Sungka -Traditional Filipino Game

Traditional Filipino Games

In today’s world of gadgets, kids has more exposure to smartphones, tablets, game consoles and laptops than face to face interaction with their age group. Back in the days, a child will spend hours and hours playing outside with other kids under the sun, beneath the dirt and rocks. Games back then are less complicated yet a lot of fun, and simply by using available materials around the area plus a load of imagination.

Growing up in the Philippines, my childhood games involves physical effort playing in the streets with the kids in the neighborhood. Those games are now #throwback but worthy of a look back and see what Filipino kids now a days are missing out. Below are some traditional Filipinos games played mostly outside and some during town fiestas.

  • Luksong Tinik (Jumping over “Thorns”)
Traditional Filipino Games: Luksong tinik
Luksong Tinik Digital Illustration by : Mattermost

Originated in Cabanatuan City, Philippines, played by two teams with equal numbers of players; each team designates a leader, the nanay (mother), while the rest of the players are called anak (children). The players chosen to be nanay are usually the ones who can jump the highest; the game involves players sitting on the ground and other players jumping over parts of their body.

Basically, you just jump over the feet of the 2 members of the other team, which are meant to be the “tinik (thorn)”, then one foot/hand of the 2 players sitting on the ground will be added after all players have jumped the 1st round and so on. Source:

  • Sungka (Mancala Game)
Sungka -Traditional Filipino Game
Sungka Game – Digital Illustration by : Mattermost

The oblong game board (sungka(h)an), which is usually carved in wood (e.g. mahogany), consists of two rows of seven small pits called “houses” (bahay). In addition, there is a large store known as “head” (ulo) or “mother” (inay) for the captured stones at either end of the board. A player owns the store to his left. Each small initially contains seven counters (sigay), usually cowrie shells.

Sungka was first described by the Jesuit priest Father José Sanchez in his dictionary of the Bisaya language (Cebuano) in 1692 [manuscript] as Kunggit. Father José Sanchez who had arrived on the Philippines in 1643 wrote that at the game was played with seashells on a wooden, boat-like. The Aklanon people still call the game Kunggit. José Sanchez (born Josef Zanzini [*1616-1692) in Trieste, Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) is known for founding the town of Jagna on Bohol, which is today famous for its rich historical heritage. Source:

  • Kadang-Kadang & Sangkayaw
Digital Illustration by : Mattermost
Kadang-kadang & Sangkayaw – Digital Illustration by : Mattermost

Primarily, kadang-kadang is a racing game. Kadang-Kadang, which is also known as Tiyakad in tagalong was first played in Cebu inthe year 1969. Kadang-kadang is a traditional Filipino game which is played during larong lahi or recreational activities. Kadang-kadang which also means “simple play” is an outdoor game that is played using a bamboo stilt. To play the kadang-kadang, you need a pair of bamboo poles with equal lengths and a stepladder of foot size to serve as the platform for the player’s feet. The bamboo has a height of 10 feet from the ground. But in the present era, Filipinos modified the height of the bamboos making it higher. Source:

Sangkayaw, also known as coconut shell race, is a traditional group game commonly played in Central Luzon and Tagalog provinces. It is similar to the game tiyakad, although the latter uses bamboo stilts instead of coconut shells.

This game involves the use of coconut shells which are tied to strings, with one end being held by the player’s hands. It requires two groups with 10 to 12 members each. On signal, the first player of each team walks towards the goal line using the coconut shells. The player returns to the starting line and then let the next player do the same.

The first team to finish the race wins while players who walk for more than 2 steps after a fall will be disqualified. Source:

  • Karera ng Gulong (Tire Race)
Filipino games
Karera ng gulong -Digital Illustration by: Mattermost

This game brings so much fun childhood memories, now, this game may not look totally traditional, but it does depicts Filipino kids’ fun resourceful mind. Using old car tires, split thinly and with a piece of stick to roll the tire, the fun race begins. The tire race does include and enhance balancing strategies and skills on how to keep the portion of the tire from rolling. 

  • Nanay Tatay (Hand Clapping Game)
Nanay Tatay -Digital Illustration by: Mattermost

A proof of Filipinos’ musicality and creativity thru a hand clapping game and a catchy tune “Nanay, Tatay”. This popular chant if translated literally is about asking for a piece of bread from your parents and bossing your siblings around. In a way it is a form of explaining some family dynamics thru a game. This hand clapping game is played by two people that includes counting towards the end of the game with a faster beat until one of the players misses the beat and count. The winner of the game can either pinch the loser’s ear or give a consequence.

  • Palo Sebo (Greased Pole)
  • Palo Sebo -Digital Illustration by: Mattermost

    Every town’s fiesta main game event, the “Palo Sebo” or Greased Pole. This game is mainly played by boys during a town fiesta or on special occasions.

    A long and straight bamboo poles are greased and polished  to make them smooth and slippery. Before the game begins, the poles are set upright, and a small bag containing the prize is tied at the tip of the pole. It usually contains money or toys. The contestants try to climb the poles to secure the prizes. To add more fun and to promote cooperation & team work, the game can be turned into a race between two teams consisted of 3-5 (or more) players for each team. To get the prize, the team will a do a human ladder to help the chosen player to get the prize faster by allowing him to step on his team member’s shoulder. Anyone who fails to reach the top is disqualified. The winner is the one who succeeds in reaching and untying the prize.


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    Con mucho amor,

    Imelda ❤️


    One thought on “Traditional Filipino Games

    1. I missed all these games…I will show my son if we ever come for vacations 🙂 thanks for putting all these, salamat! Mabuhay!

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