A Filipina in the Time of Walang Ligo

What a bad time to have your monthly period.

As a woman implored on a live television interview recently: Maawa sila sa’min. Ano, magbabahuan na ang mga kipay namin? Gan’un na lang?

Is self-care a luxury nowadays? Should I feel guilty washing my pasador? Should I revert to sanitary pads for now? What about the solid waste problem?

These thoughts ran in my head while rinsing my soiled cloth pads in the midst of startling water service interruptions in Metro Manila. The service cuts haven’t reached our household. Not yet. So far, Brgy. Pedro Cruz, San Juan is living up to its blessed name that is taken after St. Peter, and St. John the baptist. My worry is when and if this luck runs out.

Thousands of residents in other parts of the Eastern District of Metro Manila weren’t as lucky a few days ago, particularly in Pasig, Mandaluyong, and even in Antipolo, Rizal. They experienced water interruptions that dragged for more than a week.

The Challenge

When it’s summer, I indulge myself to more than two showers a day. But since the service interruptions, I’ve forgone the evening showers. I hope this reaps some good karma (not to mention I’m a vegetarian, because animal agriculture consumes a lot of water).

Last Saturday was different. Since there’s no work, I accepted the challenge from my good friends at SubSelfie.com not to take a bath for a day, experience what it’s like, and write about it. I hesitated at first because I had errands and I was meeting a friend. But I agreed in the end, since I’ve given the water interruption issue some thought and I feel that we need to be able to relate to the struggle of thousands of people deprived of water service.

The Struggle

I began the day anxious since I’m not used to not taking a bath when going out. I brushed, and washed my face. Before drying my face with a towel, I combed my hair to make it look damp as if I had taken a bath. I chose to wear a loose white cotton blouse and a blue lounge pants that would be breathable and would not stick a lot to my skin. White and blue also looked clean.

I booked a shared ride since it was less expensive, and the heat was so uncomfortable for public commute. But because it was shared, I got myself into a stressful road trip of worrying if the other passengers or the driver would know that I had not taken a bath.

The self-consciousness became more overwhelming as we drew near my destination where my friend and I were meeting. My head was filled with scenarios on how to best greet my friend so she would not notice anything weird about me.

I was so distracted that as I was climbing the few flights of concrete stairs, my left foot took a miscalculated step and landed on the right leg fringe of my flared pants, causing both my shins to fall on the nosing of the next stair tread. The silver lining was: I had a topic to naturally open the conversation with my friend – my injury.

So that’s one of the many ways how deprivation of valued hygiene could affect a person.

How We Value Hygiene

In case we haven’t realized, taking a bath every day is important to our perceived identity as Filipinos.

We poke fun at people who skip baths, especially those not from our motherland. It is offensive and disrespectful, but I guess it reflects the value we put on hygiene.

But for those who experienced water interruptions for more than a week, none of them found it funny.

Freezing temperatures and malfunctioning heaters will not stop many of our fellow Pinoys living abroad from taking daily baths and changing into fresh clothes after every shower.

And sometimes, when life gets unbearably difficult, immediate relief includes grooming oneself. How to seek relief if there’s no water?

A foreign friend has also noticed how Filipinos wash everything when preparing food. Cooking utensils that have been washed previously are rinsed just before being used again, and ingredients are washed before and after cutting or slicing them.

Given the current situation, should we change our ways? We should conscientiously use water, yes. But it can be done without compromising what we value: hygiene. If water is so important to us that it has become part of our perceived identity, then this should be valued too by the government.

Antipolo residents line up well past midnight to seek water from a deep well. Large containers cost P40 each.
Antipolo residents line up well past midnight to seek water from a deep well. Large containers cost P40 each.

Epilogue

I hurried to the bathroom as soon as I got home that afternoon. I sought refuge in taking a bath, savoured the fragrance of my organic shampoo bar, and tried to further improve my mood by scrubbing my skin with a loofa that made a really soapy lather. I yelped in pain not long after. I forgot that I had abrasions on my legs.

[Entry 276, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Subselfie - Tricia

Tricia Zafra is a humanitarian worker. After 11 years of working as a broadcast journalist, she joined Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) as Communications Officer. She is taking up her Master’s Degree in Psychology in the University of the Phlippines, Diliman. She is a vegetarian, a painter, and a certified open water scuba diver; 2018 OFW Gawad Parangal Outstanding Field Reporter; 2016 OFW Gawad Parangal Favorite Female TV Newscaster; 2016 Certificate of Creative Excellence recipient of the US International Film and Video Festival Awards; 2014 Best Culture-Based TV Reporter of NCCA’s 1st Gawad Sagisag Kultura ng Filipino Awards, and; 2012 Plaque of Recognition recipient of the 4th National Statistics Month Media Awards. BA Broadcast Communication (cum laude) 2007, UP Diliman. Read more of her articles here.

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