Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Ever since I had posted Nganga about a month ago, the mere sight of herbal vendors of Quiapo nowadays prompts a chuckle. The witty, if not outright hilarious, comments from fellow bloggers made it one of the funniest entries I had posted to date.

I was in Quiapo the other day to buy makabuhay twigs for my mother. She finds them an effective cure against itchy skin rashes. Makabuhay are the coiled twigs at the left side of the above photo; they cost about ten pesos each. She would have them cut into small pieces, crushed, and then gently rubbed against the affected area.

According to, makabuhay (menispermum crispum)
contains a bitter principle, colombine, traces of an alkaloid, and a glucoside, berberine. It is known as a febrifuge (medicine used to reduce fever) and is said to have anti-malaria properties. Its leaves are mostly used for certain ailments such as stomach trouble, indigestion, diarrhea, and ulcers. However, it is not for pregnant women, because it can cause abortions. Furthermore, recent studies in the Philippines have found it useful as an insecticide for rice crops. Found throughout the Philippines, the makabuhay vine is considered by the Filipinos and Malay in general as a universal medicine. The name in Tagalog means "to give life."

While paying for my purchase, I was tempted to ask Manang (my herbal vendor suki in Quiapo) if by chance she had any talampunay in stock. But then again I didn't because I had already asked her once before; the first time proved funny, but a second time might be annoying. As I now know, thanks to Noypetes, talampunay leaves and seeds are smoked like cigarettes to assuage asthmatic conditions; however, its sale has been banned due to its narcotic and antispasmodic properties.

However, as I bid Manang a fond adieu, what came to mind was this obscure hallucinogenic herb from Mexico, salvia divinorum. It's once again making the international news circuit as of late. In the United States, this herb remains legal, trendy and not thoroughly studied. I didn't bother asking Manang if she has any in stock, though I wonder if it does exist in the country, especially with the special relationship that Manila enjoys with Mexico.

Until a decade ago,
this mind-altering member of the mint family, or "diviner's sage" as some call it, was largely limited to those seeking revelation under the tutelage of Mazatec shamans in its native Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, it is widely available for lawful sale in the United States -- online and in head shops.

American youths have started favoring salvia over the older Americans' marijuana. In fact, more than 5,000 YouTube videos have been uploaded which depict these youths' thrill-seeking journeys into various altered states of silliness. Some of these videos are archived in this site.

The federal government's study on drug use published this year astonished many: some 1.8 million people had experimented with salvia, including 750,000 in the previous year. Among males 18 to 25, where consumption is heaviest, nearly 3 percent reported using salvia in the previous year, making it twice as prevalent as LSD and nearly as popular as Ecstasy. At college campuses, on the other hand, recent studies on both coasts have yielded estimates as high as 7 percent.

Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was commissioned by the federal government to develop the first urinalysis for salvia and is now testing 50 samples a month ever since the herb’s presence on military ships and bases has been discovered, which prompted enough concern about readiness.

The surge in popularity of this hallucinogen amongst thrill-seeking Americans may also result to a hastened demise, and worse, undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses as what happened to marijuana.

Salvia is believed by some pharmacologists to open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain; however, criminalization of which would certainly make it difficult to obtain and store the plant, and gain appropriate government permission for tests on human subjects.

As for the YouTube videos, they are now becoming Exhibit A in state-by-state legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, in Florida, possession or sale of salvia is now a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 5:18 AM


Blogger mimi said...

sana di dumating dito yan sa pinas...

September 17, 2008 6:42 AM  

Anonymous Traveler on Foot said...

Ah so that is the makabuhay.

The various herbs sold by these vendors in Quiapo are some of the thing worth discovering and learning about.

I ve learned another one today. Thanks for sharing about the makabuhay.

September 17, 2008 6:47 AM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

Yap I think we should go back more for herbal remedies. AFter all our medicines come from them, right?

Musta na Senor?

September 17, 2008 7:03 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

Have you read the series of books written by Carlos Castaneda? The last book I read was about his magical passages (gosh! I may be wrong about the title---my friend has it) but the earlier books were about his alleged shaman-guru Don Juan who taught him the mastery over the peyote plant. Then there was this movie starring Nicolas cage and meryl Streep (Adaptation) about a treasured orchid plant by the mexicans which actually turned out to be a hallucinogenic plant!

