CHILDREN IN THE PHILIPPINES
Young children are often raised by an extended family household with various relatives taking on child-rearing responsibilities. Children are often take on responsibility at an early age. Girls especially are expected to help with cooking and household chores and look after younger siblings. This is especially true if the wife in a family is engaged in economic activity.
Filipinos are typically highly indulgent of their children, especially boys, so may well tolerate children’s anti-social behaviour in public. In contrast, public displays of anger towards children, even just overt chastising or reprimanding, are not well regarded. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]
Infants are raised by family members. Young children are sent to live with their grandparents or aunts for extended periods. People who live outside the country leave their children with the family for the preschool years. Children are seldom alone in a system in which adults desire company and do not understand the need for privacy. Children have no pressure to become toilet trained or to learn to eat at the table. They are spoon fed or eat from a parent's plate until the age of six. They must learn respect for authority, obedience, and religious faith. Self-esteem is fostered. [Source: everyculture.com /=/]
See Education, Schools, See Rural Life
Child Rearing in the Philippines
A Filipino child receives an abundance of love and affection from all members of the extended family and is seldom chastised. He will have a tendency not to do things alone, and this remains all his life. The child is almost kept young for as long as possible. However, certain norms of conduct expected of the child reflect values held by the extended family. The primary value is karangalan (dignity) which encompasses puri (honour); katapatan (trustworthiness), pananagutan (extended responsibility). Safeguarding karangalan, by pagkamasunurin (obedience, compliance) is vital. Loss of karangalan by a family member results in hiya (shame) for the whole family. [Source: Philippines Australia Business Council ^^]
As a result, Filipinos develop a delicate sense of personal worth, and peer group acceptance and pakikipagkapwa-tao (concern for fellow-beings) become primary values. These require SIR and include: avoiding direct disagreements, using intermediaries, using euphemisms and metaphors, keeping feelings to oneself, and helping members of the extended family find employment, dressing correctly for the occasion, and smiling at disappointments and failures. ^^
Filipinos also have an obligation to support erring family members in public and chastise in private, i.e., he can disagree in private, but must publicly agree with a family member, for utang na loob and family indebtedness are obligatory for all members of the extended family. Criticism of one family member is criticism of all, and honour to one is honour to all. Family obligations mean that the eldest child often goes to work, so that younger family members can be educated. This occurs regardless of sex, for Filipino women have been liberated for centuries. The number of Filipino businesswomen is large. ^^
In the Philippines, decisions are made by consensus and on the basis of anticipated benefit to the family. Filipinos must consult with other family members, especially elders, before making decisions. Filipinos have special forms of address for older members of the family, older relatives, and even older siblings, for they all have authority over the child. Space limitations and hierarchical family situation often motivate younger family members to spend leisure time on community affairs. Sometimes they are directed by the family into community projects. This satisfies the goals for the well-being of the extended family, and provides a means for self development. ^^
Reference to the authority of older family members is reinforced by the authority of the church. The church also helps build the high values placed on SIR, compassion, and tolerance. Religion dominates Filipinos far more than Australians. Religion is all-pervading in Filipino’s life, whether he practices his faith or not ‘ he tends to do the right thing and lives by the dictates and teachings of the church. He will do this even if operating under two sets of values which has been called ‘split-level christianity’. This appears very contradictory to foreigners, but is very reconcilable from the Filipino point of view. This explains the graft-taker never failing to go to church on Sunday, or a businessman giving equally to his parish church and his mistress. ^^
Pregnancy and Prenatal Customs in the Philippines
A study on pre-natal and infant care customs by the University of Hawaii found: In the Philippines “both the traditional and modern day approaches have come together in what the women now view as a new baseline of traditional practices, which consists of a mixture between traditional Filipino customs and the influence of other cultural and modern day practices. Each Filipino woman interviewed “differed in how she found out she was pregnant. One woman was told that she had a "mother's glow," another was told she was four months pregnant by a massage therapist, and the last woman experienced nausea. Upon finding that they were pregnant, these woman turned to Health Care professionals (Doctor or Nurse Midwife) for Prenatal care. During health screenings, their significant others or close family member were able to actively participate. [Source: hawcc.hawaii.ed, November 5, 2008 ]
Traditional prenatal customs, practices and beliefs in the Philippines have included: 1) The people a woman turned to for prenatal care were midwives and women who were experienced in child birth. 2) During health screenings, the woman was not accompanied by her significant other, instead she was accompanied by a female family member.
To encourage the well being of both the mother and her child: 1) The mother was encouraged to eat lots of rice, Mungo Beans (Balatong), and Pinakbet (Vegetable Soup) to promote healthy eating. 2) She was also encouraged to eat raw eggs to build strength for labor, pigs tail to promote fetal movement, and Calamansi (a small tropical citrus fruit) so that the newborn's face would be smooth. 3) She was advised to refrain from eating taro because it would cause her perineal area to become itchy. 4) A mother was discouraged from wearing anything around her neck because it would cause the fetus' umbilical cord to wrap around it's neck. 5) She was advised not to watch scary movies because it could cause her to go into pre-term labor. 6) She was also advised not to think negatively towards a person because it would cause the baby to resemble that person.
