Games Filipinos Play

Games Filipinos Play
Games, either by playing or by watching, is a form of entertainment in the Philippines. Games originating from other countries, including electronically aided games that got the interest of the Filipinos and offer high entertainment value are quickly adapted and become part of the culture.

In the Philippines, there are many outdoor and indoor games. Outdoor games can be grouped into casual games and celebration games played during town fiestas and large-crowd celebrations like birthdays. (Fiestas are usually a public celebration in honour of a saint or an observation of religious event wherein the whole community participates). Casual games are mostly played by children at neighbourhood streets which double as playground. Some of these games are:

1. Piko – closely similar to hopscotch.

2. Tumbang Preso (rough translation: down the prisoner) – Objective of the game: to topple the empty tin can placed in the middle guarded by a player who would run after the others to tag. The other players, standing at the other end, would try hitting the tin can with a piece of “tsinelas” (slipper or flip-flops) to topple it down. When someone strikes down the tin can, all would run to cross over the line avoiding the player-guard who before s/he could tag any of the players must bring the tin can to its original location in an upright position. If someone is tagged, then that player becomes the guard signaling another round of the game.

3. Chinese Garter – Players jump over a long, stretched piece of garter or twined rubber bands held at each end by two players. Level begins at the lowest, gradually increasing as the game progresses. Mostly played by girls, acrobatic skills are an advantage.

4. Teks – generally a boys’ game. Small playing cards, with comics inspired prints are traded by winning the game. Players would agree on number of cards for trading. Each player has his “pamato”, a card which when flipped into the air with the “pamato” of the other players must fall on the ground face up. The player who owns the winning “pamato” takes all the cards for trading. Not all parents favour this game as it could easily turn into a betting game, which is considered gambling in the Philippines.

5. Sipa – literally to kick. Using paper balloon or a washer with fringed paper, a player kicks this into the air and catch it with the foot before it falls on the ground. Player with the most number of successful repeated action wins. Sepak Takraw is a more complex variation of this game and has become part of sports competition among Southeast nations. This is played indoors or outdoors.

Games played during town fiestas are more physically gruelling and often require great stamina. Young and old alike may join, depending on their preference. Most popular are:

1. Palo Sebo – climbing a tall, polished bamboo pole applied with plenty of grease to make it slippery. A small flag or a pouch with the prize money is placed at the top. The player who successfully reaches the top and gets the small flag or pouch wins the game.

2. Pabitin – toys and money are tied into a hanging square rack of bamboo slats. Players would reach and grab a prize each time the rack is lowered down briefly. This goes on until all prizes were taken. This game is also popular in children’s birthday parties.

3. Hampas/Palo Palayok – (Hit the clay pot). A clay pot is filled with candies and/or coins. Blindfolded players take turns hitting the clay pot with a stick. Once the clay pot is broken, any one can gather as many coins and candies s/he could.

Sungka is the most popular indigenous indoor game, followed by Dyak (jack) en Poy. Sungka is played with a board called sungka-an or sungkahan. It is made of wood with seven pits on each side and a big pit on both its end The small pits are the bahay (houses) while the big pits serves as the home base of each player. Objective of the game is to finish off the opponent by demolishing all the houses referred to as sunog (house on fire). Sungka is a game of wits, using mathematical calculations and strategy.

Dyak en Poy can be played in an instant. Two players outwit each other by anticipating hand/finger signs the other would flash. A victory sign projected towards the other symbolizes scissors which defeats paper (open palm). A closed fist symbolizing a rock defeats scissors but losses to a paper. Variations could be added for as many as the players' imagination allow. Players must move/position fingers in quick succession. It is a fast, easy and fun game. For adults, popular are mah-jong, bingo and tong-its, a local card game.


Basketball is a category by itself. Filipinos have taken to this game like a fish to the water. It is phenomenal in its popularity. Street players on flip-flops would play this even in unlikely places as long as there is space to dribble and shoot the ball into a makeshift ring. No fiesta organizing committee is worth its salt if there is no basketball exhibit or contest included in the line-up of activities. Basketball tournaments by collegiate, university and professional basketball organizations are big crowd drawers. In any basketball event, partisanship is widespread and passion is high especially on championship games.

These are some of the games Filipinos love to play and watch. What are yours?

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