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PIA Press Release

Implementation of Lagawe "moma" ordinance gains ground

by Dan B. Codamon

LAGAWE, Ifugao (23 February) -- The implementation of Ordinance Number 90 also known as the "Moma" Ordinance enacted by the Sangguniang Bayan here last October 2007 is finally gaining ground with the people complying with its rules and regulations.

The ordinance which was implemented last December after its approval by the Ifugao Sanguniang Panlalawigan prohibits the indiscriminate and wanton spitting of people after chewing betel nut or "moma" in the Ifugao dialect.

Chewing moma includes ingredients such as betel nut, betel leaf or areca, a white powder or lime made by burning edible shells and for others they add dried tobacco leaf for better taste and effect.

The chewing of moma produces red spittle which when expelled from the mouth and splattered around will stain anything it comes in contact with creating an ugly sight to the environment.

Moma chewing has been a part of the culture of the Ifugaos which is claimed to be very important in establishing closer social relations among the people but as the years go by more and more people became addicted to it that the indiscriminate and uncontrolled spitting is already causing a problem to the clean, green and sanitation programs of the whole province.

Prior to this municipal ordinance, there was a Provincial Ordinance that supposedly aims to regulate the chewing and spitting of moma but which was never implemented and adopted by the different municipalities of Ifugao.

It was only this capital town of Lagawe which dared to adopt the Provincial Ordinance and pioneered its implementation upon observing the menace and nuisance posed by the indiscriminate spitting of betel nut chewers to its clean and green and sanitation projects.

These observations can still be noted in many places of Ifugao such as in the surroundings of government buildings, schools, public markets, parking and waiting areas of passenger vehicles, in moving vehicles and other public places that present an unsanitary and ugly environment.

Nowadays, if you look around in the center town of Lagawe, you will no longer see a town painted in red which is a common sight in other municipalities and which they consider normal.

Many avid betel nut chewers justify that it is a better vice than smoking because it also strengthens the teeth, gives better appetite, provides good income to those supplying the ingredients but most of all it is also a good aphrodisiac for both men and women.

In fact, many people doubted the successful implementation of the ordinance since they believe that it is very difficult to stop or regulate a habit practiced by the people since time immemorial without restraint or interference to their "absolute freedom of spit".

Even in the websites, many Ifugaos circulated that the ordinance will be an exercise in futility and will meet stiff resistance since moma chewing and spitting anywhere is already an established custom of the Ifugaos never disturbed by anybody yet.

Despite all these, Lagawe Mayor Ceasario Cabbigat Jr. was undaunted to painstakingly pursue its implementation with his vision to achieve a clean, green, healthy and developed community which is at his helm.

He said that the implementation was really difficult because you will hurt the ego of many people but it is worth the challenge for at the end they will find that the ordinance is good for the community and can serve as an example for the other municipalities to follow.

Since its implementation, Mayor Cabbigat proved his critics wrong when people are now obeying the ordinance that you can no longer easily see a red stain splattered anywhere in the center town.

Asked how he accomplished this task, Mayor Cabbigat related that he began by massive information campaign and the posting of the ordinance in all the conspicuous places of the community to inform the people about it.

He also utilized the opportunity in every meeting or gathering to announce and disseminate the ordinance and in addition provided containers and other spittoons in the public places, waiting areas and along the road where moma chewers can dispose their excretion and for the violators the corresponding penalty.

At first, many people were defiant but sooner with the help of the police they came to realize and cooperated with the law that gave the signal to everyone to also obey the law.

In fact, there are already 98 people currently imposed the penalty of a fine of P50.00 for their first violation who are mostly visitors from other municipalities and other provinces. The proceeds form the fines will accrue to the municipal coffer for its clean, green and sanitation projects. (PIA Ifugao) [top]

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