7) It was belived that cleaning the toilet would cause the baby to be cute. 8) If a mother was told that her child was in the breech position, her significant other should walk down a flight of stairs, on all fours, with the head down so that the fetus would turn and be born normally. 9) The mother was restricted from walking outside without footwear to prevent her from becoming ill. 10) A mother was restricted from wearing tight-fitted clothing because it could cause the fetus to become handicapped. 11) A mother was told to rub coconut oil onto her abdomen to prevent the formation of stretch marks.
To determine if the child would be male or female: A) For a boy: 1) The mothers stomach was set high and is pointy in contour. 2) The mother retained her beauty throughout her pregnancy. 3) When walking, the mother would step with her left foot first B) For a girls: 1) The mothers stomach is set lower and is more round in contour. 2) Malasma (the mask of pregnancy) or swelling occured because it was said that the mothers beauty was given to/stolen by her child. 3) When walking, the mother would step with her right foot first.
To promote the well being of both the mother and her child, these women: 1) Maintained a healthy diet and refrained from eating fast foods; 2) Took prenatal vitamins prescribed by their health care provider; 3) Attended routine visits with their physician; 4) Exercised, not only to maintain their health, but also to help in the ease of child birth.
These women also carried on some of their cultural traditions such as: 1) Eating a lots of rice, Mungo Beans (Balatong), and Pinakbet (Vegetable Soup) to promote healthy eating. 2) Making sure not to wear anything around the neck because it would cause the fetus' umbilical cord to wrap around it's neck. 3) Not watching scary movies to prevent from going into pre-term labor. 4) Making sure not to think negatively towards a person to prevent from the baby resembling that person. 5) Always wore footwear outside to prevent from becoming ill. 6) Rubbed coconut oil onto the abdomen to prevent the formation of stretch marks.
Conception, Pregnancy and Birth Superstitions
1) A conceiving woman should only be shown photographs of beautiful women and handsome men in order to give birth to a beautiful baby. If she sees photos of ugly people, she might give birth to an ugly babe. Likewise, a woman’s favorite food during conception will affect the physical characteristics of her child. Say if a woman likes to eat pork a lot, she might give birth to a baby that looks like a pig or has a hairy birthmark just like the skin of a pig. 2) If the pregnant woman hops over her husband, her morning sickness will transfer to her husband. 3) Anyone who shares the food being eaten by a pregnant woman will suffer from spells of drowsiness, dizziness and vomiting. 4) Plants will wither and trees will bear sour fruits if touched by a pregnant woman. [Source: felixfojas.wordpress.com , March 6, 2012 ^*^]
5) If a pregnant woman eats eggplants her baby will have violet discolorations on its skin, while eating twin bananas will cause her to give birth to twins. 6) If a woman looks pretty during pregnancy she will give birth to a girl, whereas if she looks ugly she will give birth to a boy. In the same vein, if the woman’s stomach is rounded, it will be a girl; but if the stomach is pointed, the baby will be a boy. 7) A pregnant woman must not attend funerals, have her picture taken, or stand under doorways for it will lead to a difficult delivery or even death of the baby. 8) A woman who accidentally falls down hard will deliver a hare-lipped baby. 9) Pregnant women are prone to aswang (vampire) attacks. Garlic should be hung near the windows and the husband must always keep a stingray tail in the bedroom to discourage vampires from entering it and eating the foetus. ^*^
10) Pregnant women should bathe in the afternoon to prevent hypertension. 11) A pregnant woman who watches a lunar eclipse is in danger of having a miscarriage. She must not leave the house at sundown or twilight without wearing a shawl on her head to prevent giving birth to a bald child. 12) The birth of a child signals good luck in the family. 13) To make a baby fortunate wrap it in old or borrowed clothes. 14) It is unlucky to show a baby’s clothes before it is born. 15) When breast-feeding a woman’s milk will curdle if she eats watermelon, mangoes or any sour fruit for that matter. 16) Breast-feeding mothers should drink a lot of milk to produce a good supply of milk. 17) A baby’s umbilical cord must be immediately buried upon the birth of a child to attract good luck. A baby with its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck like a noose will mean good luck. 18) A baby born with its head covered with a hood of thin skin will not die by drowning and will become famous when it grows up. ^*^
Filipino Pregnancy Myths
Myth No. 1: "Paglilihi" or Pregnancy Cravings: Many Filipinos, to this day, believe that what you eat and crave for during pregnancy has a direct influence on the physical attributes of the baby. However, scientific studies prove that there is no link between paglilihi and the unborn baby's physical attributes. As Genetics tell us, our physical attributes are inherited from our parents' and grandparents' set of genes and not from food cravings. [Source: anmum.com.ph]
Myth No. 2: Post-labor Stomach Binding: It is a common practice for Filipina women to bind their abdomen tightly after pregnancy, believing that this practice helps the uterus to retract and gets the stomach back into shape. However, scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Tying a cloth around one’s tummy can put pressure on the uterus, causing it to bleed. It can also lead to further complications, especially if you’ve experienced a C-section. Evidence also suggests that a combination of diet and mild exercise is the best way to get back into shape after pregnancy.
