Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Unlucky Number 13


The unreasonable fear of number 13 or triskaidekaphobia is prevalent to some people in different cultures. People can be anxious of 13 as a quantity, a numerical designation or a date, and more so if the 13 falls on a Friday. The belief that the number brings bad luck is as old as written history itself. The Code of Hammurabi (ca 1686 B.C.) contained 282 laws with no law number 13 in it. It is evident therefore that the phobia existed long before Christ was born. There are numerous speculations on how the fear of number 13 came about. One of the common held beliefs is on Jesus and his disciples. The Bible has it that Jesus had his last supper with his 12 disciples at a table. We are told that one of the disciples Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to His enemies who punished and executed Him.   
                                        
Following paragraphs are accounts of prominent incidents and personalities on which the number 13 are associated with:                                                                                                                    

King Alfonso XIII was the king of Spain when it completely lost what remains of its once vast and great empire after the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Spaniards sold and ceded Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam to the Americans. The post humus son of King Alfonso XII, Alfonso XIII was proclaimed king upon his birth on May 17, 1886 with his mother Maria Christina acting as his regent. He assumed power as king in 1902 at the age of 16. His support to military dictatorship under general Primo de Rivera made him an unpopular monarch, and the victory of the republicans in 1931 forced him into exile in Italy.

Apollo 13 is a NASA space mission in 1970 that failed. The space ship crew was not able to land on the moon because of technical malfunction. They were however able to return to the earth safely.

Joseph Estrada was the 13th President of the Republic of the Philippines and the only one who was impeached from office. He was also one of the three post American independence presidents who did not complete their term of office. The other presidents were Manuel Roxas who died of a heart attack in 1948 and Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1953. 

The year 2013 is the 13th year of the 21st century. The number 13 is not lucky for the Philippines either. This year the Philippines suffered a series of worst natural and man-made calamities as follows:

On September 9-28, 2013, members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) belonging to the faction of Chairman Nur Misuari besieged the Southern Philippine City of Zamboanga. The armed conflict resulted to 183 killed, 292 captured on the side of the MNLF and 25 killed, 184 wounded on the side of government troops. In addition there were 12 killed and 70 wounded civilians and thousands of houses were razed to the ground and business and government activities were paralyzed.

On October 15, 2013 at 8:12 am (PST) an earthquake of tectonic origin and in the magnitude of 7.2 mw hit Bohol. The earthquake that lasted 34 seconds resulted to 222 dead, 976 injured and 8 missing. In addition 73,000 structures were damaged of which 14,500 were totally destroyed. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines for the last 23 years. It is estimated that the energy released by the quake was equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs.

Early in November 2013 typhoon Yolanda struck Central Philippines particularly the provinces of Samar and Leyte. The typhoon which had a wind speed of about 260 kph on landfall was the strongest on record. The strong wind and storm surge destroyed thousands of lives and properties along their path. The deadly typhoon killed at least 5,680 and injured 26, 232 people. It is also estimated that 1,761 people are still missing. Damaged was estimated at PHP 17,033,150,996.36 in agriculture and PHP 17,333,367,534.29 in infrastructure for a total cost of damage at PHP 34,366,518,530.65.

Because of their unreasonable fear of number 13 people take “precautions” to ward off bad lucks that are associated with the number. As an example, there is no 13th floor in high rise buildings. There is no 13th Infantry Battalion or any other unit with numerical designation “13” in the Philippine Army. And people do not want to go with a group whose total number of members is 13.

Despite some people’s phobia of 13, others consider it as their lucky number. Wilt Chamberlain of the NBA wore a jersey with that number all throughout his successful career. And so did Steve Nash when he was with the Phoenix Suns. Artist Taylor Swift who was born on December 13, 1989 considers 13 as her lucky number too.


Associating number 13 to bad luck is just a sort of superstition. Bad things that happened with a number 13 associated with them or those that take place on the 13th in the calendar are just mere coincidences. Misfortunes happen too where or when numbers other than 13 are used or involved. Since some people have the misconception that number 13 brings bad luck, any unfavorable incident that can be associated with the number is given much highlight. What we want to believe influences our thoughts.