Paltak is A Painful Way to Become a Man and a Ritual That's Slowly DyingMonday, May 07, 2012Ryan Mach
Some provinces in the Philippines still practice a traditional ritual that turns young boys into real men. In Romblon, we call it 'paltak', a circumcision rite that involves the use of sharp knife to cut the foreskin of a boy's jewel, pulpog (beating) style. I didn't know that it's slowly being eradicated until one sunny day in April when I went hiking to the mountain to visit a local 'doctor' who's responsible for every boy's rite of passage into manhood. I tagged along two kids from the neighborhood because I wasn't sure how I'd get to the 'doctor's' house.
"I'm actually here to document the circumcision rite, if it's okay. I heard you're the one doing the process," I said in our local dialect. Hearing the pretentiousness in my own voice, I stifled a cringe. I didn't expect Sonny to be that young. I thought he's in his thirties or much older.
"Did something happen to one of the kids you did an operation on?" I asked, suddenly realizing the danger of this traditional practice. The thing is, I haven't heard any boys in the barrio who complained about an infection. Local boys prefer this method, primarily because they won't have to pay a dime. It's also a statement of bravery. 'Paltak' doesn't use anesthesia. Boy's will power and courage are needed in order for the operation to push through.
"Did you ask permission from Mommy and Daddy before he cut you?" I asked my young companions jokingly. They gave me a sheepish smile. Sometimes, the foreskin goes back after a few week's time, and that means extra job for Sonny. He has to repair and perfect the cut by, well, cutting the foreskin again.
I had a few more questions for Sonny but I felt like I took much of his time already. He still had some chores to do, I could tell, so I thanked him for his time and told him we'd be going. He suggested I should try and see the other traditional 'doctors' who also do 'paltak.'