Myth No. 3: Eating twin bananas may lead to twins: This myth has many variations, with some claiming that bananas lead to regular twins while others insist on Siamese twins, which is a serious condition wherein twins are born with part of their bodies joined together. However, this myth has no scientific basis, as twin development happens purely by chance or because of your genes (for non-identical twins).
Myth No. 4: "Usog" or the Stranger's Evil Eye: Usog is an age-old Filipino superstition. The belief states that discomfort (fever, bloating, nausea/vomiting) is brought to the baby by a stranger or visitor who is said to have an evil eye. A simple greeting from the visitor is said to be enough to cause this curse. To counter the curse, the stranger would need to say "pwera usog" while licking his thumb and applying saliva while tracing a cross on the infant's forehead. Despite having no scientific basis or proof regarding the occurrences of usog, many superstitious Filipinos believe in the practice to this date. However, this superstition lacks scientific proof.
Despite the fact that many Filipino superstitions and myths lack scientific explanation, many mothers-to-be still follow them by the letter for two reasons: the “better to be safe than sorry” mentality, and out of respect for the elders or tradition. Some of these superstitions are harmless, but do take extra care and always consult with your OB-gyne before subjecting yourself or your baby to any healing or cleansing rituals. Keeping a healthy balance between modern medicine and Filipino culture will ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Labor and Delivery in the Philippines
According to the University of Hawaii study: Traditional ways during the labor and delivery of the child include: 1) Women from previous generations gave birth within their own homes. 2) Aside from the person who was to delivery the baby, only woment of the family were present during labor and delivery. 3) Ginger was either applied onto the stomach or boiled in water for the woman to drink to help ease the pain. 4) The women endured the pain silently. 5) The placenta was buried or hung, with the child's name written on a piece of paper so that he/she would become intelligent. 6) The umbilical cord was wrapped in cotton and hung over a window to prevent the child from having colic or frequent stomach aches. 7) Families preferred to have boys born first, so that once old enough, he could help with the family farm. [Source: hawcc.hawaii.ed, November 5, 2008 ]
Three of the four women interviewed, chose the modern day approach of giving birth in a hospital setting , while the fourth woman opted for a home birth with the guidance of a lay mid-wife and other female family members. One women stated that she remained silent throughout her labor and delivery, and also endured the pain naturally, while the others received the epidural. Half of the women interviewed stated that they wished for girls to be born first, while the other half did not have a preference of whether the first child was to be a boy or girl. These women stated that although they chose the modern day approach, they still carried on some of the Filipino traditions.
Delivering in a hospital setting greatly influenced the traditions that were practiced by the Filipino culture. During the era of these women, the number of people allowed into the birthing room were restricted to the spouse and medical staff members. Allowing the placenta to be given to the mother was never discussed during labor and delivery.
Mothers and Infants in the Philippines
Infants spend their waking time in someone's arms until they can walk. They are part of every activity and learn by observation. Someone will remain in the room with them when they sleep. Infant mortality is high, and so great care is taken of babies. Helpers and older sisters assist with the dayto-day care of babies. A child's first birthday is celebrated with a party. [Source: everyculture.com /=/]
According to the University of Hawaii study: “Because modern day post partum practices were more lenient, unlike prenatal and labor and delivery, much of the care during the post partal period reflected the traditional customs. These women still had a recovery period of one month with other family members assisting in cleaning and cooking so that they could have the time to heal and rest in bed. When in need of guidance, these women followed their custom and turned to experienced women in the family, but have also included the support of their significant other. Some refrained from hair washing for about one month to prevent excessive heat loss, which would cause the head to shake. [Source: hawcc.hawaii.ed, November 5, 2008 ]
They refrained from bringing the newborn out for about a month and only drank warm water to prevent illness. Their children carry on the tradition of using their mother's maiden name as their middle name and using their father's last name as their own. Some of these children's names were a combination of both their parent's names. Some parents chose to use names of grandparents to ensure a name passes on from generation to generation or to honor a grandparent. The only custom that was not followed was the lighting of small fires around the bed while the mother and newborn were in it, which was believed to promote strength as the mother healed and the newborn grew.
When asked how they felt regarding their experience with pregnancy, compared to women of previous generations, these women replied that they felt they were more fortunate in their experience due to having the aid of technology and advanced knowledge of modern day practices. These women were able to receive care from health care professionals, where as women from previous generations could only be aided by unlicensed midwives or other women experienced in child birth.
