Monday, August 25, 2008


Droppings from the neighbor's areca palm tree

Camera: Canon Ixus 65
Aperture: F2.8
Shutter: 1/20 sec

Recommended quick reads on betel-chew tradition:

Hidden in the Heart - Rosa Maria Magno

Betel Chewing in the Philippines - Cynthia Ongpin Valdes

Chewing Betel-Nut with the Mangyans of Mindoro - Howie Severino

The Philippine History - June Mae

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:56 AM


OpenID sardonicnell said...

i remember seeing our elderly relatives back in lanao del norte munching this with a piece of leaf. with there very sweet brown smile, filled with nganga. hehehe! memories of childhood nga naman...

August 25, 2008 12:50 PM  

Blogger mimi said...

hanggang ngayon di ko gets kung anu ang lasa nyan..

sa capiz ako nakakita panu magnguya ang matatanda.. tapos may apog. hmm..

August 25, 2008 4:14 PM  

Blogger Daisy said...

I am amazed seeing the young Dumagats of Sierra Madre on early morning munching on this usually taken with tabacco and I am not sure what it is 'apog' they say. We were having a nulti-day climb in Matulid river system and last camp was beside a Dumagat settlement. It is amazing to see the life of Filipinos not in the city.

but you would also be amazed that I work with people from the South Pacific who still chew on this even if we have like a regional meeting. We jokingly say to them those from Palau and Pohnpei the bettle nut network. they have this empty bottle of mineral water with them where they spit it out (yuk) anyway. This is not for the olden days. In PNG when I was there everyone chews on these at Port Moresby... and the roads are dotted orange.

they say its an upper, a mild stimulant that you get a certain high from chewing these combined with tabacco and other things...

never tried it though.

kakatuwa lang.

August 25, 2008 5:57 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I don't remember seeing anyone in Subic chewing nganga when I was a kid, Nell, but I saw a lot of older women smoking those dark brown cigarettes with the lit end inside their mouths. My Tia Inez was one of them. Could it be that Zambales may not be too high above the sea level and, thus, doesn't get as chilly as in the Mountain Province or Lanao del Norte? I read that nganga helps keep the body warm like vodka.

August 25, 2008 10:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Haven't tried it myself, Mimi, and not interested, either, to do so. I heard that it could be nauseating for the first timers. But just like tobacco chewing as those baseball players and coaches do, it can be an acquired taste. But chewing tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, though.

August 25, 2008 10:55 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Daisy!

The Philippine History site by Junemae has some information on some of the islands you mentioned, which I just learned about:

Filipinos in the Marianas, Palaus, and Carolines

* The Marianas, Palaus, and Carolines are islands archipelagoes in the Pacific Ocean near Mindanao that were ruled by the Spanish governor in Manila and the Spanish bishop of Cebu.
* The Filipinos helped the Spaniards to make these islands a colony and a Catholic area.
* Filipinos went to Guam to settle down permanently in that island.

Whoa, that thing with the mineral bottle sounds a tad revolting .... hehehe. Darn, I couldn't even stand those folks here in Manila that nonchalantly spit on the sidewalk.

Betel-nut chewing supposedly alleviates hunger fangs, as well as give a certain kind of euphoric high like what "weed" and "magic mushrooms" do, which the Native American Indians used to consume as part of their rituals. But then again, magic mushrooms are more of a hallucinogenic kind, though.

August 25, 2008 11:16 PM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

I have seen people in Bangladesh chew on this after meals or this becomes their in-between meals/merienda. And the amazing thing about this is that this activity is not left to the older generation. I knew people in their 20s do this. Plus on occasions when people come over, they ask for this.

They could not force me to even try it. I have tried it once when I got curious a long time ago I was probably 6 yo and it was bitter.

August 25, 2008 11:50 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

They are said to be not only addicting but a good aphrodisiac. Some of my grand aunts used to munch on them almost every time I see them, at any point of the day---and they had lived to such old age.

August 26, 2008 12:03 AM  

Anonymous bertN said...

