Foreskin Massacre

It's summertime in the tropical Philippines...pfff. A misnomer since our season is perpetually summer, hot and hotter is more apt to describe it. Hotter months is one of the most awaited time of the year as it equates long school break and some endless youthful adventures and partying. Its a celebration of life among denizens of the youthdom by unleashing their joie de vivre in sheer innocent abandon.

It is also a time for observing religious piety as the season of Lent falls on this hot and humid time. Penitents go to the extreme by indulging in actual mid day crucifixion, some walk a mile and flagellate themselves until their delicate skin can no longer withstand the lashing, breaking its pores and exposing its flesh in a bloodbath.

Like the theatrical mask, our summer has two faces. Like life itself, it is influenced by two opposing forces...Yin and Yang. While the rest of the juveniles are preoccupied with their to do list for the long school break, a certain segment of our pubertal species are on the verge of ambivalence on what the season may signify and on to what thing may come. Inevitably, nobody can escape the psychological and physical horror of this two faced summer bring....CIRCUMCISION. To the uninitiated, the gore of foreskin mutilation is a sought after ritual in the whole of the 7,107 islands that comprises the islands Philippines. A rite blended with religious frivolity and cultural superstition, osterized to perfection and uniquely call our own.

Peer pressure coercion and penile bashing are forces stronger than any tremors recorded in the Richter scale that inevitably cause the fall of the prepuce. You can summon all the saints and seraphims to valiantly face the axeman. There are two executioners that sets the stage for the ritual, one is the Manunuli(traditional circumciser) and the medical practitioners.

The Manunuli is not necessarily a shaman or a quack doc but usually are just the plain zapatero or barbero next door having a very keen skill for the trade. Illegibility for the ritual are boys who are able to pull their foreskin down the shaft, age is variable.

The cut on the prepuce is performed using a barber's blade (labaja) or balisong (fan-knife). The cut is guided by a "pakang," a wooden contraption carved from a branch of the bayabas (guava) 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 pakang. 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; to facilitate healing and prevent infection... a precursor to betadine.

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 concoction of bayabas leaves. (modern day betadine) Some apply fine scrappings from the outer coconut shell to the daily wound care. Recently, it has become common practice to apply pulverized penicillin tablets (obtained without prescription) to the wound.

Brace yourself... If unusual swelling(kinamatis) occurs, 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. Grossly bizarre!

Circumcision by a doctor is a status symbol back in time. But now numerous organizations be it civic,military or even church organizations "generously" sponsor mass circumcision by a doctor. This "noble' act is likened to giving mass vaccination and immunization to school kids cuing for their turn. It doesn't equate affluence though...

Recently, i have asked myself why am i circumcised out of boredom or for just trying to be cerebral on a next to taking a bath matter on a Filipino perspective. I took a free time machine ride with my readings which brought me to the temple of Khonspekhrod in Luxor, Egypt around 1360 BC and found a carving on the wall about a circumcision scene. From the fertile crescent, the Pacific Islands and all the way Down Under, prepuces has been falling off in numbers to some of the tribes. The ride also whisked me to the early Judeo-Christian- Muslim era where the foreskin mutilation became a sacred act. Jesus Christ, being a jew was circumcised. Jesus redeeming acts were kinda bloody as he sheds blood to save us from our sins. Our redemption emanates from circumsicion to crucifixion...OUCH!.

Early christians celebrated the feast of Circumcison every January first from the mid 6th century until the 15th century for some reasons i did not delved. Hmmm it makes sense, we celebrate the feast of santo niño every January instead of the feast of circumsicion...sounds better though hehehe. During those time, there was a growing veneration of the holy prepuce believe to be the "one of the only concievable part of Jesus's body that he could have left on earth". At one time, pilgrims who came to venerate it were rewarded with indulgence that cut 10 years from! I wanna be a Knight of the Holy Prepuce. Just like in good friday, a procession of the Holy Prepuce could have been done every January 1st and whoever saved their foreskins can carry it along the procession...makes me wonder what encantations are to be recited and what hymnals are to be sang, the church must have burned or kept it under lock and key hehehe. The supposed to be foreskin of Jesus was enshrined in the Church of the Holy name in Calcata, Italy kept in bronze door over the altar and displayed every January 1st. For four centuries, it has been the city's greatest treasure but somewhere in 1983, the specimen mysteriously vanished. Could this be the holy grail? could the templars be the knights of the holy prepuce? Well, it takes a Dan Brown to unlock Da Vinci's code again hahaha...too much petty musings!

This conjecture is going to be endless but the most important thing is that it shed light on my understanding why am prepuceless and why it is prevalent in my country. Cut or uncut, it doesn't matter, what matters is on how you use it!