I never tried chewing betel (known here in Baguio City as “moma”), although I’ve been offered the nuts many times as a “substitute” for cigarettes.  Moma, they say, is “healthier than tobacco,” is a better stimulant than caffeine, and is “100% natural.”

   Now I’ll be the first to admit that smoking is disgusting, but I find myself revolted by the idea of chewing something up and spitting it out on road gutters, be it chewing gum or moma.  Many of Baguio’s sidewalks are tainted with red dried-up saliva.  Those not familiar with the sight of chewed-up betel nuts would think that a fetus has been murdered on the curb, or that a diseased wretch has spit on the concrete.  Spitting chewed-up betel nuts is a different story, though: it looks like a tubercular person is coughing out phlegm.

   I am told that saliva can carry communicable airborne diseases: viruses and bacteria don’t die from exposure.  They float around the air and find bodies to attach to and wreak havoc upon the immune system or something.  I don’t know if betel can be swallowed, but I think there’s no better way to dispose of it than to ingest it and worry about poisoning later.

   Vice: to each his own.