I often saw my lolas chew nganga so I was tempted to try it once and that was enough LOL. I can't described the taste but it was anything but good as far as I could remember. I felt a touch of dizziness, too.

August 26, 2008 12:41 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I assume that betel-nut chewing in Pakistan is just as popular a social activity as smoking a cigar, Photo Cache. I'm just wondering how come this hasn't been picked-up by the younger folks here in the Philippines.

August 26, 2008 7:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Major Tom!

I don't blame any of your grand aunts for enjoying this habit. According to "Hidden in the Heart" (see recommended reads section), besides being an aphrodisiac, nganga has other healing properties such as ...


Aside from assuaging hunger pangs, betel-chewing is believed to strengthen the teeth and gums. The Spanish chronicler Pigafetta, describing the customs of the islanders in the 16th century , wrote that 'it is very cooling to the heart, and if they ceased to use it they would die.'

The variety of uses of both the areca nut and the betel leaf which Eduardo Quisumbing cites in Medicinal Plants of the Philippines, shows the versatility and potency of these two ingredients in any of their various forms; but a number of known benefits are common to many groups.

For example, the juice of either the areca nut or the betel leaf, or both combined, is purgative, a deworming agent and a powerful sweat stimulant. The husk of the areca nut is used as dentifrice or toothbrush.

The young green shoots of the areca palm may be used to introduce abortion in early pregnancy. Crushed betel leaves applied to the breast can arrest the secretion of milk.

The crushed betel leaves act as antiseptic for cuts and wounds, and as poultice for boils. Applied to temples in case of headache they relieve pain.



August 26, 2008 8:06 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The reaction you described, bertN, is quite similar to that experienced by young people when drinking whiskey or gin for the first time :)

But I read that for the first timers, the taste of nganga can be nauseating.

August 26, 2008 8:09 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

I am a curious cat by nature...when I was younger ;-). So I tried to taste a little bit of whatever people around eat and drink... and often charge my disadventures to experience na lang. One of them is nga-nga...I was in Laoag and checked out the market (as i always make sure i do whenever I am in a province.) There, on a bilao, was a complete set of leaves and nuts for betelnut chewing. So, I bought the set and asked the vendor to prepare a chew for me. The lola also prepared for herself (maybe as social courtesy) and started to chew one herself. My goodness! It was so bitter and even maanghang that I started gagging and spitting the whole thing out. Everyone around got to laughing. There (perhaps for them) goes an urban softie! :-). Nevertheless, after that experience, I tried smoking the legendary Ilocano tobacco later. It was just as strong!---and these Ilocanos can live up to the age of 90! Geez!

August 26, 2008 8:50 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Hi Eric,

Interesting topic 'cuz I collect "Betel Box." Actually these boxes shouldn't be called betel box or betel nut box, because the nuts were not housed or stored in it, but the lime or "apog (the white paste one mixed with the betel)."

I think chewing betel nut was passed on by the seafarers, 'cuz we are not alone on this pastime. I've seen Hawaiians, Micronesians, Polynesians, Indonesians, Malay, Vietnamese, Cambodian & as far as India (Hindu call it Paan).

As a kid I've seen "lolas" chewing to their delight & spiting them "red" that hits walls, sidewalks & galvanized sheets, which later will create a hole on it!!!

Our "lolas" (...hey I"m an expert on this, okay? he, he, he, I errand for my lola when I was a kid) mixed the betel nut (they called it "bunga") with a leaf called "ikmo." There's "maskada" I think made of tobacco. Then "apog" or lime, looks like a white paste. It was a ritual, my lola placed the nut inside the "kalikot" to crush the nut, will take the ikmo leaf & placed the apog, then the maskada. She'll fold the ikmo (leaf) with those things inside & circled it to the betel nut...& you have got "nga-nga!!!"

My lola will chew this thing for hours, making her mouth red (parang vampira!!!). Then she lights up her favorite cigarette "Laybana na itim" ...baliktad, the lighted part was inside her mouth!

