Posted by: Leap of Faith | April 9, 2007

Tales of the Travelling Tabo

I found this article while browsing through a new Pinoy Expat site that I saw. It is really amusing but true. Most, if not all, Pinoys have a special attachment to our \”tabo.\” Fortunately here in KSA, all the bathrooms (public or private) have their own bidets, which just makes life so much easier.

Pinky, you should make a really long comment about this article. I think I have found your twin sister in Kat.

Tales of the Travelling Tabo
By Kat

There is one thing I never leave home without and it\’s not my American Express. On a recent trip to Melbourne, with husband and baby in tow, the most important item I brought along, aside from baby essentials, was my lowly tabo. In any overnight trip, it\’s the first item to go into my suitcase and the first to be unpacked. It\’s on my packing checklist three times.

\”Mahal, did I pack the — \”

\”Yes!\” my husband usually groans in exasperation after hearing the same question for the fifth time in fifteen minutes.

\”OK, just checking…\” I rummage around for a few seconds. \”Where? Where is it? OH MY GOD, WHERE IS MY TABO?\”

A tabo (TA-bo\’) is a water jug, usually plastic with a sturdy handle. I prefer something that holds at least two litres of water, with a handle and a lip, so I can direct the flow of water. But I\’m no purist. A small pail or even a glass will do. As the Chinese find forks and knives barbaric against the elegance of chopsticks, the prospect of cleaning my bum with nothing but a flimsy bit of paper leaves me…insecure.

My husband has no tabo technique and finds it unusable. He thinks my obsession with the tabo is hilarious, especially the stories of how I cope with the lack of…facilities. In high school retreats, I would go as late as possible at night then head straight to the showers afterwards. In public…well, I just don\’t go. Sorry kidneys, but my dignity wins this battle. Hubby assures me that with enough tissues on hand he can guarantee top hygiene with his wiping technique. But if wiping is enough, why do people have to wash their hands afterwards? Dry cleaning may be acceptable but I\’ll take a rinse cycle any day.

Living in Sydney, land of 3-ply toilet paper, for almost twenty years has left me feeling somewhat marginalised. But I know there are other tabo aficionados out there – like The Tabo Travel Troupe, a group of dedicated tabo photographers on Multiply (TM) with the philosophy that \”the tabo becomes a metaphor for the Filipino diaspora – similarly diverse and dispersed, yet, unmistakeably Pinoy, quirky, and reassuringly familiar and hospitable wherever they\’re found.\”

And imagine my delight at discovering that the tabo phenomenon is not restricted to Pinoys. At a Sri Lankan-Australian home – lo and behold! – I found a small, red tabo with a long, pointy handle. \”How authentic!\” I marvelled later to my husband, who shook his head in disbelief. Clearly, he was having trouble coming to terms with the fact that I now had international allies.

Economics plays a part in the tabo pyschology, with more affluent – or perhaps, less effluent – countries preferring the comfort of the bidet. My husband first discovered these amazing contraptions on our honeymoon in Europe where most of the hotels featured a dedicated bathroom appliance for extremely personal hygiene. My husband lovingly labelled them his \”bum washers\”. My Dad came back from his first visit to Manila in over fifteen years with two spray-type toilet attachments. His fixation must have been obvious because now, whenever my Ninang (godmother) plans to visit, she asks my dad if he needs another bidet.

Thankfully, Sydney seems to be catching up. The Little Squirt is marketed towards parents as a hose for rinsing off non-disposable nappies but there\’s no reason it can\’t be used by the entire family. Last week, I also discovered a company called Australian Bidet. This made my heart swell with pride until my brain asked the obvious question, \”Why is there a bidet stall at the Sexpo?\”

What Pinoys take for granted in the humble toilet is considered a luxury in many parts of the world. \”My bum has become so spoiled!\” Hubby sighed as we left a particularly swanky hotel in Mestre. On our final night in Paris, he sadly contemplated the bidet-less world to which he was about to return while I smirked, the ancient knowledge of the tabo keeping me unfazed.

Forget the remotely controlled lights, LCD TV and pillow menu. If a pensione in Rome – hardly the lap of luxury – is civilised enough to have a bidet, why can\’t a five-star hotel in Australia provide a tabo?



  1. I’m perfectly fine with the KSA bidet, thank you very much! But then again, if we were in a bidet-less environment, the good ol’ tabo would definitely come in handy… 😀

  2. I so agree. One thing good about KSA … the bidet!

  3. Oh my God, my mom and I are such “tabo fanatics” but at a slightly lower level than Kat. 😀 This post just reminded me to have a few tabos shipped with our other stuff. 😉 I gotta find classier ones though, because I’m telling you, our soon-to-be bathrooms are to die for…bidet-less they may be! 😉 My Mom loves Europe for the picturesque thing that it is and for the bidets. 🙂 Haha!

  4. Oh don’t get me started on my embarrassing need for a damn tabo. At home, it’s fine, but at work, hell, people are wondering what is that reluctant pouring/splattering sound coming from the toilet, which I just discretely entered. I have to time it just right when the offices are empty from lunch, then I make my move. Sus my gulay; NAKAKAHIYA!

  5. Weng, you are truly a Filipino. Classier Tabos? Is there such a thing?

    “To die for” bathrooms… ingit ako. For me, any bathroom is to die for as long as someone else has to clean them (not me!).

  6. Dong, HAHAHAHA! I can so relate. Diyahe to the max when people start wondering what that splashing sound is! It is just good that medyo common dito ang bidet so that makes things a little bit better.

  7. Australians don’t use tabo at all! I couldn’t find one tabo in any stores here. I had to settle with a measuring cup that’s made of plastic. The next time Millie comes here, that would be a good form of pasalubong for me here! The authentic pinoy tabo. hehehe.

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