Background: The informant is a 59 year old woman. She was born in Pampanga, Philippines and moved to Los Angeles when she was 29-years-old. The informant still frequently speaks to her family and occasionally visits her family in the Philippines. The informant grew up as Catholic in the Philippines, converting to evangelical Christianity during her time in Los Angeles. She was exposed to the tradition when living in the Philippines.
Context: The context was that, it was Good Friday, and the informant was reminded of her traditions, and how they differ from America.
EM: “On Good Friday i remember it’s still now, until, I still remember but i don’t know if they do it until now but I’’m sure that it’s something that’s a tradition that they just won’t stop its the day that a lot of kids that have not been, uh, circumcised, they do the circumcision on that day, not in the hospital but someone that’s really expert on circumcision they do that, do the circumcision on that day for the boys.”
Me: “I see”
EM: “Because I remember my brothers, when they were circumcised on the day of good friday, i’ll, i’ll, and along with other, their friends, you know, and they plead–”
Me: “So, wait, how old would they be?”
EM: “Like, young.”
Me: “Young? Okay.”
EM: “Young, like maybe”
Me: “Like toddlers?”
EM: “No, not toddlers. They don’t circumcise when they are babies, or toddlers. They, they circumcise when they’re like, little kids. Maybe–”
Me: “For like 6-10 years old, or like 5-10 years old?”
EM: “Yes, yes, not 5, a little older because i remember they are already a little, like, bigger, you know”
Me: “So would it be at home? Would you go to another person’s house?
EM:“For the circumcision? I don’t really know but I see them like all together go in our backyard and clean them, theirselves, themselves, with like the guava leaves, they boil guava leaves, and clean themselves like, disinfect their own thing, you, their, their penises, they don’t go to the doctor for circumcision and cleaning it they clean it themselves and they wear, they wear, uh, my mom’s clothes because they walk like um, they have a funny look because they walk with open legs because they just got circumcised”
Informant: While she does not know the first-person perspective of the circumcision, she still saw the effects it had on her brothers. Given that all her brothers and friends took part in it, it was widespreadly accepted in the Philippines.
Mine: While circumcision is largely a practice done by doctors in the west, in the Philippines, it remains rooted in folk tradition. For example, cleaning themselves with the boiled guava leaves is folk medicine passed down and is still largely practiced, given that all the boys would do so. Additionally, the boy children are not circumcised as babies but rather as they are entering puberty, which may signal that the circumizing is actually a rite of passage into the entrance of adulthood, or of being a man. Interesting, though the rite is a purely masculine tradition, they don female clothes after the operation is done. While it’s done to help them walk, it still blurs the line between the male and female identity, signaling that for a brief moment after circumcision, the man is in the place of the woman. Why the rite might not be done as a child, as in America, may be for health reasons or in the attempt to allow the children to choose whether or not they wish to participate in the folk tradition. It seems to be a more modern practice, that people are opting out of always doing every tradition, and forming it to their own ideas.