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Different Larong Pinoy | Filipino Cultural Heritage and Pride

Larong Pinoy: Sipa | Filipino Cultural Heritage and Pride


SIPA


Summer is here! Why not take a break from the internet and sweat away the heat, while safely playing traditional games with your family at home? 


Larong Pinoy have become symbols of our cultural heritage and pride. “Laro” is the Filipino term referring to all forms of recreational play. These games commonly use indigenous or locally available materials and instruments. Play is one of the great ways to help children learn social customs and values. It also an avenue to develop skills in preparation for competitive participation in sports and other everyday situations. 


One of the most popular Philippine traditional games is sipa. The term “sipa” refers to the game itself, the object being hit, and the act of hitting. This game tests the agility, speed, and control of the players, who use their feet, knees, elbows, or hands to continuously hit the sipa before it touches the ground. It is a game of stamina, either played individually or in teams.


One version of sipa entails the players to form into a circle, and keep the ball in the air for as long as possible by kicking it back and forth. The player with the highest number of successful returns is declared the winner. During the American period, the game was modified, wherein two teams kick the ball back and forth using the heel and side of their feet over a stretched net like in volleyball. In some Muslim groups, players compete against each other by kicking the ball into a basket in the same manner as in basketball.


Three common types of materials are used for sipa: the shuttlecock-like flat lead washers with a flyer made of colored strips of plastic straw or cellophane; a bundle of rubber bands; and a handwoven rattan ball. The latter is specifically used in the traditional game and entertainment among the Maranao nobility during special gatherings. Called “kasipa sa manggis”, it is played in the lama (yard) of the torogan (Maranao royal house). 


A group of male players kicks the ball, aiming at the small boxes hanging from the manggis, a bamboo pole with a three-layered net-like rectangular structure at its peak and decorated with flags. The player who hits a box and makes it fall on the ground wins. Likewise, the kasipa involves competition among princes from other sultanates—whoever kicks the sipa high enough to enter the lamin (room of the sultan’s daughter) through the window is chosen as the princess’ partner. This practice is also mentioned in the Maranao epic, Darangen. 


A rattan ball is also used to play the sport native to Southeast Asia, known as “sepak takraw”. It is coined from the Malay word for kick (sepak) and Thai word for woven rattan ball (takraw). A sports event in the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games, the match is played in a court between two opposing regu (teams), each consisting of two or three players, who hit the ball back and forth using only their feet, knees, and heads over a net. In the Philippines, this traditional sport is part of the primary and secondary school curriculum. During the annual sportsfest of the #NationalMuseumPH every October, sipa is one of the games played for the Palarong Pinoy. 


Try playing sipa at home to stay fit and agile during the Enhanced Community Quarantine, and you might just get a kick out of it.



Trumpo or Turumpo

Trumpo or Turumpo Larong Pinoy

Another recreational activity popular among Filipino children—the spinning top locally known as bowwot/bawwot (Ifugao), agngan/singgan (Isneg), kasing (Molbog), pansil/pasil (Batak and Tagbanua), betig (Maranao and Maguindanao), and trumpo/turumpo (Tagalog/Filipino). 


The conical section on the lower portion of the top has a metal point at the center where the player twirls the meter-long string from the tip to half of its body to make it spin when thrown on flat ground. One end of the string has a single knot or a “tansan” (metal bottle cap) to hold the top between the middle and index fingers. The string should be wound tightly around the top before quickly releasing it to increase the momentum that will keep the top in motion.


Two types of wood are traditionally used to make the top: softwood is used for recreation while hardwood is used for competitions. Different groups in the National Ethnographic Collection, namely the Batak, Hanunuo, Ifugao, Isneg, Maranao, Maguindanao, Molbog, Tagalog, Tagbanua, and Pala’wan, have wooden tops in varying shapes, sizes and embellishments. The Maranao of Lanao del Sur has the largest tops, with some made of brass or wood and inlaid with silver or mother-of-pearl. The form of their spinning tops suggests that it might have been influenced by other Islamic communities in Southeast Asia. 


Spinning tops became widespread across cultures through trade. Playing with the top involves keeping the top spinning for a long period or inflicting damage to the opponent’s top. The player whose top has recorded the longest time of spinning or with the least damage wins the match. Another way of playing it is by displacing an opponent’s top from a small square drawn on the ground by striking it with one’s top. Players can also display their skill by throwing the top in the air and catching it on their palms while it spins. 


The Filipino’s ways of spinning and striking of tops have similarities with those practiced by other neighboring Southeast Asian countries. In Malaysia, “gasing” (top spinning) is considered a mainstream sport. In Brunei, a spinning tournament is annually held in celebration of the Sultan’s birthday and as part of the Borneo Games. 


Don’t miss out on another excuse for a fun family bonding activity at home. May the best top win!



Sungka or sungka-sungkaan

Larong Pinoy Sungka or sungka-sungkaan


The sungka set contains two parts: the board (sungkaan in Tagalog, tidora/ sungkalian/ sungkahan in Maranao, kunggit in Bisaya), usually made of wood with 14 small cup-shaped pits (home base or bahay) and two bigger pits on either end (head or ulo); and the playing pieces or counters (pamato), in the form of cowrie shells (sigay/ kigay), pebbles, marbles or seeds. 


Seven small home bases, running parallel across the board with seven playing pieces placed in each, are lined up for each player. The player who collects more counters in the head wins the game. The rules of sungka may vary but a general one is followed, as seen in this short video produced by Mindhaven School Inc. in Capiz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_AaVnx-StQ



PH - Sungka Sungkaan (Traditional Game) - Video courtesy of SEAMEO-SPAFA and Midhaven School Inc.


Among the Tagalog, the sungkaan is usually carved in a boat-like shape piece of wood, and is sometimes used as a home decor. For the Maranaos in Lanao del Sur, the liyamin (princess) plays the sungka with her manga ragas (ladies) in the lamin (tower chamber). The board usually has intricate engravings and carvings, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and with sarimanok motifs. Unlike the usual boards in sungka, the tidora of the Maranaos has 16 holes for the bahay.


Sungka is also similar to an ancient game believed to have originated in Egypt called Mankalah (mancala in Arabic, meaning “to move”), wherein boards are carved from stone, clay or wood. This board game is traditionally played by women, and is popular in Southeast Asia particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. In Indonesia, this game is called congka (from the old Malay term congak, meaning “mental calculation”) and mostly played by royal families, women and children. 


The tidora of the Maranao is on display at the “Faith, Tradition and Place: Bangsamoro Art from the National Ethnographic Collection” exhibit at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila, and may be also be accessed online at http://pamana.ph/ncr/manila/NMA360.html


Many among the younger generation are no longer familiar with this game due to the rise of online games. It is time to dust off your boards, revive this traditional game and bond with your family while keeping safe at home.



Sipa, Patsa at Kadang-Kadang


This video shows the traditional games (tradisyunal na laro) of the Badjao people. 





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Text by and poster by NMP Ethnology Division

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)





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