Look, I know this post is not for the faint of heart, but trust me when I say that it’s a critical survival skill that you need to know before traveling to the Philippines. When you’re looking for toilet paper in the Philippines, you won’t likely find it outside of hotels catering to Westerners. So today, I’m talking about the tabo – a small plastic or metal water dipper that plays a crucial role in personal hygiene for Filipinos. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of bathroom tools – it replaces both the shower and toilet paper in traditional Filipino homes.
Now, let’s say you’re at home, and the family dog leaves a little present on the kitchen floor. Would you be okay with your kid just wiping it up with some paper towels and going about their day? No, of course not! You’d be telling them to break out the Mr. Clean and get to scrubbing!
So why is it that when it comes to our own bodies, we think that wiping with just paper is enough? Those Filipinos are onto something here – they’ve been using soap and water for centuries to keep themselves clean, while we’ve been using flimsy bits of paper. Who’s the real savage here?
The use of the tabo dates back to ancient times when Filipinos didn’t have access to modern plumbing and sanitation systems. They used it as a substitute for toilet paper, which wasn’t yet widely available. But even with the modernization of the country’s infrastructure, the tabo remains a staple in Filipino households, especially in rural areas.
Now, using the tabo is a simple process, but it takes a little getting used to. Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Before using the restroom, locate the tabo. It’s usually kept near the toilet or in a nearby bucket of water.
- Fill the tabo with clean water from the bucket. If there’s running water, fill it up before you sit down.
- Get completely naked until you master this art. It’s not for the faint of heart, and you will get water everywhere.
- Use your “clean hand” to hold the tabo and pour water over the affected area, directing it with your hand (think waterslide). I say “clean hand” because you will take care not to touch anything disgusting with it.
- Soap up your other “dirty” hand and use it to clean yourself. Since water doesn’t pour up, you’ll want to perfect the art of using your hand to direct the water where you want it to go while scrubbing the nasty bits. Pro Tip: This is a big reason Filipinos don’t have Western toilet seats – you need the extra room to work.
- Don’t touch anything other than your dirty bits with your dirty hand until after you wash it thoroughly.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Most modern homes will have hand sanitizer to use as a finishing touch (especially after the pandemic).
- Don’t overthink it. It’s scrubbing with soap and water, just like washing anything else.
Using a tabo may seem like a strange and uncomfortable practice at first, but it’s a hygienic and practical way to stay clean and fresh. And it’s not just about practicality – it’s a cultural tradition that has been passed down through generations of Filipinos. Another practical concern is that there practically is no toilet paper in the Philippines. So the next time you find yourself in a Filipino household, don’t be afraid to try using a tabo for yourself. You might just find that it’s a more effective way to stay clean than toilet paper.
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