Betel chewing Tausug in Basilan

Categories Food
Betel leaf, a quarter of areca nut and tobacco.

Tausug man showing off his tongue reddened by the betel leaf+areca nut+tobacco concotion
I was rushing along a narrow alley beside the passenger port terminal of Isabela City in Basilan, on my way to the small platform serving as a wharf where one can take a motorized pumpboat for Malamawi Island and its beautiful white sand beach.

But just when I was to arrive at that place, I came into a mini store where some men were talking. I would’ve passed by quickly but seeing that one was rolling a leaf with something in it, I got curious. And asked if it was nga-nga (for betel nut chewing). And he answered yes, smiling, and glancing at my camera.

Betel nut chewing is Asia wide and in the Philippines, its found from north to south and in many tribes. In Banaue, I tried this one with lime but no tobacco and children even start chewing. In areas where betel chewing is a habit and a tradition, it is common to see some areas in the ground colored red with spit reddened by the concoction.

A purse specifically for the chewing paraphernalia
The usual ingredients in betel chewing are the betel leaf, a kind of piper vine; areca nut, from the areca palm but usually called the betel nut, and, traditionally, lime derived from burning shells. This is what I saw in Banaue and in other parts of Northern Luzon. But the one in Isabela City, the Tausug man didn’t add any lime (apog) but just a piece of tobacco.

Rolling the betel leaf for chewing
Once crushed and combined in the mouth, these ingredients produces some chemicals that has addictive properties. With the addition of tobacco, the chewer will get the nicotine effect which is a heightened narcotic effect than just chewing without the tobacco.

The Tausug man offered me some but due to time constraint, I had to decline but offered to photograph him. He obliged.

Ang Langyaw’s trip made possible by√ā¬†Airphilexpress, the fastest growing budget airline in the Philippines!

I'm a Travel and Architecture photographer, blogger and writer based in Cebu, the Philippines.

A true blue Cebuano, I make stunning images and meaningful stories. My work has been published in various coffee table books as well as local and international publications including Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London), done photo assignments for Mabuhay and written posts in Smile.

My personal Photography work has been exhibited around Asia and Europe including Paris in France, Germany, The Netherlands, South Korea, China and around the ASEAN regional capitals.

I am a peripatetic traveler and have been to all 81 Philippine provinces and abroad.

Check out my portfolio site at StanCabigas.

3 thoughts on “Betel chewing Tausug in Basilan

  1. guess this is a good alternative when one needs a nicotine fix…no harm done to the lungs. ingenious Filipinos!

  2. estancabigas says:

    Betel chewing is Asia wide. Unfortunately, there are chemicals in the mixture that are carcinogens and betel chewing can be a source of oral cancer.

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