Philippines’ Baby Factory
More than 17,000 babies a year are born at at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, the largest women's hospital in the Philippines. It is also the nation's busiest hospital and is known by the nickname, "Baby Factory." Kenneth R. Weiss wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “In the delivery room that day, teams of doctors and nurses had their hands full with two births in progress. A half-dozen women in various stages of labor waited on gurneys. In the hallway, wheels clacked across the white tile floor. A gurney burst into the delivery room led by a nurse holding a newborn in outstretched hands. A coiled umbilical cord connected the blue-tinged baby to a woman lying on her back, hair matted. She had just arrived by cab. The newborn girl couldn't wait. [Source: Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2012 |::|]
“Dr. Maria Lu Andal moved in to clear the baby's airways and snip the cord. The baby began to cry, turning bright pink as a crew of assistants swarmed mother and child, swabbing, draping, measuring and tagging. In a room nearby, newborns lay shoulder to shoulder on tables for nurses to weigh and measure. Oversize recovery rooms contained rows of worn metal beds, each shared by two mothers and their newborns. In the neonatal unit, 68 babies lay in incubators, many of them dangerously premature. On average, about a third die, doctors said. |::|
“Andal, in dark green scrubs, a hairnet and mask, recalled that she once delivered 36 babies in a four-hour shift. "It's like an assembly line," said Dr. Ruben Flores, who directs the hospital and its 1,200 employees. "It never stops." This was the quiet season. Only 63 babies were delivered this day, about half the hospital's capacity. "That's what they say: It's a baby factory," Flores said. "But I say, we didn't produce the babies. We just deliver them. These babies were produced at home." |::|
Thousands of Filipino Mothers Breast-feed Simultaneously
In May 2007, “Thousands of Filipino mothers simultaneously breast-fed in day-care centers and hospitals in a campaign to counter advertising claims that artificial baby foods are better than breast milk. Teresa Cerojano of Associated Press wrote: “Breast-feeding advocates, social welfare officials and UNICEF spearheaded the event that hopes to set the first Guinness record for the most mothers breast-feeding in multiple locations. A partial, unofficial count showed at least 3,608 mothers took part nationwide, according to the organizers' Web site and Felix Armenia, an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. [Source: Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press, May 2, 2007]
"We need every possible way to get the message out that Filipino mothers should breast-feed exclusively for six months and then continue to breast-feed for two years and beyond with household foods," said Dale Rutstein, UNICEF's spokesman. "Unfortunately, through advertising, most Filipino mothers now believe that artificial forms of foods for babies are actually better than breast milk," he said. A UN expert in February criticized milk companies and a Philippine pharmaceutical association for "deceptive and malicious" advertising practices aimed at selling infant formula in the country. Jean Ziegler, the Geneva-based UN food rights expert, said aggressive marketing practices by milk companies were misleading the public by claiming that breast-feeding cannot be done by a majority of women and that their consumer products raise healthy, smart and happy babies.
In 2003, the World Health Organization estimated that 16,000 children below 5 died in the Philippines due to improper feeding practices, including use of infant formula. Today, only 16 percent of Filipino children between 4 and 5 months old are exclusively breast-fed while 13 percent of mothers do not breast-feed at all, believing they do not have enough milk, according to UNICEF. Last year, the city of Manila, in partnership with breast-feeding advocates, broke the Guinness record on simultaneous breast-feeding in a single site when 3,541 mothers gathered at a sports complex. That event broke the previous record of 1,130 mothers breast-feeding simultaneously in Berkeley, California, in 2002.
Newborn Baby Found Alive in Airplane Garbage Bag at Manila Airport
In September 2010, a newborn baby was found at Manila airport in a garbage bag taken from a flight that arrived from the Middle East after his mother gave birth to him in the airplane restroom then abandoned him. Associated Press reported: “The baby boy, covered in blood and wrapped in tissue paper, was found by an airport security officer in a garbage bag unloaded from the plane that arrived from Bahrain. He was brought to an airport clinic, where doctors and nurses examined him and cleaned him, wrapped him in cloth and gave him a bottle of milk, airport officials said. "When we initially saw the baby, his color was not right. His color should be pinkish," airport doctor Maria Teresa Agores told reporters. But after the baby was cleaned, "he regained his natural color." He also let off a soft cry, nurse Kate Calvo said. "He was healthy, his vital signs were OK according to our doctors," she added. [Source: Associated Press, September 12, 2010 ]
“A security officer noticed something moving in a garbage bag that was reportedly unloaded from a Gulf Air plane that arrived from Bahrain and found the baby inside, an airport statement said. The baby, given the name George Francis after Gulf Air's code name GF, was later turned over to social workers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman she was angered by what happened, adding that police had been ordered to search for the infant's mother, who could be criminally charged. "I was simply outraged, no infant should be treated that way," Soliman said. She said the baby will be turned over to the mother's relatives — if they can be identified and located — or put up for adoption. Doctors who attended to the baby said he looked Filipino, fueling speculation in local media that the boy's mother could be a domestic worker in the Middle East.
