When I’m home–as in my parents’ house– I don’t do the laundry. My mother washes my clothes, including my undies.


It’s been years since I actually did a hand wash of one laundry basket. When I was teaching, there were laundry shops. When I was in my sister’s place both in Manila and Singapore, I used the washing “lazy” machine.


Like Fermina Daza in Love in the Time of Cholera, I like smelling soiled clothes, as if to sniff sins and secrets.


First time I used my hands

 My mother left weeks ago for a month-long “vacation,” leaving me clueless about the laundry.

I’m not some snotty rich kid who can’t even sort the laundry. No. I’m a poor girl who has poor washing skills.

To make things worse, I had to do it with a deep-well pump [poso] as a source of water.

So I faced my fear when I didn’t have any shorts to wear anymore. With help of a power powder detergent–one that can supposedly remove stains in 30 minutes–I started with soaking, no sweat.

I went back after an hour, just to make sure, you know.

Pump I went to fill two basins for rinsing. Before the happy rinsing part, though, there’s the Filipino washing by hand: vigorous rubbing with closed fists or kusot.

Kusot. Kusot. Kusot. Like once upon a time when people wash clothes and fabrics in rivers and springs.


Kusot. Kusot. Kusot.

I remember when I was about 4 or 5, my father used to take me to his province Mindoro, where my grandmother would take me to the river. I would take a bath and swim while the women do the laundry with brushes and palo-palo or that wood paddle used to “beat” (palo) clothes to squeeze water out easily.

Bar detergent soaps were used. My father mentioned one time that her grandmother has a special “chemical” she uses in washing her saya (traditional gown) so that it remains elegantly stiff and pristine white.

After this communal washing of the laundry, which is like a fun weekly ceremony of a tradition, the women take the baskets of washed clothes to their respective homes and let them dry in the clothesline under the sun.

 Press till it dries

Years later, some lazy person productivity-oriented engineers invented the washing machine.

With this came the dryer and powder and liquid detergent soaps, then so many laundry shops, which go as low as 25pesos per kilo. So washing clothes has changed over time, just the same time when industrialization replaced humans with machines. Not so many people wash their laundy in the rivers anymore, and more and more busy professionals and students pay for laundry services. From a community of washers, we have become button-pressing individuals or persons totally removed from the washing experience.

First time I ever used a washing machine was in the 90s and I remember analyzing how the whirling can remove stains and bad odors. I reckoned it’s the chemicals of your soap that do the trick. My mother has no faith in chemistry so after machine wash she would diligently scrub each article of clothing.

And then there’s the first time I used a washing machine that does everything from putting the liquid detergent soap and water to draining of water to putting of water again for rinsing and draining and drying. And if I want extra-cleaning, water running into the machine can be set to a particular degree of heat that can kill germs without manual scrubbing. Man. That is pampering. All I needed to do was push the clothes into the front hole and just watch the spinning through the glass. Or not, because it takes almost 2 hours for it to finish and me watching for 2 hours defies the machine’s purpose.

Wow, I stood witness to the evolution of washing clothes. Now, after being defamiliarized with doing my own laundry, I had fun washing my clothes after years of relying on the machine, while thinking, wonder what’s the next revolutionary change in the history of laundry.


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