What's with these mexicans??? ;-)

Thanks for the info, Eric!

September 17, 2008 9:22 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

Natural and traditional remedies are as favoured nowadays even in Western countries. Maybe because of the high prices of pharma medicines that Pinoys are rediscovering these age old remedies.

Another eye-opening post Senor!

September 17, 2008 9:47 AM  

Blogger dominic said...

im really amazed at how you go into details on things like these. i usually see it in quiapo but never had the chance to ask what its for and how they use it.

September 17, 2008 12:41 PM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Makabuhay ka Eric!!!

Wow!!! This "makabuhay" is really a challenge to my curiosity!!! Masubukan nga ito paguwi ko.

Us Pinoy are not experimentalist & serious when it comes to mind blowing gifts from Mother Earth, as our "hermanos y hermanas, Mexicanos" Our Mexican kin even included their love of "senorita Maria Juana" in their folk song...

La Cucaracha

La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Marihuana que fumar.

English translation...

The cockroach, the cockroach
Can't walk anymore
Because it doesn't have, because it's lacking
Marijuana to smoke

Our Mexican kin's love & craziness about marijuana arose during the Mexican Revolution. The word "cucaracha" was a slang term for marijuana or its stub, hence the term "roach" in U.S. slang.

Viva Senor Enrique y Senorita Maria Juana,
ka tony

September 17, 2008 1:09 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

"Purple Haze all in my brain, lately things don't seem the same. Actin' funny but I don't know why. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky."
-Jimi Hendrix-

September 17, 2008 1:45 PM  

Anonymous El Cineasta said...

Not really related though, but just a suggestion when using the letter "ñ". (One of the legacies left by the Spanish).

ñ - Press Alt + 164
Ñ - Press Alt + 165


El Cineasta

á - Alt + 0225
é - Alt + 0233
í - Alt + 0237
ó - Alt + 0243
ú - Alt + 0250

September 17, 2008 1:55 PM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Dis is olso nat releyted tu da sabgek wi ar diskasing hir.

Ay em alweys not rayting Ispanis in da raiyt wey! Beri sori dat ay em alweys in a hari tu rayt, dat ay mayt porget important tings in may mayd ip ay palo ol di presing-presing on di kibord.

Ay tink di aydiya or di meseyds is mor important dan haw tu rayt! ...di is tu may akording... he, he, he

Sa pagsulat nang tunay na Tagalog, tulad nang pagsulat ng klasikong Arabe na tinularan lang ng mga Kastila, ay may mga gitling at mga tuldok na nararapat gamitin, tulad ng marangya, maragsa, pakupya, marahan, mayumi at marami pang iba... Subalit ang mga tuldok na ito'y unti-unti nang nawala at nilimita sa makabagong makiniya o "keyboard" tugon sa pagbigay daan sa makabago at mabilisang pagsulat. Ito'y isinagawa sapagkat naiintindihan naman ang tunay, na nilalaman ng isinulat ng manunulat.

El mensaje es más importante que cómo escribirlo,
ka tony

September 17, 2008 3:22 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can see rocks of tawas in the second picture every time i visit pinas i'd bring some back to australia, a very effective under arm diodorant even my aussie friends loved it. interesting article thanks.


September 17, 2008 3:46 PM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

One day in my college dormitory, my roommate brought some brownies. We had one each. It was yummy. Then I started feeling giddy and laughed uncontrollably. I had no idea the brownies were spiked with MJ. When I realized what happened after the effect wore off, I got scared. That was the first and the last time I ever tried Maryjane.

Ah, kids will always want to try everything.

P.S. - Eric, in the bottom pic, what are those being sold along with the leaves? Roots?

September 17, 2008 4:06 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Since it's still legal in most parts of the States, Mimi, I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone had already shipped some seeds to the Philippines even for personal consumption.

September 17, 2008 7:56 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My pleasure, TOF!

September 17, 2008 7:58 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'm fine, thanks, Photo Cache. How are you?

Especially with the prices of medicine beyond the reach of many local folks, going herbal may be an effective alternative. I agree with you!