Four days later, Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: “Investigators questioned the suspected Philippine mother of a baby found alive in the trash of a Bahrain-to-Manila flight, after tracing the passenger assigned to a bloodstained seat on the plane. Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said authorities planned DNA tests on the baby, who apparently was born during the weekend flight, and the 30-year-old woman, who was tracked down in a remote northern province. "We want to be very sure that we won't ascribe this act to the wrong person," Soliman told The Associated Press. [Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, September 16 2010]
“The the six pound, nine ounce (three-kilogram) newborn - still attached to placenta - was wrapped in tissue paper. Airport officials said the baby, already bluish in color, may have died within a few minutes had he not been found. About 20 couples, including some from abroad, have offered to adopt the boy, she said.
“The suspected mother was traced to the northern province of Apayao from a name on the flight manifest for a bloodstained seat near a toilet on the flight. Apayao police chief Nestor Bergonia said the woman had apparently just arrived from abroad and has a Filipino husband. The woman, who was provided a government lawyer, refused to talk when authorities began to question her. Local media have speculated that the mother could be one of the many Filipino women who work as maids in the Middle East. About one in 10 Filipinos works abroad, many as domestic workers and laborers in the Middle East, to escape crushing poverty and unemployment at home.”
Philippine Shantytown Fire Kills 5 Children
in 2007, Associated Press reported: “A fire swept through a shantytown in a metropolitan Manila suburb, killing five children whose parents had locked them in a room before going to a market, the city's fire chief said. Another sibling was injured in the three-hour fire in Valenzuela city, believed to have started when a candle either fell over or ignited a wooden wall, Fire Chief Inspector Agapito Nacario said. [Source: Associated Press, January 7, 2007]
The blaze destroyed 97 shanties and left more than 500 people homeless, Nacario said. "The children were yelling for help. They were helpless,'' Nacario said of the five who perished in the fire. He said he will file criminal charges against the parents, citing a law that prohibits parents from leaving children unattended in a locked house. [Ibid]
Circumcision in the Philippines
Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The anatomical and physiological changes that herald puberty are universal to the human race. However, in Filipino society, the sociocultural pubertal rites are expressed in a variety of customs and traditions depending on the particular subculture and its religious orientation. In the Christian tradition, the custom is to circumcise all males. Male circumcision is performed either by a medical doctor trained in this surgery or by a traditional medicine man. Filipino boys may be circumcised as newborn infants or somewhere around age 8 to 10 years, when they are in the third or fourth grade. City dwellers and the sophisticated elite have their newborn males circumcised before they are discharged from the hospital. Working class and poor families seldom have their newborns circumcised, but usually wait until the boys are 9 or 10 years of age. The medicine man is not a medical doctor, but a man of ordinary skills who has learned the art of circumcision handed down from his father or grandfather. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]
Circumcision is done in two ways. In superincision, a dorsal-mesal cut is made along the length of the upper surface of the penis, from the base to the foreskin, or only on the top of the foreskin. In the coronal technique, the excess foreskin is removed with a circular incision, as is the practice in Europe and North America. When a medical doctor performs either of these types of circumcision, the incision is closed by sutures and oral antibiotics are prescribed to avoid post-operative infection. The medicine man, on the other hand, only performs the dorsal slit circumcision, using a specially “cleaned” (not sterilized) sharp knife or a modified slender “machete” as scalpel. The medicine man uses neither antibiotics nor anesthesia. |~|
This pubertal initiation traditionally occurs in the spring or when the schools begin summer recess, somewhere in May or June. The ceremony commences when boys, aged 8 to 12 years old, march in procession, usually in groups of ten to twelve, to the medicine man’s house. The medicine man, with the parents’ knowledge and consent, will then lead the boys to a secluded place, a clearing in a thicket or on a farm to insure privacy. The boy with pants removed, is seated on the edge of a rock or stump of a tree, while the medicine man sharpens and cleans the knife. Despite this tension-producing build-up, the boy must remain calm and composed to show that he is brave and ready to enter the new realm of adulthood and can handle the rigors of manhood. The medicine man places the knife’s sharpest side underneath the tip of the excess prepuce (avoiding the glans penis). He instructs the boy to look up, saying “look for a bird or a plane,” diverting his attention. In a split second, a piece of wood or a branch is struck down against the knife, resulting in a midline cut or dorsal slit of the prepuce. Bleeding may be profuse or minimal. The juice of a certain tropical palm plant (nipa palm) is squeezed over the wound as a post-surgical anesthetic and caustic agent to stop the bleeding. No wound dressing is applied to cover the fresh and rugged incision. A clamp of cobwebs or a mesh scraped from the underside of a coconut palm branch over the incision serves as a bandage and additional clotting agent (to stop further bleeding). In some parts of the Philippines, the medicine man spits on the wound pre-chewed tobacco or a concoction of guava (a tropical peach-like fruit) leaves to act as a clotting agent. Both the cobwebs and coconut palm scrapings act as mechanical meshes to trap blood platelets in order to stop bleeding. The guava leaves mixed with saliva has papase, a chemical agent that medically can minimize post-operation swelling and sometimes arrest bleeding. |~|
