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Rural Circumcision
The Bao Method
Cordillera / Bontok


In the rural Philippines, "pagtutuli " or circumcision is a pre-adolescent or adolescent rite of passage, traditionally performed on Holy Saturday (Sabado de Gloria). On that day, groups of young boys, often unaccompanied by their parents, brave to the rivers, ready with their handful of bayabas leaves to chew on.

The procedure is usually preceded by a few hours of bathing in the river, the cold water believed to decreased the amount of bleeding. Getting out of the water, they start chewing their handful of bayabas leaves.

circumcision is done by the albularyo (the village doctor) or a lay person with expertise in the procedure. Rarely it is done on one's self.

  Circumcision has slowly been cut off from the purview of local healers. Municipal clinics have increasingly providing free circumcision services. It is also a service often supported by Rotary Clubs. In some rural areas, it continues as a Holy Week ritual on Holy Saturday. As for the end product, fathers and mothers comment the river-ritual circumcisions are "aesthetically" much better than those done by physicians.

The cut on the prepuce is performed using a labaja (barber's blade) or balisong (fan-knife). The cut is guided by a "lukaw," a wooden contraption carved from a branch of the bayabas tree, one end of which is staked to the ground . The other end, shaped to fit between the penile prepuce and head, is put in place with the lad sitting and straddling the lukaw. The blade is then carefully placed on the prepuce for the dorsal slit and a single blow is delivered by hand or a wooden branch. Immediately, the mouthful of bayabas leaves being chewed is spit out and applied to the wound; this is believed to facilitate healing and prevent infection.

A piece of soft cloth, about 5x5 inches, preferably white, with a small hole in the middle to allow for urination, is wrapped around the penile head and tied with cloth-strings.

The dressing is changed daily, after washing the wound with a decoction of bayabas leaves. Some use chicken feathers tied together to brush the bayabas decoction on the wound. Some apply daily scrappings from the outer coconut shell to the wound. Recently, it has become common practice to apply pulverized penicillin tablets (obtained without prescription) to the wound.

In some rural areas, if unusual swelling occurs (kinamatis), a termite is placed on the swelling to produce a puncture and subsequent draining. If infection occurs, a dog is made to lick off the dried pus, blood and debris. Another practice is the stringing off of dried pus and debris.

Usually free or a pack of cigarettes.
Some charge 200-300 pesos.

Note: In the recent years, municipal clinics have started providing free circumcision. It is also a service often supported by Rotary Clubs. In some rural areas, it continues as a Holy Week ritual on Holy Saturday.

The Bao Method
Another method utilizes half the coconut shell, with the hole slightly enlarged to accommodate the prepuce. The prepuce is pulled through the hole and snipped off with scissors. Recipients of the bao procedure boast
and display a cleaner and streamlined cut.

In Bontok, boys are expected to be circumcised (nasegyatan) by puberty.
In the highlands, uncircumcised boys are teased as "loyyup," meaning 'long penis.' (In the lowlands, they are teased as "supot.") As in the lowland rural areas, the procedure is simple and spare. The tip of the thin knife is inserted to the length to be opened, when in the desired position, the knife is hit with a piece of wood. The prepuce is slit open and rolled back and a poultice of chewed or pulped young leaves, umok, is applied to the wound, to stop the bleeding and help in the wound healing. The method of slitting-and-rolling-back without cutting off the skin is cause for re-circumcision in some.

Dried beans or some tobacco leaves.

Last Update April 2012

Bintusa Pagtutuli (Circumcision) 
Bulong and Orasyon  Pwe-Usog, Pwe-buyag 
Cadot  Suob 
Kudlit  Tapal 
Lunas Tawak 
Luop  Tawas
Magasawang Gamot  Other Anecdotal Therapies 

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