September 17, 2008 8:01 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

A friend of mine in NY was heavy into his writings, Bernadette. And although he wasn't into getting high himself, he used to go on solitary hiking/camping trips. His most treasured trip was on New Year's Eve, camping alone in the midst of white snow, and meditating as he welcomed the new year.

There were some peyotes that reached NYC also at that time.

Nicolas Cage happens to be one of my favorite actors mainly because of his penchant for off-beat roles. Anyway, haven't seen that movie but would love to.

September 17, 2008 8:13 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Mario! We'd be wiser to explore the healing effects of these herbs and root crops :)

September 17, 2008 8:14 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Only because I see how my mother goes about using it to alleviate the itch she sometimes suffers from, Dominic.

I am indeed surprised that there is not any book yet with a detailed listing of all these herbs and plants and how-to guide in terms of using them for certain ailments.

September 17, 2008 8:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Whoa! Is that right, Ka Tony? I never knew this before. Wish I had back then so I could've told my friends and then watch them bug out as I sang them the song.

To this day I was wondering why they called it a "roach." Now I do. Thank you!

September 17, 2008 8:18 PM  

Anonymous dave said...

Señor, do you know that the "magic mushroom" could be used to induce visions about 2012? sample

September 17, 2008 8:19 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And of course, Sidney, the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (LSD). That was right after the time Bob Dylan turned them on to some weed during their stay at the Plaza Hotel in NYC. And then subsequently, they began experimenting with LSD, which transformed their music much to critical acclaim.

September 17, 2008 8:22 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks much, El Cineasta! But I don't think they work with a Mac?

September 17, 2008 8:23 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Tina! Tawas is good to get that dark stain on the elbows.

My pleasure!

September 17, 2008 8:24 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Be grateful it was LSD that they'd lace the brownies with Rhoda. Serious!

Truth be told, I'm not sure. There should be a picture booklet about these herbal stuff, don't you agree? I just get embarrassed to ask these women all those questions because some of them aren't really knowledgeable about what those things are good for, how they're prepared, and etc.

September 17, 2008 8:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's true, Ka Tony. I remember when my Pilipino and Spanish teachers were so anal about all those, which only made learning those languages even more debilitating.

By the way, Pilipino is no easy subject matter. I always had a tough time with in in school.

September 17, 2008 8:31 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"Señor, do you know that the "magic mushroom" could be used to induce visions about 2012?"

What, Dave? Are you serious?

Unable to connect to the site right now. Will check again later.

Back during my much younger days, those magic mushrooms that my friend used to show me not only smelled bad but it also tasted just as bad that was why they had to mix it with sugar like a milk shake almost just so he could take it. I never dabbled with it, though.

Hope Ka Tony reads your comment and checks out also the site you shared.

Thanks, Dave!

September 17, 2008 8:39 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

I've read 'bout salvia some months ago, when it hugged the headlines momentarily. CNN even had a special report on this, and it was indeed as legal as candy in many states in America while it had been reported to be as a cause for some teenage deaths there.

I wonder to myself if salvia is that same stuff that a character in one of my favorite reads "Even Cowgirl get The Blues", where a shaman there kept on smoking some sort of weed for ritual purposes.

And American Indians I think used marijuana in their rites and ceremonies. I wonder if this is true at all.

September 18, 2008 6:42 AM  

OpenID bw said...

very informative post Eric. Looks like the plant world has truly amazing resources to give to mankind. Imagine in the olden days people relied solely on herbs to cure all their ailments. There are still many wonders to be discovered from plants !

September 18, 2008 7:22 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Yung unang litrato sa itaas, napansin ko ka-agad yung "Pampa-regla" na nasa lapad na bote. Mayroon din siguro niyang nasa long neck na bote ano!

Base sa pambukas isip ni Ka Tonying tungkol sa kantang "La Cucaracha", tama nga pala yung kapampangan naming kapitbahay nuon, "Ipis" ang tawag sa amin dahil mahaba ang mga buhok namin. Sabi pa nga niya minsan ng mahuli niya kaming nagpa-pasahan ng water(bong)pipe..."Hay naku, ang mga "Ipis" nag-iitit na naman sila ng mariwana!