After circumcision, the boys walk home without a sound of complaint or grimace of pain. It is interesting to note that a particular gait can be discerned before and after the circumcision. The boys naturally walk normally on their way to the medicine man’s house. When they walk back to their homes, their gait is characterized by a “frog-like” walk, in which the knees are spread away from each other in order to avoid the thighs touching the newly circumcised genitalia. For three to five days, the circumcised boys stay home. Some wear skirts borrowed from their sisters or mothers, not pants, so that clothes do not touch or accidentally hit the sensitive, partially exposed glans (head) penis. Despite daily wound washing in the ocean, a river, or stream, about 90 to 95 percent of these cases of non-sterile circumcision become infected. It takes about six to eight weeks for the wound to heal, usually without ugly scars or deforming penile skin adhesions. |~|
In the 1970s, Muslim boys were not usually circumcised unless their parents were well-educated and health-aware of Westernized attitudes of that time. In the early 1950s, boys of minority families in the north were not circumcised. However, with the arrival of foreign Christian missionaries and their conversion to Christianity, most of the boys are now circumcised either by a medicine man or a physician. |~|
Philippine City Holds Mass Circumcision for Youths
In May 2011, hundreds of boys in a Philippine city outside Manila participated in a daylong "circumcision party" to provide a safe, free procedure for a rite of passage that most local males undergo as preteens. Associated Press reported”Some boys cried in their mothers' arms while others bit their shirts to stifle sobs as doctors carried out the surgery on dozens of makeshift operating tables inside a sports stadium in Marikina city east of Manila. Outside, other boys lined up to await their turn. "I'm a big boy now," one boy who had just finished the surgery bragged. [Source: Associated Press, May 7, 2011 /*]
“Officials said the event — touted in a press statement as a "circumcision party" — aims to promote safe circumcision and to offer to poor residents free surgery that would otherwise cost at least $40 (£25) in private hospitals. As of mid-afternoon, nearly 1,500 boys aged 9 years and up had been circumcised while many were still waiting in line, city health officer Dr. Alberto Herrera said. /*\
“In the Philippines, preadolescent and adolescent boys traditionally are circumcised during summer school break from March to May. In rural areas, the surgery is sometimes performed by non-doctors using crude methods. The city also hopes to establish a world record for the number of people attending a mass circumcision. "We applied for the Guinness Book of World Records and we are recording everything so we can send all the data to them and hopefully it will be recognized," Vice Mayor Jose Fabian Cadiz said.” /*\
Puberty Rites for Young Females in the Philippines
Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Christian girls undergo two phases of social transition to womanhood: ritual ear piercing and a cotillion or debutantes’ ball. Ear piercing is neither a religious nor a pubertal rite. It is just a custom, a traditional “tribal” rite of socially announcing that the person is a girl. The piercing of the ear is usually done between one month after birth and 2 or 3 years of age. In some parts of the country, the girl is much older. Ear piercing is usually done by a hair stylist, a “medicine woman,” or medical person. Outpatient procedures by medical personnel use properly sterilized needles. Oftentimes, however, no anesthesia or antibiotic is given when the piercing is done by a hair stylist or a medicine woman. In general, however, infections from ear piercing are not as common as in male circumcisions done by a medicine man with an unsterilized knife. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]
Phase two, the debutante’s ball or cotillion, is a social introduction of young females ages 16 to 18 years in the form of an elaborate party or dinner dance. The hostess of this social event is an 18-year-old female usually from the rich families. Cotillion is an old Spanish tradition, dating back to colonial days, when the daughters of foreign dignitaries or tenured Spanish government officials were introduced to the eligible bachelors of the equally rich in order to secure the daughter’s future financial and sociopolitical status as eligible and eminently suitable future wives. |~|
In the Muslim or Moros community, about 10 percent of the Filipino population, the ear-piercing ritual is the same as among Christians. In the early 1950s, the older girls would wear a veil. At present, young females seldom use veils or cover their faces. Some Muslims include the cotillion in their rite of passage, but for others, dancing or any form of partying is absolutely prohibited and considered sacrilegious. |~|
The minorities, Ifugaos, Kalingas, Igorots, and others, account for 3 to 5 percent of the population. These females, like most Filipinas, have their ears pierced at any early age. However, in some tribes, family wealth and status are demonstrated by the number of earrings or the layers of necklaces worn. No form of female circumcision or genital mutilation has been recorded. Anecdotal reports suggest that during the pre-Hispanic colonial days, some tribal females wore multi-appendage rings, nose, and lip rings. These tribal cultures do not observe the cotillion. |~|
Initiation Rituals Among Philippine Ethnic Groups
