COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
You might guess that there’s a Filipino in the house if there’s a tabo in the bath. The tabo is a dipper that can contain a few cups of water. It’s a multipurpose container that can be very handy inside the bathroom.
You may ask “why can’t a Filipino do away with that plastic cup”? Modern life has supplied us with faucets, showers, bidets, tubs and even artificial rain showers for the bathroom. There’s no need for that water ladle—it looks primitive.
Well it doesn’t look primitive to me. It’s only ancient. Like the casks used by Cleopatra for bathing in ancient Egypt, or those small jars used way back to the Minoan civilization. These water dippers were made of ceramics, metals, stones, and were not only functional but were fine works of art.
But dates aside, the Filipino resorts to the ‘tabo’ because of his free nature and fine constitution. He doesn’t want to be imposed upon—splashed or unduly poured over—especially with water which the Philippines has an abundance of. Even in the heat of the tropics, still he wants to have control over the amount of water poured over his body. For if he wants to bathe with abandon, he can sing in our weekly rains (in Leyte for that matter),
go to the waterfalls scattered around the isles, or dip in the sea that surround the archipelago anytime of the year.
Cleansing our bodies is a kind of ritual that we perform with delicacy and even leisure. With the tabo, we take control in taking a bath or any ministration in the lavatory that we do everyday. We can gradually wash by sections—just the hair, or from the neck down, or only the extremities—a quite difficult feat to do under the showers. Worse, managing under the faucets is impossibility. And the most remarkable facet of the tabo is that we can leave those other parts of the body dry when we don’t want them to get wet.
Modern life has its new prescriptions for bathing, yet the use of the tabo is still a respectful and civilized way of cleansing that the Filipino listens to in response to the call of his body and soul.