The Philippines has only two seasons – dry and wet. Arid lands cover most of the agriculture areas while hot and humid air permeates in major cities during the dry season. Rolling trickles of sweat from the temples to the cheeks of dehydrated men with parched lips is a normal scene. The Filipino practice of taking a bath daily is our way of beating the heat. We indulge in 10 to 20 minutes of fun and leisure soaked with water and soap so we can face another day under the sun.
Why Filipinos take a bath every day
It is a custom in the Philippines to take a bath, at the minimum, once a day. Skipping one would cause repulsion from other Filipinos. It can even be a source of a joke whenever someone is found out to have not taken a bath. He or she can be deemed as lazy or a slob. An interesting thing here is that even though the person does not smell or look like he or she has not yet taken a bath, the person can be judged nevertheless by fellow Filipinos.
Taking a bath is not limited in the confines of a bathroom. Filipinos have done it in many places. Those who come from lower income class families take a bath outside their home in the streets. With their boxer shorts and undershirts, they can bathe and groom themselves without any hassle or disturbance from passing vehicles. Another popular instance for taking a bath is when it’s raining hard. Majority of Filipinos do not have a shower installed in their bathrooms. When it rains, the outside becomes a large shower room that you can share with other people. Children, in particular, enjoy playing while taking a bath in the rain.
Filipinos and their “tabo“
Because of the lack of shower heads or bath tubs in most Filipino bathrooms, Filipinos have to be inventive in order to take a bath. We use a tabo to scoop up water from a bucket and pour the water down to our body. A tabo is like a pitcher that is smaller than a pail but bigger than a mug. It is normal to see a tabo in Filipino bathrooms and wash rooms. It is also widely used by Filipinos to clean themselves after moving their bowels. It is a replacement for toilet papers since we, Filipinos, are not accustomed to using toilet papers in the washroom.
There are many traditions in bathing and hygiene among countries. Some give a spiritual meaning to taking a bath while others view it as a waste of time and resources. For Filipinos, taking a bath is an activity that should be religiously done for hygiene, for cooling down, or just for fun. The next time you visit the Philippines, try to observe the people how they live their normal lives. Because beneath these activities, there are deeper meanings that can reflect their culture and values in life.