Saturday, February 24Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What is Towel in Tagalog? Origin, Types, and Tuwalya ng Baka

The towel in Tagalog is called “tuwalya,” while the smaller face towel is called “bimpo” or “labakara.” As we all know, bath towels are pieces of thick but soft cloth we use to dry our body after taking a bath or shower. They are available in a wide variety of fabrics, including bamboo, cotton, hemp, linen, polyester, ramie, and wool. Towels are essential in every household, regardless of social status.

towel in tagalog
Towels in the Philippines

The towel originally came from Bursa, Turkey, around the 17th century. The Ottomans, who ruled Turkey back then, were experts at making carpets. They used their skills to make towels with fluffy loops, which we now call terry cloth. Towels started as fancy, often hand-embroidered cloths called pestamals. This traditional Turkish towel was long enough to wrap around the body.

At that time, only rich people could afford to buy towels because they required a lot of time to weave, making them very expensive. In Bursa, wealthy families used towels at thermal baths to dry off after steam baths. Early towels were thin, narrow, and made of cotton. They soaked up water well and dried fast. 

In the 18th century, towels got bigger and thicker, as the Ottoman Empire grew. However, towels were still mainly for the rich. When industrialization boomed in the 19th century, the cotton trade and factories grew, and towels became more affordable. With better manufacturing, designers can easily work with weavers, creating fancy designs and making towels stylish and sometimes elegant.

In 1850, an Englishman banker named Henry Christy was amazed at the woven, looped pile of pestamals during his stay in Turkey. He brought some samples back to England and showed them to his inventor brother. They saw potential in business and designed a machine that could produce terry cloth or terry towels. The brothers started the Christy company, and Queen Victoria became one of their first clients.

The technology for making terry towels eventually spread to the Western world. In the US, various types of towels were developed and different sizes were produced for the commercial and residential markets. Today, there are several types of towels. Aside from bath towels and face towels (or washcloths), most households also have baby towels, beach towels, hair towels, hand towels, kitchen towels, and pet towels.

In the Philippines, the “tuwalya” term does not refer to personal towels. It is also used to call the muscle wall in a cow’s stomach. Filipinos call it “tuwalya ng baka” (beef tripe), which requires long boiling to become tender. This part of the cow is the main ingredient of a local dish called “kare-kare,” a delicious Filipino stew with thick savory peanut sauce.

Use tuwalya in a sentence.


Isampay mo ng maayos ang tuwalya pagkatapos mong maligo para mas madali matuyo.


Hang your towel properly after taking a bath, so it will dry quickly.

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