The Antipolo toilet system is an outgrowth of American colonialism in the Philippines during the second decade of the 20th century. It was seen as an improvement from previous methods of dealing with human waste on the islands, but had unfortunate racial connotations related to Western attitudes toward native populations at the time.
The Antipolo system consists of a pit at least 4-feet 8-inches deep. The pit is tightly capped with a slab of either concrete or stone.
A large pipe runs through the slab from a toilet seat on top to the pit below. The seat cover closes automatically when not in use, sealing out insects that might otherwise spread disease.
A 4-inch diameter vent pipe runs up from the pit to a point at least 3 feet above the building’s roof, allowing gas to escape. The room containing the toilet does linked with other rooms in the house.
Antipolo toilets were named for the city of Antipolo, where they were first implemented by American public health officials in the Philippines. During the period between its introduction in 1915 and 1920, the Antipolo toilet system gradually replaced the pail system of waste disposal that had been common before.
In areas where water closets were not practical, the toilets were seen as an effective way of combating widespread enteric disease caused by fecal contamination of food and water sources.
Covered pit toilets are more practical than flush toilets in areas with limited water supplies or poor water pressure, a common problem at high elevations in rural areas of the Philippines. They do not require a septic system or sewage lines and are less expensive to install, putting them within reach of many families who would otherwise have open pit toilets or no toilets.
By preventing insects from gaining access to human waste, they help limit the spread of transmissible disease.
Because the Antipolo toilet system was introduced and in places, mandated by a colonial power, it is associated with many racial and ethnic stereotypes of the time. The toilet system also removed a large source of agricultural fertilizer from availability, since composted human waste had previously been used to boost yields in farmers' fields.