01 April 2005

The Old Betelnut Trick

In Tondo [a district of Manila in the Philippines], quite a few people raising fighting chicken, and it is their habit in the evening to take their fighting rooster out and gather around the street under the light where they talk and exchange experience how to raise fighting chicken. Sometimes a few of them would let their rooster fight, just like sparring (practice) and we kids use to gather around and watch the rooster fight.

One evening as usual this people are gather around sitting in circle petting their rooster while we kids, about six or seven of us, is standing outside the circle watching. Among the group there was an old man, oh, he's about 70 years old and toothless, sitting among the group in the circle. This old man always chew nganga (bitternut [= betelnut] leaves with lime mix together). Well, he cannot chew it as it come, so he got a bamboo pipe about 12 inches long and about 1 and ½ inches wide, and he got a long chisel knife very sharp at the end. He would put the nut and leaves inside the pipe, and would crush it with the chisel knife, and when it is crushed, he would tap the pipe on his palm, put it in his mouth and chew it.

Well, this evening as usual, he was very talkative telling which rooster is good, which rooster should be a winner. Well, two of the rooster owner decide to let their rooster practice, let them fight without knife, so they step in the middle of the circle and let their rooster loose. One was white and the other was red in color. While the rooster were circling around poised to fight, this old man with the bamboo pipe pulled the chisel out of the pipe, point it to one of the rooster, and shouted, "Sa pula ako, sa pula, sa pula," meaning, "I am for the red, for the red, for the red," at the same time he was holding his pipe high by his side. One of the kid who was standing behind the old man, I notice he drop something inside the bamboo pipe. I was not far from this kid, so I saw it but the old man didn't notice it. He was too busy watching the fighting chicken and keep shouting and cheering the red rooster. After a few moment the fellows pick up their rooster and the practice is over. So the old man resume his business, put his chisel in the bamboo pipe, and start crushing the nut and leaves while talking and laughing with the groups. While he was talking he tap his bamboo pipe in his palm, while he was saying, "I tell you that red is very good, I'll bet on that red any time, that red is good," and at the same time he put his nganga in his mouth and he says, "That red ... phew, phew," he says, "sa lintic sa lintic" (meaning, "The hell, the hell ...") and he start spitting his chew out. The fellows were surprise, and ask, "What happened man, what's wrong?" "Sa lintic," he says, "Sa lintic. Some body put lot chile pepper in my nganga. Sa lintic." By that time we were already away from the old man. We were afraid he might start swinging with that sharp chisel and, instead, he stood up and start walking for home still mumbling, "Sa lintic, phew, sa lintic," and when he is gone the fellows start laughing, some rolling on the ground, laughing like mad.
SOURCE: Tomorrow's Memories: A Diary, 1924-1928, by Angeles Monrayo (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2003), pp. 208-209

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