Saturday, April 02, 2011


Summer is circumcision season in the Philippines. Boys talk in hushed silence of when they will be circumcised--the right of passage to manhood. There will be a lot of skirt wearing boys this summer and lots of tomatoes too. Ha, the stories, the stories.

My cousins and I were circumcised in a sterile clinic, anesthetized and without any suspense except for the anesthesia injection that scared the excrement out of me—no stories to tell. Numb! Pffftttttt. Anyway, at least I got a primer on how impotence is like.

I envy my friends who had their circumcision done the  traditional Filipino way. Their will power and courage to go through it without anesthetics and without proper hygiene awed me.   Imagine the risks traditional circumcision brings. The tweet-tweet is not washed with soap. Instead of a surgeon, the operation is performed by a barber (or anyone who knows the traditional way of circumcising).The barber does not even sterilize his shave; he wipes it with a rug operation after operation. It is amazing that many do not die of tetanus because there’s no antiseptic just chewed guava leaves and saliva.

Anyway, according to my friends this is how it is done:  First, the patient spends half an hour bathing in a river or a carabao pool to soften the foreskin. While bathing, he chews guava leaves. Then the barber checks if the foreskin is already loose from the tweet tweet. This is done by pulling the foreskin all the way down to tweet tweet’s base. If the foreskin goes down all the way, then it is is ready for the operation. But if the foreskin is not loose enough, it is forced that it sometimes bleeds.

After checking the looseness of the foreskin, the patient inserts the tapered end of an L shaped guava branch  between the foreskin and the tweetie bird inside the foreskin (I don't know if I'm making sense here.). When guava branch is inserted, the barber asks the patient to look up so that the patient would not see the blade and the blood. The barber taps the foreskin with his finger to numb the skin. Sometimes a patient screams thinking that the skin is already being cut. Others swallow the guava leaves because they are startled. Others simply lost consciousness, while others just grab their pants and run like Andres Bonifacio being chased by the Spanish guardia civils.

When the tapping  is done, the  barber lays the blade of the shave on the foreskin and  taps it with a piece of wood cutting and splitting the foreskin. The foreskin is set apart (or split) exposing the bald tweet tweet. . Then the patient spits the chewed guava leaves, the antiseptic, on the wound. Finally, the cute little birdie is bandaged with a piece of cloth, traditionally called “baru-baruan” (baby clothes). The wound is to be washed with boiled guava leaves and to avoid inflammation, the birdie should not be seen by a female.

Those who lost  consciousness and those who ran away will be branded as cowards.  They will be made fun of during drinking sessions, during funeral wakes when funny stories are needed to waken the mourners, and every summer when it is the season for ciscumcision—their stories will be told long after their dead.

What's German for circumcission? It's Slizenhutten.

No comments: