Friday, February 3, 2012

Moma Culture

Nganga palms in Batad
The streets of Banawe are marked red!
The 'bloody' moma stains
The evidence is clear that the people in Ifugao province still chew moma or betel nut. For one, immediately after going down the bus in Banawe town, you will find the street pavement heavily stained with reddish color.  Others might get frightened and mistake them for blood stain, but these are moma stains spat by the local people. 

In the Mountain provinces, moma is chewed not only by the elders but also by younger people.  They liken the sensation and the addiction to cigarette smoking. Moma in Ifugao is the basic betel nut mix of nganga (Areca cathecu) nut, piper leaves (Piper betel) and apog (lime).  

Wooden apog containers
Another relic found as evidence are traditional wood carvings used to contain the white lime.  I found a piece carved out of white alnus, which is an introduced lumber species from Japan.  But luckily I spotted a few made out of kamagong and some native hard woods. Even this art is a dying breed. These carved lime containers are slowly being replaced by lighter plastic containers.  The wood carved ones might become scarce like the different native wood which they use to carve these items from.  

Nganga is common in the rice terraces
But the most obvious is the presence of the betel nut palm or nganga growing abundantly in and around Banawe town proper and Batad. The slender palm is a very attractive species to grow solitary or in a small clump. It is a predictable plant to see especially in communities which still have a strong culture of betel nut chewing.  

The culture of moma is alive and well in the mountain provinces!

No comments: