A Rite of Passage

June 1, 2010 at 9:50 am 25 comments

a rite of passage



a sidney snoeck photo

When I was growing up in the Philippines, summer was something to look forward to. It was a time of unbridled fun and laughter. It was a time to get away from books and school, to romp and play in the rice paddies, to jump naked from the rails of the bridge into the river 20 feet down below. But there was one summer I welcomed with dread. It was the summer of my circumcision.

I guess I was 10 or 11 then when my cousins stopped by the house to announce that they had decided to go for it that morning. They asked me to join them. Of course, I said, with a slight quiver in my voice.

We walked in subdued silence to a place by the river where our courage would be tested. Under the shade of a tree, we saw an old man patiently sharpening a razor. A few kids were already milling around him when we arrived. We joined the group and waited for the ritual to begin.

Beside the old man was a wooden contraption that looked like an anvil. It was at the tip of this contraption where the foreskin was separated from the glans, stretched, and cut.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the old man gave the boys guava leaves to chew and directed them to form a line. He motioned to the biggest boys to go first on the line, supposedly to set them as models of courage for the other boys. But it wasn’t meant to be in our batch. One of the big boys ran away bottomless when his turn came. Another fainted at the sight of blood, and two bawled out in pain when they were cut. My cousins did better than these models of courage. They faced the old man and his razor like true men.

After the cut was made, the old man told each one to spit on his genital. The saliva mixed with guava leaves was to disinfect and cause the wound to heal faster. Afterwards, he told the newly circumcised to dip himself in the cold water of the river to constrict the blood vessels and stop the blood letting.

When my turn came, I was at the point of fainting. I had seen so much blood in a day. To my relief, the old man told me I wasn’t ready. He found that my foreskin wasn’t fully retractable yet. Unless the foreskin could be pulled back completely behind the head of the penis, he couldn’t perform the procedure.

It was a month later that my father sent me to a clinic in the city where a doctor circumcised me under the watchful eyes of a female nurse. The trip to the clinic didn’t exempt me from the pain. I suffered when the doctor forcefully retracted my foreskin still adhered to the glans. Then I suffered more when he injected anesthesia into the head of the penis. I never experienced that much pain in my life before. Somehow the presence of the nurse calmed me down a bit. She held onto my hand tightly until the procedure was completed.

It took two weeks after the procedure before I was able to walk normal again. But it was worth all the pain I suffered. The stigma of growing up uncircumcised in the Philippines was more than my family and I could bear.

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Entry filed under: Blogroll, weekly writing challenge. Tags: , , , , , , .

things happen for a reason strange graduation ritual

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. virtualanimosity  |  June 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    wow! this is the first time ive read a colorful version of a story about his ‘coming of age’. it’s hair-raising (or was it just the airconditioning?) hihi

    ganon pala ang feeling ng mga guys, hmmm why dont i cap off this summer with my own version of ‘coming of age’?

    Reply
    • 2. plaridel  |  June 2, 2010 at 10:26 am

      virtualanimosity:

      i tell you it can really be intimidating. it must be the reason why some parents elect to the procedure done to their son immediately after he’s born.

      in the states it’s more optional. it’s not considered a disgrace to be uncircumcised.

      Reply
  • 3. my own version | the bitteR-betteR me  |  June 3, 2010 at 12:31 am

    […] own version Posted on June 3, 2010 by virtualanimosity i was reading plaridel’s version of his ‘coming of age’ when i thought of writing my own one haha (inggitera) nah, i just really find it amusing that […]

    Reply
  • 4. AC  |  June 3, 2010 at 12:38 am

    good thing you were brought to the clinic for circumcision. haha. kesa kay manong, kktakot yun. my sister (she’s a doctor) used to circumcise the kids in the neighborhood during summer. nakikipaghabulan sya sa kids na natatakot. hahaha. 😆

    Reply
    • 5. plaridel  |  June 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      ac:

      your sister actually did it? i always thought it’s a man thing. oh well! 🙂

      Reply
      • 6. AC  |  June 7, 2010 at 6:43 am

        yep. walang babae o lalake pagdating sa doktor. pare-pareho lang sila nakakakita ng organ mapa-lalake man o babae. 🙂

        Reply
        • 7. plaridel  |  June 7, 2010 at 11:00 pm

          ac:

          that’s what my friends who are nurses say. you see one, you see them all. yeah, right! 🙂

          Reply
  • 8. coolwaterworks  |  June 3, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Hehehe… This is one aspect of Filipino manhood I’d rather not write about… I guess I found the memory of the experience far beyond words… Hahaha!

    Indeed, this is a rite of passage for us Filipino boys… Better endure the pain than the stigma of not having it done… 🙂

    Reply
    • 9. coolwaterworks  |  June 3, 2010 at 2:04 am

      Probably beyond fear and gruesome…. Hehehe…

      Reply
      • 10. plaridel  |  June 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm

        coolwaterworks:

        i agree totally. it’s the family honor that’s at stake. 🙂

        Reply
    • 11. AC  |  June 3, 2010 at 2:39 am

      yes. lalo na here in the philippines, kelangan talaga yan e. hehehe. pero isipin nyo, minsanan sakit lang yan para sa inyong boys. kaya oks lang. 🙂

      Reply
      • 12. plaridel  |  June 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

        ac:

        i heard in other countries, females are circumcised too when they reach puberty. i think that’s barbaric if you ask me.

        Reply
        • 13. virtualanimosity  |  June 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

          how are girls circumcised? kasi all the while ang alam kong circumsicion ng babae ehh yung ear peircing..

          Reply
          • 14. plaridel  |  June 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm

            virtualanimosity:

            too graphic to explain here, but you can google it on the internet.

            Reply
  • 15. emilayskie  |  May 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Uy! Cool! I was thinking of bringing my son home for his circumcision because it’s not an “in” thing here in New Zealand. So I assume most of them are uncircumcised. Looll.

    Thank you for sharing this story. Was a good read. Haha

    Reply
    • 16. plaridel  |  May 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      emilayskie:

      isn’t he too young for the procedure? i had mine when i was eleven. 🙂

      Reply
      • 17. emilayskie  |  May 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm

        My youngest brother had his when he was 9. He is super tall now. I’m not sure if there’s a relevance. LOL. But yeah, he is still too young so I’m planning he’ll get circumcised by the age of 9 or 10. I need to set his mind to as early as now to do it.

        Reply
        • 18. plaridel  |  May 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

          emilayskie:

          9 or 10 will be ideal. i was a late bloomer. 🙂

          Reply
  • 20. Cyn  |  March 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    This is a sensitive subject. You handled it really well.

    Reply
  • 22. jules  |  August 9, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Compelling reading. A great piece of autobiography.

    Reply
    • 23. plaridel  |  August 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      jules:

      thank you for reading and commenting. much appreciated.

      Reply
  • 24. I Remember the Falling Rain | Ramisa the Authoress  |  August 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    […] Musings of a Random Mind a rite of passage […]

    Reply
  • 25. Court fixing up the past | litadoolan  |  August 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    […] Musings of a Random Mind a rite of passage […]

    Reply

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