In the Philippines there is a general absence of initiation rites that officially mark the entrance of an individual into active adult life except thos associated with the Catholic church. In the old days, at the onset of puberty, a young Filipino girls, were subjected to restrictions and underwent certain rituals that were designed to prevent them from becoming too talkative. One chronicler wrote: Their eyes were blindfolded for four days and four nights; and, in the meantime, the friends and relatives were all invited to partake of food and drink. At the end of this period, the catolonan took the young girl to the water, bathed her and washed her head, and removed the bandage from her eyes. The old man said that they did this in order that the girls might bear children, and have fortune in finding husbands to their taste, who will not leave them widows in their youth. [Source: Teresita R. Infante, [Source: kasal.com ^]
The Ilongot have their teeth filed when they are in their middle teens. Wilson wrote: Sometime in their middle teens, the maidens and youths have their teeth filed down. A group of her boyfriends will rally round a girl in her house and hold her down tight while one cuts her teeth down - no matter how much she screams from the excruciating pain. After the operation, one lad will take a pencil-sized twig from a guava tree or the stem of a batac plant, heat it in the fire, and rub the warm bark on the teeth: thus, stopping the blood and easing the pain. Thereafter the shortened teeth are strong for chewing - even bones, and picking the teeth after eating is unnecessary. When it is all over, wreaths are hung up and a gala time is had with basi [fermented wine], chicken, and rice. ^
Street Children of the Philippines
In the Philippines, an 220,000 children live on the streets of its major cities. Many spend their day begging for money to buy food and become the breadwinners for their families. According to UNICEF: “Mary, 12, lives and works with her family on the streets of Manila. She helps her mother sell cigarettes outside Starbucks in Binondo (Chinatown) and looks after her younger brothers and sisters. She has been out of school for two years and is under pressure from her peers to sniff solvents. “I don’t want to sleep on the streets anymore,” she says. [Source: UNICEF]
Lucille Talusan and Charlene Israel of Cbnnews.com wrote: “It may seem like a breath-taking stunt for most of us, but for three-year-old Elsha May, it is her craft: begging for food. Maritess, her older sister, says that Elsha May was barely two when she started begging money from Jeepney passengers. The Jeepney is a local means of transportation in the Philippines. As soon as the stoplight turns red, Elsha may runs to the Jeepney, wipes the shoes of the passengers, and looks into their eyes until she gets the equivalent of two cents. At night, Elsha May is at the train station, begging once more for money and food. When the train station closes at 10 in the evening, her oldest sister, Maricris, picks her up and brings her home. Elsha May gives all her earnings to her family. After a hard day's work, she shares with her siblings a plate of noodles that she bought with her earnings.[Source: Lucille Talusan and Charlene Israel, Cbnnews.com, November 17, 2006 |+|]
“Maricris is 14 years old and has stopped going to school. She only finished first grade. "I had to stop because we had no money to put me to school," Maricris said. "I have to take care of my younger brothers and sisters who are out in the streets. We need to beg so we can have money to buy rice." Maricris' father, Vicente, says he is aware of the dangers that his children are exposed to on the streets. But Vicente also says he has not found a job yet, and so this is the only way his children will not go hungry. |+|
“On another visit that the CBN News team made to the train station, we saw Elsha May fast asleep. But even as she dozed, she earned the much needed cents for her family. People walking by the sleeping child dropped money into her awaiting cup. We were surprised to see that five of her seven siblings were there too, begging. Maricris said that their oldest brother could not join them because he was arrested for sniffing glue the night before. She said she is afraid that the social welfare will pick them up and bring them to the shelter for street kids.” |+|
Reasons Filipino Kids Are On the Steets
“Children end up on the streets for a variety of reasons,” Jesus Far, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF Philippines comments. “Sometimes it’s because they’re being abused at home, either physically or sexually, sometimes it’s because their parents are unable to provide for them and they need to work to survive and sometimes it’s because of peer pressure. Boys in particular are attracted to the street gangs. They get involved in sniffing solvents, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs. They are also drawn to crime, violence and sexual abuse. Often, they end up injured, jailed or killed.” [Source: UNICEF]
Butch, 47, is a street educator with Childhope Asia Philippines and a former street child. He never knew his parents and ran away from home after his grandmother died. He ended up on the streets, where he led a gang, sold drugs and acted as a pimp for other boys. He also got into trouble with the law and spent time in detention. By the time he was 17, he realised his life had to change. “We were a group of eight kids and I was the leader,” Butch says. “I was street smart and didn’t trust anyone. But these people, the social workers, they were persistent and really got to know the group. So I said ‘I’m going to try this. Why not? I have nothing to lose’. By this time, I thought that I really need to change my lifestyle.”
Street children are regularly denied the right to education, health care and protection. They are often exploited and abused.“There is a lot of abuse on the streets,” Butch says. “In my area there are a lot of market vendors who think that street children are the dregs of society. So they don’t think these kids have rights. Every day, the kids get sick from pneumonia, skin disease and tuberculosis. Even day-to-day life is stressful for them. They are hungry and have to look for food all the time. They don’t have good friends and there are lots of vices around them.”
