Gayuma: Love in a Bottle
by Anne Vecin
Everyone needs a little love, and some people are willing to trust in the forces of nature and magic in order to seduce the object of their desire. Many ethnic groups in the Philippines believe that certain herbs, roots, leaves, flowers, and oils have an aphrodisiac effect, and by mixing them will produce potent libations that aid them in their conquest for love. These love potions have a counterpart term in the many languages of the Filipino. Gayuma to the Tagalogs, tagi-amo or tagi-ruot to the Ilocanos, taga-amo to the Pangasinenses, lomay to Cebuanos, and likit among the Warays, to mention a few. And each cultural minority have their own terms as well: imod to the Ifugaos, pamanglo to the Mangyans, panghilas to the Tausugs, katao to the Maranaos, kabibi to the Bagobos, and limbut to the Tirurays.
Among the more popular types of love potions are those made from the roots of rare plants mixed with coconut oil. The mixture produces foam, which must be rubbed on the skin of the woman the man wishes to ensnare. The potion may also be in the form of a drink, such as the Maranao katao, the main ingredient of which is the doka tontoi, a kind of gum extracted from a plant that is known to grow only in the forbidden sanctuaries of the Lanao jungles, which the Maranaos claim as their ancestral domain.
Another form of katao is the curious mixture of powdered mice and bits of a girl’s nails and hair used by women. Thrown into the food of the heartthrob, she is sure to catch his eye and be enamored by her.
The pamanglo, which the Mangyans cannot do without during courtship, is a strap of leathery objects worn as an armband. With unquestioned efficacy, it is said to hit more often than it misses.
The Tausugs boast of their most famous love potion, the panghilas. Another is the panghinang-hinang.
Perhaps the most intriguing love potion of the Tausugs is the palmaris since the women are those who avail of it. But then, the Maranaos have their katao. In both potions, women make the move.
Although the ingredients of the concoction are picked from nature, love potions do not come cheap if procured from other sources. The effectiveness of a tagi-amo depends on its rarity, and this quality is directly proportional to its price.
Tagi-amo possessors are cautioned against its indiscriminate use, else they may find themselves in less than favorable situations. Mishandling the potion may result in premature marriage, or even death, should irate relatives decide to put matters into their own hands. Strong is the belief that the potency of a love charm is reduced if brought along at wakes and funerals.
It could be said that the use of love charms and potions stemmed from courtship once made tedious by strict parents. Lovesick men resorted to devising alternative ways in order to win their loved ones. But, in turn, parents became even more protective over their daughters who they fear may end up beguiled by love potions or charms.
But just a thought—using love charms and potions decreases the excitement and the thrill of courtship. Besides, if you spend all your time relying on a potion’s ‘effectiveness’ rather than becoming the best you can be, the love and attention you will receive will be nothing but a farce. Manipulation can never beget genuine love.
Source: Nid Anima. "Witchcraft: Filipino-Style". Omar Publications, 1978.