Soap bubbles

Last Sunday, Alex was washing her hand in the kitchen when she called to show me something. I looked and said, “Hold it, let me take photos.” These were taken with my tiny iXus so the resolution and colors aren’t so good but, hey, at least I managed to capture the moment. Soap bubbles soap bubbles soap bubbles

The girls played with soap bubbles for years. From pre-school through grade school. Made in China kits were everywhere and inexpensive. Safety of Made in China toys wasn’t an issue back then and there was a constant supply of blowers and soap solutions in the house. The kits came with bottles of soap solution and a variety of blowers that could make small to huge bubbles and there was even a blower that could create dozens of bubbles with a single blow or sweep of the arm. When the soap solution ran out, they could be bought separately sans the blowers.

A far cry from how my brother and I played with soap bubbles when we were young — with home-made blowers and soap solution made with… gumamela leaves.

Gumamela leaves?

Okay, first we made the blowers by pestering our Lolo (grandfather) for pieces of wire about eight inches long. We bent one end of the wire to create a loop — small loops for making small bubbles, larger loops for larger soap bubbles. Then, we’d wind strips of rubber band around the loop. Presto! We had soap bubble blowers.

Then, we made the solution. My grandmother had a large garden with lots of gumamela plants. We picked the leaves of the gumamela then we mashed them to a pulp — usually with the marble mortar and pestle which upset the house helpers because the mashed leaves left stains. We divided the mashed leaves equally between two jars with screw type caps (one for me and one for my brother) and add water and a little powdered laundry detergent. We covered the jars tightly and shook them. And that was it.

Why gumamela leaves? I don’t really know. I don’t even remember who taught us that they were an effective ingredient for soap bubble solutions. Mashed, the gumamela leaves are sticky and slimy and they do make the bubbles last longer. And it’s not some secret. Lots of people know about it. Gumamela plants are really, really much more than ornamental.

We don’t buy soap bubble kits anymore but we all still play with soap bubbles whenever we get a chance — in the bath (that’s why I love bubble baths), when washing our hands (makes dish washing more bearable), when giving the pets a bath (the bubbles make pets go nuts)…

Actually, if you’re thinking of a nice game with your dog (or even the cat), try blowing soap bubbles and watch your pet run and jump after them and try to catch them only to have the bubbles burst once touched. It’s hilarious. You can actually see the confusion on your dog’s face.

P.S. For some bits of trivia, Wikipedia says soap bubbles as playthings has been around for 400 years and that “soap bubbles can help to solve complex mathematical problems of space, as they will always find the smallest surface area between points or edges.” There are also links to the site of Louis Pearl, the amazing bubble man (cool pics) and a BBC news report on the world record of the largest soap bubble that encapsulated 19 children over five feet tall.


  1. says

    isa ako sa pasimuno nyan dati. my cousins even recommended using the flowers as well but for some unwritten rules, I would not agree (maybe because we don’t use the flowers in nueva ecija), lols.

    wala kaming mortar and pestal kaya dun nalang sa makinis na semento magdidikdik ng gumamela. and yung dulo lang ng walis tingting ang gamit namin covered with thread or strips of rags or cloth.

    those were the days before the advent of joy dishwashing liquid ;-)

    ngayon de baterya na ang gamit na palobo ng mga bata which makes you go ranting not because things are easier for them now but because you realized you’re getting older. hahaha

  2. rhodora says

    We used gumamela too for bubble play! Kaka-miss naman isipin mga araw na yun. :)

    Before reading your blog entry, I first thought it was plastic balloon that Alex was playing with. I also played with plastic balloon as a little girl, but my mother made ‘bawal’… it’s not good daw.

  3. says

    There are people who grew up not playing with soap bubbles using gumamela? That’s hard to believe. Haha.

    We used the stalks of papaya leaves to blow bubbles though. Or pieces of walis tingting that we would loop too.

    Just found your blog today, nice :)

  4. says

    Wow, so many gumamela soap bubble memories! :) I think the “forgotten” art of gumemala soap bubbles has a lot to do with shrinking homes and lack of space for gardens. Population growth…

  5. peterb says

    You’re right about that Connie. We use to get gumamelas from those that grow abundantly in the neighborhood. Wala na ngayon.

    Vera, papaya stalks, i knew i used something like that! Thanks for the reminder! :)

  6. says

    Peterb, very few from this generation of city kids will know the thrill of catching dragonflies on a lazy summer afternoon. LOL Those were the days. But then again, they enjoy a lot of things now that we never even dreamed were possible. As they say, change is constant.

    • Miguk says

      Too bad you don’t have fireflys here. We used to catch a lot of them and put them in a jar and if you had enough you had a lantern.

      • says

        Oh, we do. Here is the suburb. Not in the city when I was a kid but we have them here. Now. Not that many but they’re a mainstay. Sometimes, they even get into the house. :) I love fireflies!

  7. says

    In areas where vegetation is still lush, there are fireflies. Am not sure if that’s true in places near the sea though. When we first moved to the suburb, Speedy caught them for the kids and placed them in jars. But they’d let them out after a few minutes so they won’t die.

  8. Miguk says

    Good to know that. I have been to the province countless times and have never seen them either. They are amazing really.

  9. des_obed says

    we were in the beach picnic last year. i went a distance to wash dishes,there was no soap so i looked around for leaves. i didnt remember about my gumamela childhood days but i got those gumamela leaves by instinct or subconscious memory to use as soap and!amazing discovery i thought. but just now, since i happened to dropby this blog,i remembered my childhood fun with neighbors. now, i will make my own bath soap with gumamela.

  10. says

    hehehe. i used gumamelas when i was young too. i still wonder why we use that particular plant, but part of the fun was in the mashing of the leaves ;-)

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