would belong to these women. Moreover, since at least 10 percent of annual births are those of teenagers (NSO), at least 531 of the mothers would be very young, and most probably, unprepared.
I wonder how many of these new mothers would secretly wish for their newborn to bring them luck.
But, if our country’s condition does not improve, 1,142 of the 5,310 infants born on 11-11-11 would go hungry because our hunger rate is 21.5 percent (Social Weather Stations, Oct. 2011), much worse than the world’s 14.28 percent.
Our under age five mortality rate is 33.1 for every 1,000 live births. Therefore, about 176 of these newborns will die before they even reach school age.
And speaking of schooling, only about 60.5 percent of our children are able to enter high school. This represents only 3,212 of the 11-11-11 newborns. What will happen to the rest? Note that the numbers only speak of entering, not graduating from high school.
How then will these babies bring “luck” to their families?
These are only about those who gave birth and born on 11-11-11. Multiply the numbers by 365 and you will get the magnitude of the problem.
Whether we believe in luck or not, are we willing to rely on it and gamble on our children’s future?
11-11-11 should be a wake up call. Pilipinas, gising!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter