Issue of January 7, 2018

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Man chokes to death due to ‘momma’
by Ofelia C. Empian

An otherwise harmless chewing of areca nut (momma) turned deadly when a man from Apayao accidentally choked on the nut last week.

In the report of the Police Regional Officer-Cordillera, the victim was identified as 23-year-old Jomarie David Chica from Barangay Capagaypayan in Luna.

Investigation revealed that at 10 a.m. of Jan. 2, the victim’s partner said Chica suddenly lost consciousness while chewing areca nut. He was immediately brought to the Far North Luzon General Hospital and Training Center at Barangay Quirino.

Attending physician, Donnel Rivera, pronounced Chica dead on arrival.

The physician reported that the victim died due to mechanical obstruction in the upper airway.

Chewing of momma is an age-old practice not only in the Cordillera but also in other indigenous communities in the country, particularly the south, and other parts of the world. It is reported to be the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world, used by 10 to 25 percent of the world population.

The nut is the fruit of the areca palm (areca catechu). It is chewed together with a leaf of the betel piper vine (piper betel) from which the name comes. The nut is cut into segments, dabbed with lime (which is ground and burnt sea-shell), mixed with some water or oil, and wrapped in a leaf to form a quid, the chewing of which produces blood-red spittle.

Though the chewing of momma is customary in nature, several health officials warn the public against the practice due to its threat on oral health.

According to the Department of Health, longtime chewing of momma causes oral cancer, fibrosis of the mouth, causes stiff jaw and may cause stiff neck.

It is noted that four out of 10 male patients in the regional health unit use momma.

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