September 18, 2008 11:03 AM  

Anonymous El Cineasta said...

Hi Ka Tony,

It was purely a suggestion though. No pun intended. I am just sharing. That's it. :)

This is the problem with discussions in writing. No emotions. What you say can be misconstrued.


El Cineasta

September 18, 2008 2:35 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Correction on my response to Rhoda's comment:

"Be grateful it was LSD that they'd lace the brownies with Rhoda."

It should be:

Be grateful it wasn't LSD ...


September 19, 2008 8:06 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Now I'm guessing, Major Tom, that it would be magic mushrooms or peyote that character might be using. That is because, when that book came out, salvia was not at all known by friends who dabbled in mind altering drugs. They were mostly into magic mushrooms.

Personally, I was grateful for having already started exploring Zen and its practice of meditation and karate at that time; hence, felt no need to experiment with LSD or peyote as many New York kids at that time were doing.

One of the proponents of Zen in America, Alan Watts, a scholar and philosopher, experimented with LSD and likened the mind altering effects of which to having achieved "satori" while in Zen meditation. So my friends and I would get into endless chatter about Zen and their choice of drugs ... hehehe.

I must also give credit to these New York-born and -raised friends for not pressuring me to experiment with whatever stuff they may be into.

As soon as they sensed my discomfort with something, they were always nice enough not to tease about it or further egg me into it. They were extremely cool and intellectual kids whom I was fortunate enough to have met and bonded with.

A sad note, though: One of our friends, who was attending Columbia University at that time, was committed by his parents to a psychiatric hospital for good when he started experiencing intense delusional bouts brought about by his excessive use of LSD. We never heard from him since then.

September 19, 2008 8:34 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And come to think of it, BW, I bet we have enough medicinal plants growing abundantly in the Philippines. If only some of our rural folks could partner with leading pharmaceutical firms as suppliers, it may very well turn out to be a lucrative alliance for all concerned.

September 19, 2008 8:37 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

To pareng Pete: LOL!

Only you could come up with such hysterical observations talaga!

I really had no idea about this Mexican song and why those "things" were called roaches until Ka Tony came along ... hahaha!

Actually, I emailed an old buddy about it. Neither was he aware of it. He had a good laugh about it :)

Now the bong ....

Oh, well next time na lang at masakit na naman tiyan ko sa kakatawa.

Maraming salamat, Pete!

September 19, 2008 8:42 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

"Dis is olso nat releyted tu da sabgek wi ar diskasing hir.
Ay em alweys not rayting Ispanis in da raiyt wey! Beri sori dat ay em alweys in a hari tu rayt, dat ay mayt porget important tings in may mayd ip ay palo ol di presing-presing on di kibord. Ay tink di aydiya or di meseyds is mor important dan haw tu rayt! ...di is tu may akording... he, he, he"

Oh no! El Cineasta,

Walang problema, ako ang may problema! Napakadami kasing mga ulat, mga sanaysay at mga bagay na nasasa aking utak na nais kong ilabas at isulat lahat sa pagsagot ko kay Eric. Lagi akong nagmamadali, bago mawalang parang bula sa matanda kong utak, kadalasan ay aking nalilimutan.

Sa kagustuhan ko na mailathala lahat ang aking mga naiisip na ayon sa ulat na ating ibinibida kay Eric, sa aking pagmamadali tuloy ang aking grammar, tense, spelling at kung ano-ano pa, ay mali-mali. Sa aking pag basa na muli at makita ang mga naisulat kong mali... ako'y tunay na hiyang-hiya at "asar" na "asar" sa aking sarili.

...sana puedeng mag "addendum" kaya lang paginawa ko ito, puro "addendum" na lang ang aking "comment" kay Eric ...he, he, he

ka tony

September 19, 2008 12:13 PM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Ka Peter,

alos indi hako makainga sa kakatawa sa hiyong kuwento!!! Tulad mo, hako rin hay madalas mauli ng haking Nanay na Kafangfangan sa haking pag itit ng "hipis" nohong hako'y ipis pa!!!

Yur di bes Ka Peter!!!

September 19, 2008 12:27 PM  

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Blogger rards said...

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July 23, 2009 9:19 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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