Most of what many Filipinos regard as traditional backyard games of their culture are actually just derivations from or variations of foreign games, which were handed down to the Philippine culture some generations ago, especially during foreign occupation in certain eras of the Filipino homeland.
Here are some of them.
Holen – as the toy, holen is simply the Filipino version of what is known as glass marbles, those little balls made of glass with colorful or flowery designs inside. As a game though, holen, the mechanics of holen as the traditional Filipino backyard game are based on a combination of playing billiards and golf.
This way of playing holen apparently reached the Filipino culture via the so-called American occupation of certain parts of the Philippines during post–World War 2, around the late 1940s. The Filipino word holen was derived from the phrase “hole in.” This pertained to with how those glass marbles may be played. A certain numbers of hole are dug into the backyard ground. The players will each take his turn in shooting his marble with the flick of his fingers, aiming to hole it into the first hole and then into the next until he fills in all the holes, completing a single cycle. Whoever finishes first a complete cycle is deemed the winner. “Hole in” is just one way of playing holen, but this proves to be one of the most popular; after all, that’s where the Filipino word originated in the first place.
Pikô – simply a Filipino variation of hopscotch, “a popular playground game in which players toss a small object into numbered triangles of a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground and then hop or jump through the spaces to retrieve the object.” In the Filipino version of it, the pattern is usually made of squares and rectangles on which the players hop or jump with one or both feet depending on whether the next pattern is a rectangle or two squares.
Sipà – another Filipino variation of a game that originated from another culture; it was a take on the Indonesian game called sepak takraw. Whereas in the Indonesian game a woven ball is the object of the game, in the Filipino version the object is made of “a washer with colorful threads, usually plastic straw, attached to it.” The simplest way of playing sipà involves each player’s throwing the object upwards for him to toss it using the inside portion of his foot or the part a bit above his knee or even the elbow, not allowing it to touch the ground by hitting it as many times as he can possibly manage. The player who was able to hit the object the most number of times wins the game.
Some more games that are worth mentioning include tumbang preso (hit the can), taguán (hide and seek), and luksong baka (variation of the leap frog).
The Last Leaf
In this aspect, perhaps nothing really came out of nothing. Cultural artifacts are often just derivations from other cultures or a combination of various ones.
Even the so-called Filipino traditional games were usually just variations of games from other cultures, adopted usually during the times when people from other countries had occupied or immigrated to the Philippines back some decades or centuries ago. What makes them Filipino are not really the games themselves, but rather frequently, the way such games are played—inevitably, there’s already a Filipino spin to them.
Thus, it’s okay to claim such games as culturally Filipino, but only to a certain extent. On the other hand, to claim that they are strictly Filipino is to be assuming and conceited about it—something that may be considered false national pride. So, the next time you want to teach such Filipino games to your children (in case you have children), be fair about it. Tell them that most, if not all, of these games were derived from other cultures, and that what makes them Filipino are often the ways they are being played.