Here in the Philippines, the bathroom is referred to as the Comfort Room or the CR for short. Using the CR in the Philippines is a very different experience than in the States. Most toilets do not have a seat and are merely a toilet bowl on the floor. The question of how to flush this lone standing bowl was a confusing puzzle the first time I used it. The solution is to pour a cupful of water (much more for number 2) into the bowl. Gravity then pulls the extra water down into the pipe system – flushed! I am fortunate enough to have the comfort of a toilet seat and a handle for flushing within my Filipino home. However, the CR experience is still very different from America for a second reason: there is no toilet paper1 in the Philippines! For many Americans this may be an impossibility. However, consider that the average American uses approximately 57 sheets of toilet paper per day, amounting to 3.2 million tons of toilet paper consumed in America annually and 54 million trees cut down each year to support such practice.2 On the other hand, the average Filipino produces zero paper waste whatsoever.3 A Filipino accomplishes this magical task with the help of a tabo, a water dipping cup. After you finish using the toilet, you fill the tabo with water and pour it to clean yourself. If you are squatting over a toilet bowl, you might consider putting one hand on the back wall to brace yourself as you pour water down your front or back. For particularly messy dumps, you then use your hand to clean yourself, along with more water. Then, consider shaking yourself dry a little if need be. Following the gravity-assisted flush, proceed to wash your hands and hope that there is soap (Maybe keep track of your wiping hand and your eating hand haha).
While it may seem like a big adjustment to first break the habit of tossing toilet paper immediately into the toilet and then secondly to eliminate the use of toilet paper at all, be reassured that it is possible and this country has been operating toilet paper-free for generations. If you are feeling adventurous give this method a try the next time you use the bathroom at home.
- Toilet paper can be purchased from local drug stores, but it is not typically used. If you want the comforts of Charmin Ultra Soft when you finish your business you should plan to bring your own and also carry it out with you when you finish. Filipino piping systems cannot handle tissue and easily become clogged. The occasional fancy CR equipped with toilet paper will also feature a small trashcan to dispose of this waste.
- Robbins, N. (2010) “Flushing Forests.” World Watch Magazine. Vol 23. No 3. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6403
- Diapers are a common waste problem here. They can be found floating in the ocean and washed up along beaches. Luckily, the beaches of Romblon are mostly free of diaper pollution, however shorelines that face the China Sea receive a much greater abundance of beach litter.