The Filipino Comfort Room – The great oxymoron
The Filipino Comfort Room (CR)
Australian slang has so many words for that room with a toilet in it. The dunny. The loo. The bog. The thunder box. Most of us Aussies could prattle off about another 10 – 15 without even straining the brain. In the Philippines they call it the “Comfort Room” (or CR). Maybe it’s just me, but I can think of many places more comfortable! Read and learn if you are in an Australian Filipina relationship, as you will need to face this several times a day when you visit anywhere other than a flash hotel in the Philippines.
Some Comfort Room peculiarities
Goodness me! Where does one start? I wasn’t too shocked when I first came across one of these little rooms. I had traveled in Asia in my youth before I came here, and after a public dunny under the streets in what was then Bombay that contained beggars, it takes a bit to shock me. I think one in an Auntie’s house in Pasig where there was no light and where everything was as wet as a limestone cave was probably one of the worst. It’s the lack of dryness which probably bothers me the most, so I can start there.
Yes, Philippines CR’s are a damp affair. Water everywhere! And trying to emerge without looking like you still 2 years old with a lack of bladder control, this can be difficult. I detest it when my shorts become a blotter for toilet floor water. I don’t know why it is that a trip to the bog for a Filipino necessitates getting water a metre-and-a-half up four walls as well as creating a swimming pool on the floor. They usually have small bottoms. How much water is actually needed?
Bum-washing rather than dunny paper
I’ve long thought this was a more hygienic practice than the western practice of using a roll of semi-absorbent paper to clean such a grubby area. I won’t go into graphic detail, but obviously a good dousing with water will be cleaner and more effective. The inventor of the dunny roll makes me think of the inventor of the chopstick. Who ever agreed with them that these were fantastic ideas?? Water was already invented, for goodness sakes!
In the Philippines, they have a bucket and a tabo. This is a little plastic dipper with a handle, which normally sits in a bucket of water under the single solitary tap. The idea is to tip or toss water onto the icky regions and to give a good wash with the hand. Pretty straight forward.
The Filipino Toilet Bowl
An Aussie will notice a lack of what we consider essentials, namely a cistern and a seat! There’s also a complete lack of design flair. We purchased one for a local school once. Cost P500.00, so I suppose you get what you pay for. This is part of why I say that the word “comfort” in “Philippines Comfort Room” makes it a serious oxymoron.
So you can either sit on this charming little bowl, or you can do what most of the locals do and squat on it. Ever used one and wondered why it looked like there were dirty footprints on the two side edges? Probably because that WAS dirty footprints on the two side edges!
So you do what you need to do….give a good wash of your nether-regions with the tabo…..and you hoick the rest of the bucket contents down the bowl with sufficient enthusiasm to send your contribution down the pipes and out of site! This may take a few goes, and don’t be surprised when it never looks Harpic-fresh!
Comfort issues in the Philippines CR
Can you use toilet paper?
I told my two sons on their first visit to the Philippines that the plumbing here only used 50mm piping, so that use of dunny paper would block up the toilet. Should have seen the look of horror on their faces!
Fortunately I was only making it up so as to make them panic! Sewer piping here is 100mm just as it is in Australia. It can normally cope with paper, just as it can back home. I suppose you just need to be aware that flinging a bucket of water down there doesn’t create the same force as a damned good flush of an Aussie cistern. So copious amounts of paper coupled with minimal water pressure may cause some issues.
There is a strange custom particularly in public CR’s of asking CR-patrons to toss their used paper into a waste bin there. Why? I have NO idea! YUCK!! I repeat, YUCK!!!!! There is no practical reason for this, though.
How do you keep your clothes dry?
Not always easy! I have a mop permanently in our downstairs bathroom at home here. Some dunnies, especially service station dunnies when traveling, I walk in……and walk straight out of. Some literally have an inch of water on the floor. As a general rule, the art seems to be to lower the pants with one hand, and hold them up with the other. And to use, say, left hand to hold up the clothing away from the soggy floor and to never let it go. Or if you DO happen to find a dry patch, you can always remove them and leave them there until you’re ready to put them back on again. But dry patches are rare in the ocean that is the Philippines comfort room!
The bum sprayer, bum washer, or “hand bidet”
If you are in a more luxurious Philippines bathroom, you may well find one of these handy little items. Consider buying some at the hardware and taking them back to Australia, as they are brilliant! Don’t buy extra-cheap flimsy ones, or you will regret it. I think you can figure it out!
Showering, or “taking a bath”
The Filipino CR is also a place of bathing…..showering……”taking a bath”, as Filipinos call washing yourself. No bathtubs. Rarely a shower. Even more rare to have hot water. See that single tap, the bucket and the tabo? THAT is generally the shower. The instruments of comfort! This is what is sometimes known in other parts of the world as a “bucket bath”.
You squat down on the floor. You tabo the water from the bucket over yourself. You soap yourself up. You use the tabo to rinse the soap off. You’re done!
And yes, the water is nice and cold! Some may add some boiling water to it to take the freezing edge off it, but most simply tough it out. And before you scream like a schoolgirl, remember that your delicate little Filipina lady did the same thing today probably just before you did without making a sound. Don’t embarrass yourself, man!
By the way. A little funny story. Here you will often see a roll of toilet paper in someones house. They will refer to it as “tissue”, because a tissue, a dunny roll and a serviette here are all called “tissue”. This is therefore “tissue”. But here the bog roll is used for nose-wiping, hand-wiping, polishing things and general cleaning. One of my daughters was shocked to see it hanging up on a holder in our CR when she first arrived from the province. Silliest thing she’d seen in a long time, she thought. Why would you put it in the CR? Had no concept of it being used to wipe the bum with.
So as usual in the Philippines, keep your sense of humour. You’re going to need it!