Collections Corner: Lotoan

December 11, 2020

Kara Patricia Locsin

The practice of chewing betel leaf and Areca sp. nut spiked with pounded lime is common in Southeast Asia, where it likely originated. In areas in Mindanao, southern Philippines, offering someone a chew equates to extending a hand in friendship. Containers for betel chew preparations served as part of male and female attire and continue to be regarded as important heirloom property. It was also used as bride wealth.

This is an unusually large lotoan, the main body of which is cast bronze with the entire body a latticework of ukkil except for the bottom of the box. This ceremonial box for betel chewing and tobacco preparation is equipped with cigarette holders and brass ashtrays shaped into birds. A cutter for the nuts, a mortar-and pestle set, and a spatula complete this fine example.

This object was exhibited at Ayala Museum’s Betelmania: The Art of the Chew (1999) and in Treasures at Ayala Museum (2002).

CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Peoples of the Philippines. Volume II. Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.
Kasaysayan: The Story of The Filipino People. Volume II: “The Early Filipinos.” Asia Publishing Co. Ltd., 1998.
Casino, G.E. et al. The People And Art Of The Philippines. Los Angeles: University of California, 1981.
Jocano, F. Landa. Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage. Quezon City: Punlad Research House, Inc., 1998.

Research by Kara Patricia Locsin . 2007
Photograph by Jaime Martinez . 2013
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