Seeing as how it is Christmas, here is a chapter from my book, ‘Philippine Dreams 2010′ availble where all good books are sold. I wrote this while living in the Philippines full time for several years. It was my version of anger management therapy. Enjoy.
Tut Rolls And Toilets
For me, no visit to the local Gaisano Department Store (also known as the House of Genuine Imitation Rolex Watches and Empty Shelf Supermarket) in Bogo is complete without a trip to the toilet paper aisle. Here I pause and reflect on the brilliant marketing graduates hired by various Tut Roll manufacturers to brand their products.
Let me enlighten you. As well as the known (and of course trusted) Kleenex brand, we are offered the chance to associate this daily function with brands such as JOY and NICE. Makes me all goose pimply, but in a warm and fluffy way. For me it sets the tone of the coming event. Joy is what any healthy person should experience. Believe me constipation is no fun. Nice is a tame, even limp adjective much overused in today’s society. “Have a Nice Day, Sir” as the Americans have extolled for some years has become entrenched anywhere their hamburger embassies are erected. Now, as the minimum wage earner hands you your tray of fast food goodies and bids you to have a Nice Day, you can think of the next step in the digestive process once the food has been consumed.
Even the animal lovers can show their affiliation with the natural world by using SWAN. Having watched swans glide effortlessly by I imagine a smooth, graceful sweeping action, cleansing in one smooth motion. Of course the Ugly Duckling turned into a Swan and maybe there is a message here, albeit in reverse? I also have to consider the fact that on the surface the swan appears to glide over the water yet below, out of sight; there is a flurry of activity as its webbed feet propel it along its path.
If flowers are more what makes you feel good, then assert your buying decision and choose BLOOMS. Of course every rose has its thorn and thus I would hesitate, perhaps for a vital split second and could not apply this brand without some apprehension. If straightforward ease of application is required, then SOFTEE screams success to me. I remember a nurse at Chung Hua Hospital in Cebu once asking if my stool was soft and I told her I was not in the habit of squeezing my turds to check for hardness. Bed baths were never the same again after that, so Softee is not the brand for me.
Having a little trouble with those pesky hemorrhoids? TENDER guarantees a pain free experience. Tender is how my butt felt once after a visit to the local loo in East Germany, back in the days of the Iron Curtain. The local paper was so rough you could pick out the scraps of wood still left after pulping. I could not use this brand without flashbacks to how it was under the Stalinist jackboot.
If you want to ensure a job well done, try CLEENE. The use of the three e’s is important, I think. It screams clean in a way spelling it c.l.e.a.n. just couldn’t. But what gets cleaned? Is that how you are left after applying the brand? Or is it a simple reminder to do something after the main act?
For those with aspirations above their station in life, PRINCESS brings forth a vision of a noble lass filling in time until Price Charming rocks up to take her to the Ball. To me, this is the brand preferred by royalty and they know a thing or two about the subject. Afterall, they are public figures and they can’t take their bowel movements anything but seriously. Opening all those hospitals and sitting down to numerous chicken dinners means they have to plan their visits to the lav, co-ordinate them with bodyguards and so on. Nope, Princess is just too involved for me to throw it in my trolley without thinking.
However, I reserve my full devotion and praise to those lettered genius-es, genie-ie, genius-plural, er…smart buggers who came up with this little trifecta. First runner up would have to be MOON; an apt name if ever there was one. To me it screams bum wiping.
But equal first is held by WIPE and the Chinese attempt to control the buying habits of the capitalist dogs with FOOK WOO. I kid you not.
My personal choice is of course WIPE. I love having simple directions built into a brand name. However, it is rarely available in the 2-ply version. 1-ply does not cut it with serious wiping; believe me. It is too risky. Finding 2-ply Wipe on the shelf is akin to realising the last cake in the cake shop is your favourite and you are next in line.
As for the Chinese offering, perhaps it is a mixture of poor translation and a bad attitude. After all, who would want to work in a factory manufacturing an item, for a monthly pittance, you neither use nor could afford. Of course, the marketing manager who branded the product was smart enough to limit the distribution to Asia. Can you imagine asking for the brand by name at your local Sack and Save in Shinbone, Arkansas?
Of course toilet paper is a relatively new commodity in general use here. Even today, many C.R.’s or comfort rooms are unable to handle the disposal of toilet tissue. It clogs up the system, such as it is. Most are septic tanks and have manual flushing using a bucket of water and a ladle, known as a “Tabos”. Most Filipino’s wash their butts rather than wipe. If they do wipe, the toilet paper is often deposited in a box or bin next to the toilet bowl and disposed of later. Disposal usually means some poor bugger has to take it away and burn it. Meanwhile the flies have a field day before buzzing off to the kitchen chasing the cook or kitchen hand who also just finished their business.