I wonder Eric why we call it "nga-nga" might be from the word "bongnganga." Thanks Eric,
ka tony

August 26, 2008 12:28 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Akala ko you folks were blogging about the "Betels" and collecting "Betels" records. My Lola in Kanlaon, Negross Occ. chewed on the nga-nga stimulant. During my visits there in the summer and after the mano po traditional greetings, she would grab me by my shoulders and pull me with a big hug and give me that wet kiss on the cheek leaving that awful red weird smelling residue stuck on my cheeks and she would apologize and gently wipe off the "red laway" off my face. But Lola was so kool cause she also had cannabis sativa plants in the backyard of her house next to her nuno sa punso friends sacred area. my dad used to always wonder why as teenagers, my cousind and I would choose to get into the hassle of a 19 hr. boat ride from Manila, 4 hours of rough roads on antiquated busload of people and sacks of rice and other cargoes to spend our summer vacations at Lola's old house in Kanlaon?

August 26, 2008 11:45 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Lol ... not the Betels from Liverpool, Pete, but the betels from my neighbor's areca palm tree.

Did you ever have your Lola listen to your copy of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon?"

I can imagine you and your cousin making a journey to Negros ala Cheech and Chong :)

By the way, this reminds me about the time you asked me to ask the herb and plant vendors of Quiapo about this certain "herb," Pete, the name of which escapes me now.

Anyway, do you know the first question they asked me? "Pulis po ba kayo?" And then they completely ignored me.

It took sometime when I finally really learned about it. That was when I made a suki out of one vendor because I buy "makabuhay" twigs from her for my mother on a regular basis. First she said it's for those with respiratory problems, but then she finally told me what it was and why it was banned ... hahaha.

August 27, 2008 1:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I just want to clarify one point, Ka Tony: Did their spit put a hole on the walls or the galvanized sheets, or both? Hahaha!

Whoa ... the preparation process as you had described it reminds me of my college buddies when they used a strainer to "de-seed" and clean their weed, as well as prepare the bong later on or roll them ganja-style :)

By the way, I was lucky to have had backstage access at the Beacon Theater when Bob Marley & The Wailers performed there in the '70s. But all that smoke from their ganjas was pretty overwhelming.

August 27, 2008 1:55 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Aha! Being a curious cat that you claim to be, Bernadette, I wonder if you've ever tried that herb that Pete asked me to find out if still available in Quiapo streets. Maybe he'll return to tell us the name of it.

But seriously speaking, and I'm speaking from a scientific point of view: I wonder with all our lush forests we never had indigenous hallucinogenic herb or plant or fungus.

August 27, 2008 1:59 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Warning: Do not experiment with this herbal concoction if your I.Q is below 100.

Eric, It is the poorman's hallucinogenic called TALAMPUNAY.

kids, please do not try this at home.

August 27, 2008 4:54 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's it! Talampunay!

So, we do have local hallucinogenic herbs/plants then, eh?

By the way, Pete ... ever since that day I was inquiring about it, every time I passed by those vendors, I could sense they were calling me "narc!" silently and anxiously.

Thanks, Pete, you always manage to give me stomach cramps from excessive laughing :)

August 27, 2008 5:53 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

Puerto Galera is known for the "magic mushroom", Eric. The talampunay grows everywhere here...except that in my garden it still has to have blooms.
One time (in Calapan) we came across a young mother and her baby straight from Mt. Halcon. The mother was smoking a pipe and literally looked like she was having a "good trip" if you know what I mean. Those Mangyans know something that we don't :-)!
The rainforest may be rich of these hallucinogenic plants...but I'm more interested in the orchids :-). I heard though that some can be as potent, however!

August 27, 2008 11:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Whoa! Is that right, Bernadette?

Does the talampunay bear a flower similar to a poppy?

And Puerto Galera have magic mushrooms? That's it! I'm heading over there soon ... hahaha. But not to alter my state (my life is much like a series of acid trips as it is) but to do a photo essay on these hallucinogenic plants up there and then submit to high Times magazine ... hehehe!

