A washing paddle in Tagalog is called “palo-palo,” where palo means “hit.” As the name implies, this customized paddle is one of the oldest laundry tools in the world. It is used to remove dirt and stains from clothes while washing them. Also called a washing bat, the palo-palo is made of wood that looks like a baker’s peel. It has a thicker body and shorter handle, though.
Interestingly, the use of a piece of wood to wash clothes has been around since the ancient Romans (753 BC). Aside from using wood, clothes were also washed by scrubbing sand on them, beaten over the rocks, and pounded under bare feet. Later, people designed the washing paddle to make it more efficient and comfortable to use.
Similar to other countries, Filipino women (and sometimes men) used to wash clothes by the river in groups. With the palo-palo on their hand, washing clothes together became a part of social practice to make the activity fun and relaxing. In America, the use of washing paddles is said to have originated during colonial times in the 17th century.
The exact period when Filipinos started using the palo-palo is uncertain, but this old way of washing clothes manually still exists in some provinces. In fact, Kyle Jennermann, a famous Canadian (soon-to-be Filipino) vlogger known as Kulas, featured the “palo-palo” (“Pakang” in Bisaya/Cebuano) in his 2015 vlog in the Philippines.
Using a washing paddle is pretty simple. After rinsing your clothes in water, place them on a sturdy surface, such as a large rock, and lightly strike them a few times with the palo-palo. Be careful not to hit any buttons (if present) and avoid excessive force to prevent straining your arm. Repeat the process until the clothes are sufficiently clean.
Use palo-palo in a sentence.
Samahan mo ako. Halika! Maglaba tayo sa ilog. Huwag mo kalimutang dalhin yung palo-palo.
Come with me. Let’s wash clothes by the river. Don’t forget to bring the washing paddle.