Fine Hair Comb Used by Filipinos To Get Rid of Lice


The word suyod is likely Chinese in origin.

fine-toothed comb used to remove lice

any implement used to comb nits out of hair

This traditional Philippine hair device is definitely from the Chinese, who have been trading with and settling in the islands for hundreds of years before the Spaniards and other Westerners arrived.

Even today, most traditional hair combs like this do carry Chinese characters on its rib. Recently however, you can also find stainless steel versions being sold cheaply on the market. In the United States, the Fil Am Store in L.A. sources their suyod from China.

Part of many a poor Filipina girl’s childhood memories is having Grandma or one of the older women in the family sit her down and use this to comb through her hair. It can be a painful experience having that fine a comb be dragged through one’s hair from the scalp to the roots. Girls don’t look forward to the “ritual” and it’s not uncommon for the older woman to drag the girl over and roughly hold her in place to get it done. It is necessary though because lice infestation in the tropics is widespread, especially with the habit or necessity of poverty-stricken girls borrowing each other’s regular hair combs.

Wealthier families always give each of their daughters their own regular combs and are told to never ever use someone else’s comb, lest they get the lice as well. It’s embarrassing for convent schoolgirls to have to undergo the suyod-combing process, because it means your family can’t afford for you to have your own regular comb and that you had to borrow one from a lice-infested friend. That, or you really have no upper-class sense of hygiene where you simply do not use other people’s tools for personal care.

Sinuyod ko ang buhok ng bata para tanggalin ang lisa.
I used a comb to get rid of the nits in the child’s hair.

Why is lice infestation a big deal? Although lice don’t spread disease the way cockroaches and rodents do, these wingless insects do feed on a person’s blood. Having that lice saliva on your scalp and skin causes itchiness that is very irritating throughout the day and keeps you awake at night. And there’s that feeling that something is crawling on your skin. They can thrive wherever there’s hair on your body, even in the pubic area.

The word suyod can also refer to the farm implement called the harrow, which goes through a field the way a nit comb goes through hair.

Kasangkapan ng magsasaka sa paglilinis ng bukid.

The common Tagalog word for the regular hair comb is suklay.