BTW, I had friends who used to offer me a cocktail (like a milk shake) with magic mushrooms but I was never inclined to try it. However, one the books I bought when I first arrived in Manila was one on our local orchids. There is something about orchids that enchant me; must be on account of Georgia O'Keefe paintings. I could see myself spending countless hours taking photographs of them.

If ever I live in a place similar to where you and your husband live, I'd probably start an orchid garden for export. Oh, well ... I can dream, can't I :)

August 27, 2008 11:38 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Hi Eric, Ka Peter & Bernadette,

My lola's spitting that has been going on everyday made a hole on the galvanized sheet!!! KINALAWANG!

Your college buddies are obviously not from California, Eric. Because here we don't de-seed our sacred grass. Actually the "Buds" (seeds) is the best part! We even eat the roach so nothin's thrown to waste!!!!

Ka Peter, Kamusta na? Tama ka before nagkaroon tayo ng sakit na "Beatle Mania" ang mga lola natin mas na una pa... "Betel Mania" ah sus 'day!

Bernadette, don't try the "sacred mushroom" if you don't want to throw up. Unfortunately but wonderfully, after you threw up that's where the "dreams" comes in!!! But kidding aside the "sacred mushroom" are really sacred to the Native American Indian "nature religion"

Peace guys,
ka tony

August 27, 2008 11:52 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Now you got me curious, Ka Tony. I wonder if any local tribes use our indigenous magic mushrooms during certain traditional rites as the Native American Indians do/did. Something to research in the near future.

Eat the roach? Wow! A doctor friend used to give those special surgical clips that were excellent for holding the roach so you can enjoy them without burning your fingers so, no roaches left ... hehehe.

August 28, 2008 7:04 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

"I wonder if any local tribes use our indigenous magic mushrooms during certain traditional rites as the Native American Indians do/did."

Good question Eric! I don't know, maybe our local tribes or even our ancestors were not as curious & adventurous as the natives in the Americas. We are boozers I guess, more than druggist. We have "tapoy (rice wine like Japanese Sake)", "basi" "tuba" "lambanog" etc... but I haven't seen or read anything about hallucinogenic drugs.

I was fortunate to visit Machu Picchu, Peru, long time ago before they build the railway haft way to the top. We climbed the Andes with our llamas and because of the high altitude I find it hard to breath. But with the help of 'coca leaves" which I chewed given to me by the locals, I didn't feel any exhalation, pain & my problems in breathing.

In Brazil, the Amazon tribe smoke, I think they call it "piptadenias", which according to my Brazilian friend Joao it is a mixture of "hallucinogenic drugs and their ancestor's powdered bones" ...yuk! My friend Joao wanted me to try, though we're not in the Amazon, but in Salvador, Bahia...he, he, he, I chicken out!!!

I visited Puerto Gallera, before it became ala Boracay. I was with medical students from UP, unfortunately I didn't encounter any hallucinogenic plants like what Bernadette was saying. Eric, let me know when you're going & I'll go with you.

Oh yeahhh Eric, we ate the roach! I also have the "clip" with a small wooden ball to adjust & hold the world smallest leftover joint, in fact it's still hanging with a chain around my neck. Though, it's not surgical. Sometimes if will feel not chewing the roach, we mixed it with our espresso coffee...Doble ang tama, WOWWWW MAN!

Thanks Eric,
ka tony

August 28, 2008 12:48 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Ka Tony,

Perhaps, it's time for someone to advocate the virtues of our indigenous hallucinogenic herbs and plants over alcohol ... hehehe.

Yes, that's what I heard, coca leaves have medicinal effects, espcially for the folks of South America.

Speaking of Peru, one of my early posts was about a meeting I had with an old friend who was in Peru once and decided to buy five dollars of weed just to try the local produce. Boy, was he suprised what five dollars could buy back then.

Here's the URL:

I've heard of Irish coffee, but coffee with roaches? Whoa! A first time for me indeed, hehehe!

August 29, 2008 8:36 AM  

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