Few people wash their hands effectively as there is rarely soap and water available in what passes for public toilets here. I am not talking about the city malls where you can buy your paper and soap and so on from a vending machine providing you have sufficient coin. Or the really ritzy malls, offering private comfort rooms with attendants waiting on you hand, foot and buttocks. Go to a restaurant for locals, or a gas station in the province and you will experience reality defecation. We always carry at least one roll of Wipe 2-ply in the car and a roll packed away on standby in our overnight bag. Some budget hotels charge for paper, just like the hospitals do. I plan my intake of food to take account of the facilities for egress of same. No point wolfing down a big feed of rice and chicken heads if you can’t find a decent dunny (Aussie slang for toilet).
When I am at home I often prefer to wash rather than wipe, but I have plenty of clean water, lots of soap and can handle getting water everywhere. It is too yoga-like an exercise for me to attempt anywhere where I would risk soaking my clothes in the process. Our C.R. was designed by the same bloke that used to make the torture pits for the Viet Cong. Can’t lie down, can’t stand up, full of creepy crawlies and an open sewer as it’s centerpiece. Our bowl has no seat and the rim is only a foot off the ground. There is evidence to suggest that this is a more natural posture for defecating than the high seated western style of crapper but I guess it’s what you are used to. After an hour of reading and weeping the ceramic bowl does tend to bite the buttocks somewhat. If it was built a little more strongly I might copy the Filipino’s and squat on the rim. I no longer think anything of wiping footprints off the porcelain from the previous occupant.
I also share my throne with several species of insects. The cockroaches are killed on sight, usually with the plunger kept close at hand for the regular unclogging needed by either the drain or the bowl. The large huntsman type spider, (her name is Gladys, after my dear octogenarian English Aunt) needs all eight of her legs as she has to race up the wall when the water gets splashed around. She normally hangs out near the plunger so I make a quick check before striking if the cockies are about. There is also a small spider that screams in like a demented coke addict, races around and runs out again. The Daddy Longlegs ignore him but he can be quite disconcerting if he runs over your bare foot while you are absorbed in your latest Mills and Boon.
My Asawa has adopted my habit of reading on the C.R. and finds it as helpful to one’s ablutions as I do. My morning routine consists of sitting on the bowl for up to an hour and reading. Asawa brings me my morning “cuppa” and knows not to start cooking breakfast until she hears the tabos in action. After nine am the water in the pipes heats up hot enough to have a more than warm shower. Whenever I stay overnight in Cebu I reside at the Kiwi Lodge in Mabolo. They have real toilets that flush! They are also clean and the shower has hot water! Oh what bliss, what decadent luxury! Between the excellent menu and the civilised bathrooms, I sometimes find myself dreaming up excuses to linger overnight when we journey to the city. You will too if you spend any time in the boonies.
Every few months the septic tank gets emptied by a gang of blokes who seem very cheerful given the onerous manner of their making a living. We are the end house in a row of four identical homes about 25 square metres each in size. The septic tank opening is in the back yard (about 1.5 metres by 5 metres long or five feet by 15 feet to the metrically challenged). This means it is within whiffing range, even with the South West Monsoon blowing a gale from us to them. You know the septic is full when the odour sneaks up the bowl and greets you as you enter the throne room. You mention this to the Landlady and she organises the shovelers. The next morning you attend to your ablutions as quickly as you can and then throw the tribe into the car and drive away. It doesn’t matter where you go, so long as it is upwind and far away.
These blokes shovel the waste into buckets and then dump them through a panel removed in the rear fence into the open field behind the houses. The banana trees are thriving but I wouldn’t steal a banana off them if I were starving. On really hot days, as opposed to just stinking hot, it is a job worth every centavo of the one hundred pesos’ each of them earns. If you build or buy your own home then you can have as civilised an arrangement as your wallet will allow. Being in rented accommodation, my wife is loathe to spend anything to improve someone else’s investment. I did, however, fit shelves for the towels, books and toiletries and rigged up a hand shower we no longer bother to use. It keeps coming off the hose and you have to unscrew it from the tap if you want water for flushing and it isn’t worth the effort. We just use the tabos like everybody else.
|At least we have an indoor, albeit outside the house, C.R. Across Colin the Carabao’s paddock people live in bamboo houses with no C.R. They bathe at the hand pump or from water carried some distance every morning by the children. To see a young lady, soaped up and massaging her scalp while fully clothed is not the erotic experience you might think. OK, it is, but if you have seen it once, you have seen it every day and it does become commonplace. These people have to take a walk to do their business; short walks for Number Ones and long walks for Number Twos. I never see them carrying either toilet paper or water so I wonder how they finish the job? No, I don’t accept dinner invitations from them, either. I know this can be a tricky subject to discuss but it is an important one. Give some serious thought to your hygiene habits because they come into question at least once or twice every single day. If you never really liked camping, I’d stay in the big cities or make sure you build your own home and ensure the facilities meet your needs. Personally, I no longer think anything of “going native”. As they say, when you gotta go, you gotta go!|