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News and Views of the
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Pinoy’s Tabo culture

By Willie Jose
August 19, 2017                                                                                         


When we think about our Filipino culture, many things come to mind: Bahay Kubo, Tinikling, Kundiman, Kalesa, Jeepneys, Singkil, Fiesta, Parol, Baro’t Saya, Barong Tagalog, Balikbayan Box-- and the handy Tabo.

Of all these cultural icons, tabo is doubtless an indispensable fixture of the culture. And whether we are working abroad, living as immigrants or have acquired citizenships in foreign lands, the tabo in our homes is a good measure if we’ve remained Pinoys at heart.

We use tabo as a hygiene tool for cleaning the bums; it’s also used for bathing and hand’s washing. The toilet paper is not enough to completely clean ourselves after using the toilet; the tabo is the much preferable option.

One day when I was at the Cederbrae mall in Toronto, I had a chance to chat with a couple and out of the blue, our little talk veered towards tabo’s usefulness. The woman told me that aside from the toilet paper, she has to use tabo to clean her private parts, and “I feel so uneasy if I don’t use my tabo, I feel something is left there. “

If we want to identify our kababayans living abroad, we simply have to look around for their tabo in their bathroom.

However, many Pinoys would rather not talk about it openly especially if they are on the table eating or when they are with foreign friends because tabo’s rightful place today is supposed to be only in the toilet. And these days, people would avoid even mentioning the word toilet; instead, they would rather go to the washroom, or bathroom or powder room.

Recently, some of my friends had a short vacation in New York and before they could leave Toronto, I sent them a message on the Facebook, asking them if they’re taking their tabo with them?

 I was thinking all the while that I might elicit some responses from them because a close friend who was going with them had told me once that even in her foreign trips, she made sure her tabo was always with her.

But when my wife read the message, she said,” It’s too personal naman”. On hearing my wife’s comment, I immediately sent a sorry note, telling them “I’m writing at present an article about tabo “

When my family and I visited my brother in North Carolina last month, I was really impressed by the beauty and the simplicity of his home. One time I went to their washroom and I couldn’t find the tabo. Looking around their all-white washroom with stainless showers and pipes, I wondered have they totally forgotten about our tabo culture, totally absorbing the American style of living?

But to my surprise, I found a small tabo lying in the little corner of their bathtub.

With this kind of culture, I would say that we are the cleanest people in the world because the toilet paper is not enough for us to clean our bums.

In some way, we are helping in the greening of the environment; the less consumption of toilet paper or baby wipes means fewer trees are being cut.

Our kababayans abroad are not easily enticed to buy rolls of toilet papers though they are on sale at supermarkets; why would they buy these toilet papers if by using the plain water plus tabo could mean big savings for them?

Those foreigners planning to visit the Philippines, it’s important that they learn how to use it because even in hotels, pension houses, resorts where they’re staying, the tabo is a regular fixture in the bathroom of these facilities. And if they’re going into mountain climbing or visiting the countryside, they cannot expect to see rolls of toilet papers in these places; the tabo is the only option they have when the call of nature hits them.

These tabo are sold in the malls, market, and even the sidewalk vendors sell them.

Even during the country’s colonial period, tabo could be found beside a water jar near the house door, it was used primarily to wash the guests’ hands and feet before entering the house.

Even these days, tabo is still popular back home, it has many uses: for washing the dishes, cleaning hands and body and for taking a bath-- and that’s why we have been so attached to it all our lives.

Despite the amenities of modern bathrooms—Jacuzzi, stainless shower, and faucet, mini bar, towel rail- we make sure the tabo is always within our reach somewhere in the bathroom.

Culture is culture, so whatever status in life we’ve reached, whatever lifestyle we’re now enjoying, our tabo will always be a part of us.

It will always be a part of our daily routine: working, eating, sleeping and emptying “uh”—and then, we say, “where’s the tabo?”

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