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Friday, November 09, 2007

Betel nut-flavored condoms, anyone?

By Frank Cimatu
Northern Luzon Bureau - Philippine Daily Inquirer
Last updated 07:38pm (Mla time) 11/07/2007

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- The market has chocolate, strawberry, mint, banana and even durian. But are people ready for moma-flavored condoms?

Moma, also known as nga-nga in the Tagalog region, is a mixture of betel nut, leaves, tobacco and lime chewed by Ifugaos and many other people in tropical countries. But will people accept that as a flavor for condoms?

"It's possible. But right now, moma-chewing is prohibited in Ifugao," said Roy Dimayuga, the Ifugao coordinator of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and a delegate to the recent 4th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights held in Hyderabad, India.

India recently came out with condoms flavored with paan, which is a blend of betel, tobacco and spices.

The paan-flavored condoms, manufactured by the Family Health International and Hindustan Latex Ltd., are now being distributed among sex workers in Mumbai.

Paan-flavored condoms were passed among the Indian conference delegates last week.

A delegate representing an Indian health non-government organization said paan is popular in northern India and the paan-flavored condom is meant to attract clients to use it.

In Malaysia, durian-flavored condoms are the rage and in China, sweet corn condoms were recently introduced.

In Ifugao, Dimayuga said the preferred flavor among couples is still strawberry.

"But let's see if moma condoms will become popular," he said.

In September, the Lagawe government curtailed the residents' "freedom of spit" by restricting the chewing of moma and spitting its red juice in public places.

Those caught chewing and spitting are fined P50 for the first and second offenses and P250 for the third offense as well as an order to sweep the streets and to clean the walls of stains caused by the red spittle.

Moma chewing, however, has been the practice in Ifugao for centuries and is said to help Ifugaos fight vertigo or nausea and increase appetite.

Dimayuga said condoms are slowly being incorporated in the Ifugao culture as the province has passed its own comprehensive reproductive health code.

Aurora is the first province in the country to adopt a reproductive health code.

The reproductive health code of Ifugao calls for contraceptive self-reliance of the local government, among other things.

Dimayuga said Tinoc, Lagawe and the tourist town of Banaue are the three pilot sites of UNFPA in Ifugao in promoting quality reproductive health to fight poverty.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has assailed the government's plan to use P1 billion for family planning programs, even if only a portion of this would be used to buy contraceptives.