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Philippine Daily Inquirer GMA Network
   Tuesday Apr. 16, 2002, Philippines
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OUCH! Rites of passage for boys who would be men are performed at the Jose Memorial Hospital for free. JOHNNY VILLENA
Boys of summer grit, bear it
Posted: 2:27 AM (Manila Time) | Apr. 16, 2002
By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Inquirer News Service

LIKE big, brave men.

A traditional summer rite for Filipino boys who are at least 10 years old also tests their capacity for courage and their readiness for manhood.

Circumcision is extremely painful, especially if anesthesia is not used like in the rural areas where the procedure is usually done by the riverbank. The male organ is sensitive and has many nerve endings. It often takes one week before the wound of circumcision heals.

Yet, rare is the boy who rejects this tradition. The exceptions would have to face the insults of those who went through the test.

Circumcision is done to better maintain the cleanliness of the male organ.

But is it necessary? There are millions of uncircumcised men the world over who are alive, well and are the embodiment of maleness.

According to Dr. Ronaldo Veneracion, a urologist at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, the chances of a man having penile cancer or cancer of the penis are reduced if he undergoes circumcision.

Dr. Pacita Airoso-Tan, a pediatrician at the United Doctors Medical Center, thinks otherwise.

According to Tan, circumcision of newly born baby boys became a routine because of the belief that uncircumcised men are more prone to penile cancer.

"It has long been proven that this belief is false. Which is why circumcision on a new born is only done if the opening for urine is too small so that they won't be prone to urinary tract infection (UTI)," she said.

Peer pressure

Tan also observed that peer pressure is the more frequent cause for boys to undergo circumcision. "They don't want to be teased as 'supot.'"

Often the cultural factor has a stronger pull-what we have grown up with-rather than health reasons," Tan added.

The connection between the dirt that accumulates in the male organ and penile cancer is not clear. But according to Veneracion, many medical journals have published findings that cancer of the penis occurs more frequently in uncircumcised men.

It is possible, he says, that not fully cleaning the male organ has something to do with this type of cancer. In fact, a 17-year-old patient was confined at the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Hospital for cancer of the penis. Yes, the teener was uncircumcised.

"We could not do anything but amputate the organ because the cancer had spread through the whole shaft of the penis," Veneracion said.

But a little boy scheduled for his rite of passage this summer isn't thinking of a disease that could hit him when he grows up to a be full-grown man. He's thinking about the gang, about the fun they'll have talking and snickering about it and feeling like a big, brave man.

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