Issue of June 10, 2018
     
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Khalkhal

FROM THIS TERM original: Khalkhal and which means “that which is chewed”, stem its derived forms, to wit:

MAGALKHAL, meaning “chewer” or “one who chews – sometimes, often, each time, “etc. so: noun (doer), or adjective; Mangalkhal verb; “to chew” present and future; angalkhal, verb-past “chewed” and so on. Finally, Khalkhal alone or by – itself gives us: “the [-now, present] Art of

CHEWING.” OF WHAT? Answer: of the present flavour, ‘delicacy’, or favourite: the old bettlenut – with accompanying mixtures–the apog powder, tobacco, and the gawed leaves. All these equal to what the Ibalois of Southern Itogon call: Khalkhal and same as what the other tribes call: Momma (?).

MANGALKHAL KITO! IS an offer or invitation ‘to co-chew’ with the inviting one – “sometimes.. it can amount to an offer of friendship or warm acquaintance”, our Informants say.

IF THE INVITED one says: wen ah (yes, why not), the ‘ritual’ commences. Incidentally, the Khalkhal is a ‘help-yourself’ effort: you prepare your own ‘doses’ of the ingredients, then: you chew! [Khalkhal mo!] what you have ‘prepared’. Note: You cannot ask the inviting one to prepare your Khalkhal for you; he has his own Khalkhal to prepare. Besides, if you ask the inviting one to do it, he may be offended – like you’re tasking him ‘to serve’ you, or the equivalent. So,

AS YOU SMILE (or look) at each other cheerfully, you ‘both’ prepare your Khalkhal carefully, slowly, etc.; after which, you start chewing, after which further, you spice the ritual with some nice, light conversation or so.. until parting, or ‘splitting’ time. There

AN ACQUAINTANCE is struck, a friendship built, or even renewed – by the casual, unceremonial but serious ritual-processes of the Khalkhal!

* * * * * * * * * *

MY ‘FIRST’ ENCOUNTER with Khalkhal was back in the Undergrad years. I had classmates from Northern Ilocos who used to tell me: even their old folks chew betelnut(!) but further added: “though unlike the groups here, they do it with the betelnut only”.

THAT’S THE ONE that hooked my curiosity: bettlenut only(!), minus the apog powder, the gawed leaves, the tobacco ‘dose’ (how wide or big?).

IT SORT OF helped me – modesty aside – cast a ‘unique’ physical appearance in 1982 and thereabouts. I earned the compliment: “the only betelnut-chewing barangay captain” of rural Itogon.

[WAS I EVER criticized, envied, or disliked for that? I’m not sure now, but it all appeared to me like everybody was smiling – each time I responded acknowledgingly to the [then] ‘compliment’. What’s more:

[DEEP INSIDE ME, I was saying: “cheer me you should indeed; I am bannering an original tradition of all the Filipinos. Recall: the Spanish Chroniclers never failed to mention that “the Islanders (the early Filipinos of their time) had deep attachment to the betelnut xxx”]

WHEN I WAS taking my PH.D though, I slowed down the use or Practice of Khalkhal – we were mostly in the classrooms and in the libraries. Eventually, I stopped.. my own brand of Khalkhal i.e. chewing the nut, minus the other ingredients.

* * * * * * * * * *

NOW, IN SOUTHEASTERN Itogon where I often had the chance to talk with folks doing the Khalkhal, it appears that the trend or fad – Uso, of this style of chewing: the betelnut plus all the other ingredients i.e. tobacco, the apog, and the gawed, must have started ‘booming’, c. 2008-9.

ASIDE FROM THEIR usual reasoning that “we’re doing Khalkhal because the others started it, ‘impangdo ra eshan’, they also have the following additional factors; the Khalkhal they say:

1. Makes you feel [physiologically] good and comfortable – with peers, or even alone;

2. Is cheaper than cigarettes;

3. Is less dangerous to the health;

4. Is an all-season relaxer (note: not relaxant);

5. Brings you closer when done or shared with friends, neighbours, workmates; even with strangers;

YOU NEED A ‘Bridge’ to yourself, or with others, Khalkhal is just there around for you to try. Why not?

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