Boys' rite of passage best on Black Saturday

News  Philippine Daily Inquirer (Makati City, P.I.). Sunday, 20 March 2005.

Madonna T. Virola

Ritual circumcision in the Philippines

BULALACAO, Oriental Mindoro – Planning a circumcision? How about on Black Saturday?

Boys here, aged 9-12, prefer to have their circumcision done on Sabado de Gloria (Black Saturday) because according to traditional beliefs, it would be less bloody than having it done on Good Friday, according to Dextex Gonzales, a government official and community leader.

According to local folklore, God suffered and died on Good Friday and parents wouldn't want that experience replicated during their sons' circumcision.

God is already alive on Black Saturday, so it would be less bloody, Gonzales explained his town's beliefs. In combined Filipino and English, Gonzales shared with the Inquirer his experiences about this summer rite of passage.

Cleaning procedure

Early morning of Sabado de Gloria, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., the boys clean themselves up by taking a bath. Together with their peers, they arrange their circumcision with a man who is experienced in doing this, he narrated.

Circumcision is done in a forested area so girls cannot see them. According to our beliefs, if a girl sees the circumcision, the boys' scrotum will grow big, he said.

First, the boys undergo a cleaning procedure, or panlanggas in the dialect. Guava leaves are boiled and the lukewarm water is used to clean the male organ (the non-traditional way uses penicillin).

A hole is made in the middle of a white cloth where the male organ is inserted and tied with a piece of cloth.

Leaves of potat, a wild tree, are softened by pinching with the fingers. It is held over a fire, to sterilize it, and then applied on the male organ.

During the actual circumcision, a stainless steel razor called labaha is used to cut the skin of the male organ.

Bathing in the sea

After the circumcision, the boys bathe in the sea. Bulalacao, the southernmost part of Oriental Mindoro province and about five hours by land from Puerto Princesa City, is famous for its beautiful and pristine beaches.

A newly circumcised boy is not allowed to go out from Monday to Friday as it is risky and old folks claim that a snake will come out and bite him, Gonzales said.

He said locals believe the male organ would have a better appearance when circumcised the traditional way, compared to having it done in the hospital.

This is because the skin on the penis is stripped off. The skin is stretched back, so it is still intact, unlike in a hospital where the skin is also cut off, he explained.

After paltak or cutting, the boys are asked to jump to minimize the bleeding. Some boys chew on guava leaves to divert their attention and ease the pain. They close their eyes and then it's all over, he added. Some apply the chewed guava leaves to the wound to speed up healing, which ordinarily takes two weeks.


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