Cast your Bread Upon the Waters

'Bolitas,' a crude form of genital modification known to be popular among Filipino seafarers, do exist as the stories say they do. But more than just a sexual oddity, the practice signified men's struggle for self-preservation, in a time when they found themselves most isolated from mankind.








When there is an opening in the skin, the balls—made of inorganic material that won’t encourage infection, like fiberglass—is shaped, shined, and submerged in alcohol before inserting it in the penis. “Yung iba, silicon, kikinisin nila ’yan, ’yung iba chopsticks, tsaka ’yung iba nga, ’yung handle ng toothbrush,” describes Jude. “I-sh-shape nila ’yan na parang capsule, ’yung iba bilog-bilog. Binababad ’yun sa alcohol ng ilang araw bago ilagay. Ang anesthesia d’un wala na, mag-shot shot lang muna.
No anesthesia, and no doctors, either. They make do with what they have; in this case, a shipmate considered “experienced” at it, someone, who, for some reason or another, has been endowed with the reputation. “May mga skilled talaga na kilala. Kunwari si ganito, si ganyan, ‘Ah si Berto, marunong ’yan!’” For some, it is the engine fitter of the ship—one who handles the ship’s welding (and therefore they say, has more gall) to do the process on fellow shipmates. And other times, the men would perform the surgery on themselves.

Originally published in Esquire magazine, February 2017.

Read the full story online at Esquire Philippines.