Catholic Church Help for Street Children of the Philippines
Lucille Talusan and Charlene Israel of Cbnnews.com wrote: “Joan Luciano is a social worker and the head of the sidewalk ministries of Lighthouse Christian Community Church. Joan believes that the "quick fix" mindset of street children and their parents needs to be changed. "The children should be taught to look beyond their immediate needs…that God is able to give them a life better than scavenging or begging. These children should be taught to dream and to work towards realizing that dream," Joan said. As many as 6,000 street children have learned about Jesus because of the Lighthouse Church effort. Volunteers go where the children are...in railroads, sidewalks, under trees, and on rooftops. It is in Bible classes, held on the sidewalks, where the children find refuge. After being out in the streets for a week, they come here to learn, have fun and enjoy just being children. [Source: Lucille Talusan and Charlene Israel, Cbnnews.com, November 17, 2006 |+|]
“On this particular Saturday, Maricris attended this sidewalk ministry class. She seemed dazed at first. Seeing other street kids like her come together and have so much fun was new to her! The teacher, Paquito Grama, was himself a former street kid. He said he was stealing and gambling at 10, but his behavior changed after he joined the sidewalk Bible class. Paquito admitted that he was attracted to the food at first. But his hunger for food eventually turned to a hunger for Jesus. |+|
“Today, Paquito is the area coordinator of Sidewalk Ministries. And soon he will graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Christian Education. Paquito said, "I believe that, as the Lord is changing my life, He can also change the lives of these children…only if these children will believe and surrender their lives to Jesus Christ." At the end of her first Bible class, Maricris' face brightened but when asked about how she felt, she broke into tears. "I remember my brothers and sisters," she said. "I pity them. I want to go back to school so I can help them. I don't want to see them suffering." |+|
UNICEF Helps Provide Education for Manila Street Children
UNICEF Philippines is helping street children get a basic education, talk about their problems and, ultimately, get off the streets and back into school. The programme works on three levels: on the streets, where outreach workers get to know the children and win their trust; in centres, where children can stay and attend school; and in the community, where local councils indentify and respond to issues affecting children. [Source: UNICEF]
One of the organisations UNICEF is supporting is Childhope Asia Philippines. It employs street educators, who go out onto the streets of Manila and make contact with the children. They provide counselling and basic education through alternative learning sessions, help the children access information and services and ultimately try to motivate them to give up life on the streets. While other street workers educate the children with regular classes, where they learn things like basic maths, literacy and how to take care of themselves, Butch concentrates on counselling, helping individual children work through their problems.
“I’m doing case work with children who are in dire need,” Butch says, “I listen to their problems, talk about their feelings and help them with their decision making. It’s a long process but in six months they may have decided to get off the streets. I can then try to reconcile them with their parents or put them in a temporary shelter.” Butch is strongly motivated to do this kind of work. “It’s more than payback,” he says. “I feel an obligation and responsibility to take care of other people. Certain kids have the inner strength but they need some support from the outside. I was a lost sheep once, now I rescue other sheep.”
“If a kid is being abused, I go to the barangay (village) and find the person who is doing it,” Butch says. “I send the kid to the child protection unit where they can have a medical examination and I push for a lawsuit against the abuser. I also go to the barangay and the street vendors and tell them about our programme and children’s rights. You have to educate people and advocate for children’s rights.”
After counselling from Butch, Mary is attending the alternative learning sessions, where she is showing academic promise. She’s now decided that she wants to go back to school. “I like learning maths, Filipino and how to take care of my body,” she says. “I want to be a nurse and help people who are sick, like the people who got ill after the last typhoon.”
Filipino Street Kid Wins $130,000 Peace Prize
In September 2012, an abused Filipino child who lived off a garbage dump was awarded a prestigious children’s award for the work of his ‘Championing Community Children’ charity, which benefits his fellow street kids. The Good News Network reported: “Cris “Kesz” Valdez, aged 13, was handed this year’s International Children’s Peace Prize at a glittering ceremony in The Hague on Wednesday, where he received a $130,000 prize presented by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. [Source: Good News Network, September 24, 2012 ==]
“He was severely abused and forced to scavenge at the dumpsite to pay for his father’s drugs and alcohol. He ran away from home at age 4. Trying to survive in the only way he knew how, by scavenging at the landfill, he sustained major burns on his arm and back, falling into a tire fire. But, he found help from a local Christian group, that paid for his medical treatment and took him in. He then transformed his own experiences into a drive to help other street children, inspired on his seventh birthday to give gifts– flip-flops, small toys, and candy –rather than receive more for himself. ==
“Now, with the help of dozens of volunteers, his annual birthday drives deliver clothing, gifts and supplies to the forgotten children living in landfills. He also educates the orphans about hygiene, reads them stories, and treats their wounds. Above all, he gives them hope. He has already helped more than 10,000 filipino children, a fraction of those who are either living homeless or forced into labor. “To everyone in the world, please remember that every day, 6,000 children die from diseases associated with poor sanitation, poor hygiene, and we can do something about it!” he says on his Facebook page. “Please join me in helping street children achieve better health and better lives.” ==
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated June 2015