My question: When was circumcision of males first practised in the Philippines?
This question is asked in connection with news that a man in San Francisco is proposing a ban on circumcision.
When I talked to a good friend about your question, he suggested maybe it was first practised when, in 2008, then-Florida Gators' star quarterback, Tim Tebow, who now plays for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League, decided to go back to the Philippines (where he was born) for his spring break that year in order to play "quarter-hack" instead.
|Imagine: The future of some Filipino boys |
actually depends on the quality of the
'workmanship' of this NFL dude.
Kidding aside, of course, the answer to your question, Carlos, necessitated a bit more research. So I did.
One Filipino writer, Rommel G. Rebollido, in an article for Sun Star which was reposted by CIRP (which stands for Circumcision Information and Resource Pages), claims that "in the Philippines, where it has been a tradition for over a century now, there is nothing definite as to how and when it really began."
Fair enough, even though there's no mention of his sources. But then he adds, "common belief has it that the practice was introduced by western colonizers."
By "western colonizers" and his dating of the "tradition" as being "over a century now," was Rebollido referring to Americans who occupied the Philippines after the official end of the Philippine-American War in 1902 and who are believed to be the ones to have popularized the practice among Koreans?
Since Rebollido wrote his article in 2005 and Filipinos could not have adopted American traditions immediately right after the war to allow for traditions to be "over a century now," was he in fact referring to Spaniards as the "westerners" who "introduced" the practice?
Actually, whether Rebollido was referring to Americans or Spaniards is irrelevant because his claim has no historical foundation.
In other words, he and those who espouse this "common belief" are wrong. For in fact, according to the accounts of Antonio de Morga, a Spanish lawyer, high-ranking colonial official in the Philippines, and the historian who published the book Sucesos de las islas Filipinas (Events in the Philippine Isles) in 1609, which is considered the best and perhaps most important work on the early history of Spanish colonialism in the country:
A few years before the Spaniards subdued the island of Luzon, certain natives of the island of Borneo began to go thither to trade, especially to the settlement of Manila and Tondo; and the inhabitants of the one island intermarried with those of the other. These Borneans are Mahometans, and were already introducing their religion among the natives of Luzon, and were giving them instructions, ceremonies, and the form of observing their religion, by means of certain gazizes whom they brought with them. Already a considerable number, and those the chiefest men, were commencing, although by piecemeal, to become Moros, and were being circumcised* and taking the names of Moros. Had the Spaniards' coming been delayed longer, that religion would have spread throughout the island, and even through the others, and it would have been difficult to extirpate it.Morga was explicit -- was he not? -- that the practise of circumcision in the Philippines predates the Spaniards. He also implied quite clearly that it was introduced by Mohametans -- i.e., Muslims!
Now, did you notice the word which I emboldened and italicised? Did you notice the asterisk?
Yes? Good -- because I want to add the following annotation:
"This custom has not fallen into disuse among the Filipinos, even among the Catholics."
Now, guess who made that annotation?
Well, who else but our very own national hero, Jose P. Rizal?
Yes, sir! Morga's work apparently impressed Rizal so much that the latter decided to annotate it and publish a new edition.
But why would Rizal add that phrase -- "even among the Catholics"?
My theory is this: Because Rizal knew that religious male circumcision is more closely followed by Muslims and is also universally observed by followers of Judaism, even though the practice is, for some mistaken reason, being generally associated nowadays with members of the country's predominant religion (i.e., Catholicism). In fact, I was surprised to learn that, historically, the Roman Catholic Church has actually denounced religious circumcision for its members in the Cantate Domino, which was written during the 11th Council of Florence in 1442.
In any case, I would be interested to find out if that San Fran man succeeds with the ban. So would Tim Tebow, I'm sure.
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