Tracking the evolution of Pinoy kids’ games

Pinoy games
'Jump the Knife' by Filipino painter Vicente Manansala depicts luksong tinik, a typical jumping game played by Pinoy kids.

There are lots of sources — sites on the Internet, books, articles in print — about traditional games played by children (and even adults, usually in a family setting) in the Philippines.

But what I’m really interested in is not in making a compendium of them. (Although that, in itself, is a great project even if others have already done it.)

My focus of interest is semi-historical: how these games have evolved through generations, and how they may continue to evolve in this age of virtual reality, digital games, and couch-potato sports.

But of course I couldn’t do all that in a single blog post, no! I simply want to plant the idea in your mind, dear reader, so you could perhaps help me do it, or do it on your own (and hopefully we can link blogs). What I can do on this blog piece is to do a very rapid review of what I can find on the Internet, and share it with you with some quickie observations of my own.

Ok, here goes:

1. Traditional Games in the Philippines.

This is the Wikipedia entry on the subject, and lists a total of 39 games with their corresponding rules or at least description. A cursory browsing of the games, however, shows that some of the games are mere variants of a more basic set. Let me mention a few of the games listed there:

  • patintero – this seems to be the most popular game hereabouts; it appears there’s even an official set of rules for patintero at the Palarong Pinoy website.
  • tumbang preso
  • tsato – my childhood favorite, which we called siato
  • agawan-base – another childhood favorite, although the rules described in the Wikipedia entry are too complex and all messed-up (the entry itself sorely needs editing!)

2. Games by Native Children in the Philippines.

This is a PDF file posted on the website of the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council, which apparently has been undertaking social research in the Philippines as part of its missionary (congregational?) work. The PDF file has very detailed rules on:

  • patintero
  • chinelas lata (which appears the same as tumbang preso)
  • tumba bahay (first time I read about this)
  • shakay (softball played with slippers and feet)
  • siatong (which I know as siato)
  • slipper manikin (this is new to me)
  • chackgudo (this is new to me)

In the material, I see no indication of when and where the game descriptions were compiled. Folk games have a tendency to vary over place and time, so it would be good if researchers indicate the area and year of their study, and if possible their informants. This is serious anthropological stuff, people!

3. Mga Larong Pilipino at the Northern Illinois University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies website.

The site lists 17 games, with general descriptions or detailed rules, except for sipa (I wonder why they didn’t include the rules for sipa? Maybe because it has been taken over by the official sepak takraw borrowed from Malaysia?) Some of the more detailed ones:

  • agawang sulok
  • bulong-pari
  • piko (this has the most detailed rules of the game I have found so far)

I wonder why sungka is not even listed among the games? Maybe because it has very complex rules? Methinks sungka needs a separate blog post. The same applies to certain other “games” that are actually children’s variants of serious adult-age sports or martial arts, such as espadahan and touch-ball.

And while we’re at it, somebody should document all those cute verses that Pinoy kids chant while negotiating elaborate hand-clap routines. Verses such as “Nanay, tatay, gusto ko’ng tinapay, ate, kuya, gusto ko’ng kape!” These verses evolve too, sometimes much more quickly than the rules of the games they are supposed to facilitate. For example, do kids today still chant, “Judo, karate, samurai Cavite…!” Or “Amy, Susie and Tessie, Romeo, Juancho and Jose Mari…!” And if so, do they have any inkling of how these chants came about in the first place? (Clue: “Amy, Susie, Tessie” was a 1959 Pinoy movie hit. Three cheers to anyone who could provide us a Youtube link not to the movie, but to the popular hand-clapping kids’ chant that it spawned.)

Note: I found a nice site that documents precisely these handclap chants, but in the Western (specifically American) cultural setting. I couldn’t find a similar site in a Filipino setting, but perhaps I haven’t searched long enough yet. Anyway, here’s a sample of what I’m talking about, two girls playing Mailman, mailman, taken from Youtube:

Wait! I’ve found a few YouTube clips of Pinoy kids (teeners actually) playing “Nanay Tatay.” Here’s my favorite pick, not because it was shot professionally, but because it candidly captures the immensely fun ambience of the game. Take note that the kids have a laptop on the bed, and of course a digital video camera (or at least cellphone with cam) that could upload the clip onto the Internet. But they choose to have fun with the hand-clapping game anyway, recording it for posterity. There is hope yet:

And this:

One other side-topic that needs to be explored is the persistence of institutions, organizations, websites, and other group efforts that are all focused on documenting and popularizing the practice of native Pinoy games.  This certainly needs a separate blog post.

Who knows? Young Pinoy patintero enthusiasts might push the envelope further and codify all the local variations of the game’s rules, and thus achieve an important evolutionary step towards making patintero the next native game to make it to the Palarong Pambansa, or perhaps even to the Asian Games.

So there. Next time your kid shows (or expresses) extreme boredom or even symptoms of juvenile malaise during the long hours of summer, or if you’ve just about had it with their faces glued to the computer or TV or game device screen, try to interest them in the kind of games that their lolos and lolas played. Even if, in the process, they might ask their nanay, tatay for tinapay and their ate, kuya for kape. #


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