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SNIP/TUCK: Circumcision in the Philippines
In our country, circumcision is not only performed for medical purposes. Circumcision was part of our cultural norm; that every boy in his puberty years is expected to suffer. Odd enough? Not so in our country. You see, circumcision was a rite of passage, a rite of passage if you may, that boys had to go through during said life stage. It is a cultural belief in the Philippines that the transition from boyhood to manhood is not fully accomplished without circumcision.
Failure to live up to this traditional Filipino custom will most likely result in ridicule and derision from peers and relatives. Those who are not yet circumcised will be called sup (intact foreskin) and will be looked down upon by those who are done with the procedure. If one reaches high school uncircumcised, he will be considered strange and abnormal. Those who reach early adulthood uncircumcised are considered “old” for the procedure. If one does not have a deep understanding and knowledge of the Filipino culture, this would be considered a low form of bullying.
In the Philippines, there is a so-called circumcision season and those are the months of April-May, or the summer months. These months are when the children are on school break; so, after the circumcision, the children can rest at home without having to miss school during the healing process. It is during the mentioned months when “Operation Tuli” (love circumcision) in different hospitals and health clinics is conducted. Hundreds of crying, screaming and fainting boys would line up to undergo this procedure.
THE PHILIPPINE CUTS
Circumcision in the Philippines is done in two ways – the surgical circumcision and the traditional circumcision or “Pukpok” (a brisk blow or hammering).
The newer, more modern and universally accepted method is surgical circumcision. Surgical circumcision is favored by those who live in urban areas where hospitals and clinics are more accessible. It is the choice of circumcision of urban people who are more modernized and educated enough about this type of circumcision.
There are two techniques used for surgical circumcision – back slit and sleeve techniques. The dorsal slit is the technique of choice for those with conditions such as phimosis (tight foreskin) and paraphimosis (non-retractable foreskin). The foreskin is pulled back over the glans prior to circumcision. A vertical cut down the center of the foreskin is made. The incision is made to the base of the glans penis and the skin excised. Multiple stitches follow using absorbable sutures. Of course, all this is done after the injection of local anesthetic. This technique was the one used during those times when I assisted circumcisions.
The sleeve technique on the other hand presents a more aesthetically pleasing penis. Circular cuts are made on the penile shaft which reveals a gap. The remaining foreskin is then pulled together and stitched. This technique is said to be more complicated than the backslit technique. This method is suitable for older boys and adults.
Traditional Circumcision or “Pukpok”
This method has caused some controversy over the years due to the nature of the procedure itself. Many have argued that traditional circumcision or “pukpok” is a form of genital mutilation and abuse. This method is done in the very rural areas of the country.
Boys would line up to go to the local “circumciser” for this traditional circumcision or “pok pok“. It is preferred that this procedure be done near a river, lake or sea because the boys will be asked to submerge half of their bodies (from the waist down) in the water to soften the penile skin before going under the knife. they will be asked also chew guava leaves to be used for later. The foreskin is placed on the piece of wood called. “look“. A razor (labaha) is then placed on the tip of the foreskin. The foreskin detaches after a few quick hammerings. The boy will then be asked to spit the chewed guavas onto the wound to control the bleeding.
I am not sure if this method is still practiced to this day although there have been reports that it still is.
It will make one taller: Most of those who are circumcised grow taller and the reason for this is that those who are circumcised are the boys who are in their growth spurt years. These are boys in the 10-16 age groups. They are at the stage where physical changes occur such as rapid growth in height. Circumcision has nothing to do with that.
It will enlarge penis: Circumcision is subtraction and not addition. Part of penis is cut out. It will actually do the opposite if not done successfully. So, no, there is no solid fact that circumcision can make a penis bigger.
An uncircumcised person will find it difficult to conceive someone: Many factors (sperm and structural abnormalities, genetic disorders, etc.) are involved in not getting someone pregnant in addition to being uncircumcised.
YOU ARE THE MAN!
“Binata ka na!” (You are now a man!), are the first words you would normally hear after the procedure is over. Once the healing is complete and the boy is free of all physical pain that the procedure brought him, he will then walk tall and with a contented like expression on his face to become a brand new man.
Whether it’s a millennia-old tradition or not, circumcision is a choice – unless it’s medically indicated. It is a choice of the circumcised and not just what his culture dictates. The boys should be informed about the pros and cons of circumcision first. Those who choose not to go with it should never be mocked. Lastly, traditional circumcision or “pukpok” should be eradicated… completely! Not only is the practice unsafe, unsterile and brutal, it can also harm the boys psychologically.
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