Do the names of these traditional Filipino games: tumbang preso, patintero, piko and langit-lupa, ring a bell? If you were born after 1995, chances are…not really. Maybe you were still a baby or toddler when these games were at the height of popularity, played by (almost) every kid outside on the streets. Laro ng lahi or traditional games are important because they keep the cultural values of our ancestors alive.
It teaches kids how to cooperate, strategize, and make friends with neighbors within five minutes. It also encourages them to appreciate the outdoors, whether it be under the clear blue skies and grassy fields or under the dimly-lit street lights, preferably in an area without traffic.
Twenty years ago, we had no smartphones and mostly relied on bulky computers and first generation consoles. We had a few entertaining portable devices—such as the Tamagotchi and Nintendo Gameboy Color—to entertain ourselves with. No DoTA, no Mobile Legends, none of the games we can easily pick up and play on-the-go with multiple friends. It’s easy to guess why laro ng lahi was part of our everyday lives; we all came running to the playground to enjoy good ol’ fashioned fun, come recess or dismissal time.
So here’s a rundown of these native games so you can learn more about laro ng lahi and hopefully pass it down to the next gen.
Tumbang preso translates to “knock the prisoner down.” To play, a tin can is set upright on the ground inside a drawn circle. The goal is to knock down the can. The person tagged “it” or taya is required to protect the can from the others. When the can is knocked down, it’s the only time the others can retrieve their thrown slippers and be granted immunity. Being tagged ‘it’ keeps someone in the circle until the next prisoner.
AKA hopscotch. The game is simple and although more popular with the girls, boys like to play it too because you need jumping skills and lots of coordination. Using chalk, lines of boxes and numbers are drawn and all you have to do is hop across without stepping on the lines. The player uses a small marker or puck—mine was usually a Hello Kitty wallet or some stone—the player throws it and has to make sure it lands inside box number 1, then 2, and so on. You have hop across to box 10 while skipping across that box, then retrieve your puck as you head back.
Another game that centers on tagging people who will become ‘it’! The game divides players into two zones just as the name suggests: heaven and earth. Here’s the usual chant while players point at each other during each syllable:
“Langit, lupa, impyerno. Im-im-impyerno.
Saksak puso, tulo ang dugo.
Alis ka na diyan!”
The last syllable determines who’s “it.” The kids then scramble to find higher ground (trees, tables, whatnot) as earthlings cannot tag someone who’s in ‘heaven’. The catch: players can only stay “in heaven” for 10 seconds. They’ll need to go down to “earth” so the “it” can run and tag the next “it.” Fun!
The local version of the Spanish ‘greasy pole’, palo sebo is usually played during a fiesta or town event. All you need to do is reach the top of the greasy bamboo poles and retrieve a small bag at the top, usually containing money or small toys! You’d be surprised at how many children have zero fear of heights and are able to do this easily.
As the most widely played native game in the Philippines, patintero is well-loved by most communities. After a coin flip or quick round of jack en poy to determine the tagged ones or ‘it’, the objective is to pass a series of parallel lines and perpendicular lines. With two teams consisting of five players each.
The playing field (drawn with chalk) has a boxy shape, divided into three parts with a center wall going across it. Should you get tagged, you wait on the sidelines until the next round comes. Sound complicated? It’s anything but—you only need to be watchful and fast!
Literally translated into “kick”, playing sipa is a cool way to pass the time for both boys and girls. All you need is a small rattan ball and yourself. Boys kick the ball in front and girls kick behind the body, and try to keep it the air—amazingly, skilled players can do both. Filipinos don’t usually play this as a team sport although some sports committees in Indonesia and Malaysia are trying to make it one.
We hope you enjoyed a trip down memory lane and maybe, just maybe, revive these native games or modify it when playing with your family and neighbors! While laro ng lahi reconnects us with our Pinoy roots, the most important thing is to have fun, no matter your age. Anyone, kids or kids-at-heart can play. Try these out and let us know what you think in the comments!