Wednesday, July 6, 2011


BETEL NUT (pugua') chewing has been part of Chamorro culture for thousands of years.  Archaeologists have dug up the bones of our ancestors and guess what they found on the skulls - pugua' stains on the teeth.

Chewing pugua' is in keeping with our Austronesian origins.  Chewing betel nut is found all across Southeast Asia and many islands of the western Pacific. 

Closer to home, only the Chamorros, Palauans, Yapese and certain islands in Yap State but linguistically closer to Chuuk chew betel nut.  Typically, the Chamorros alone, in Micronesia, prefer the hard nut (pugua' mahettok) while all other Micronesians prefer the young, soft nut (pugua' manñaña').  All betel nut chewing Micronesians traditionally add the pepper leaf (pupulu) and lime (åfok).  Many add chewing tobacco as well (amåska).

Up in Saipan, the presence, for nearly 200 years, of descendants of Carolinian islanders from Woleai, Eauripik, Satawal and other islands in Yap State, but linguistically closer to Chuuk, brought the chewing of pugua' manñaña' to Saipan.  Chamorros in Saipan adopted the Carolinian custom of chewing young betel nut, though many still prefer the hard nut and even a few Carolinians like to chew the hard nut, too.  Variety is the spice of life.

The Carolinian woman in this video shows us how to chew the pugua' manñaña'.  Putting all the ingredients together is called "ma templa." 

Incidentally, she speaks all three languages of modern-day Saipan : English, Chamorro and her own mother tongue, Carolinian, or Refaluwasch in their own language.  In Refaluwasch, pugua' is pu; åfok is bwesch; pupulu is walawal.  My Refaluwasch friends, please excuse the possible bad spelling.  I don't have my Carolinian Dictionary handy at the moment.  Dispensa, aa?!?

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