Tulì, the Filipino Tradition

Circumcision or “Tulì” in the Filipino community is a long-standing tradition and rite of passage for boys. It’s a major step for toward adulthood in Filipino culture.

Richly woven into the society, the practice dates back to at least the 17th century. The World Health Organization reports that only about 33 percent of men are circumcised while 93 percent of Filipino males are circumcised.

The ritual is performed on boys ages 8-12 years before they go through puberty. The majority of the boys that practice this custom have their circumcision in the summer break so that they have a chance to heal before returning to school.

Don’t be Labeled a Supút

The practice is so important and taught from a young age, that boys who have not been circumcised are often times ridiculed by their friends and labeled a “supút.”

The word does not have a direct translation into English but demonstrates the importance of being circumcised in the Filipino community. The importance of the rite is fostered by the Philippines Department of Health, which sponsors an annual project called Operation Tulì to circumcise boys at no charge.

Methodologies

There are two methodologies for performing circumcision within the Filipino community: the traditional method, albularyo, and the more modern method in a hospital.

Albularyo Method

In the traditional method, a boy will go to a local circumciser who first distracts the boy by having him chew guava leaves. Then the circumciser performs the procedure with a traditional knife.

The knife is made out of a curved piece of wood, which is anchored to the ground. A quick blow is made with the wood, slicing the upper foreskin.

The boy then washes off in the cold waters of a nearby river and applies the guava leaves as a poultice to the wound. This method, while referred to as circumcision, is actually a dorsal slit.

This type of circumcision is a single incision along the upper length of the foreskin that exposes the glans without removing any tissue. In contrast, circumcision in most American and European cultures is when a doctor removes the foreskin completely.

Infant Method

Families use another method where doctors circumcise male infants in a hospital. More affluent families in the Philippines select this method typically.

For those of Filipino heritage and culture in the United States, it may be harder to locate those trained to perform circumcision the traditional way.

An alternative would be to use the method performed by medical professionals. Hospitals frequently only perform circumcisions on infants, soon after birth, with only a few alternatives.

We Can Help

Gentle Circumcision is a great resource for those of Filipino heritage as one of the only circumcision outpatient clinics in the United States.

They are experts in their field and can perform circumcisions at any age. Gentle Circumcision can help members of the Filipino community connect with their culture by offering a safe and understanding space for continuing their heritage while living in the United States.

Image attribution.

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