A broom is called a walis in the Philippines, in some of the languages. In others, it’s called a lawis, but not anywhere I’ve ever been. While modern Filipinos use other kinds of brooms along with the walis, the walis is the most widely used.
There are two types of walis, the walis tambo and the walis tingting. A tall person might prefer an American-style broom over a walis where a short person would be right at home with a walis.
The walis tambo is a soft broom, usually made of tiger grass (see the image). It’s normally used indoors and it works very well for sweeping dust. We usually have one or two of them leaning against a wall on the first floor of our house and sometimes have one leaning against a wall in the upstairs hallway.
I never use them. I keep an American-style broom around just for me. I have to bend over to use a walis and it doesn’t take long for my back to start aching. It doesn’t bother my wife to use them, but she rarely sweeps. We have a lot of relatives in our compound who are more than happy to sweep our tiled floors for us.
The walis tingting is usually just a bundle of sticks tied together, sometimes called a stick broom in English. It’s normally used outdoors to sweep up trash. It doesn’t work very well for anything else.
For heavy-duty sweeping outdoors, most people prefer American-style push brooms, even in the Philippines. Unfortunately, most people in the Philippines can’t afford them. I see women sweeping with walis tingtings every day of the week (when I’m there) and there’s at least one sweeping on the road in front of the houses. They’re sweeping up debris as well as garbage thrown by people walking on the street.
Both types of walis can be found almost anywhere in the Philippines, but you can only find them in certain Asian stores in the United States. I’ve seen them in California recently, but I haven’t seen them in Arizona in more than a decade.
I’m sure some of the Filipino-American community organizations know exactly where to get them, but I have no need for them. Not in the United States. My wife bought them at an Asian store in the eighties and nineties, but it’s been at least 20 years since I’ve seen either type used in any place we lived in the United States.
Regardless of what you think of these brooms, they’re just as good as their American counterparts and made from natural materials, unlike a lot of American brooms that are made of plastic these days.
By: RT Cunningham
July 27, 2014
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