Traditional Filipino Games are Alive in the Provinces


We were tireless, and we never felt any discomfort staying long hours under the burning sun.  Those golden summers of dreams: we’d run, hide, climb or swim the entire day.  Reluctantly heeding the frustrated voices of our mothers, we’d hurry home and eat a forgotten meal.  Growing up in the province in the 80s was never a chore.

There was barely a fat kid around back then. We moved around with an agility and endurance that would test the daily exercise regimen of a Crossfit athlete today.

The games were so simple back then.  We made gleeful use of whatever we had around; sticks for a game of shato (shatung), a thin stretch of rubber where boys get beat by girls badly in a game of Chinese garter, rocks, cans, slippers — you name it. Our imaginations were the only limit.  We had no need for electricity or batteries, and we surely didn’t have computers, ipads or the internet.  What we did have, unfailingly, was each other.

(Buy traditional toys online )


We love walking down memory lane, waxing nostalgic over days gone by.  But some do more than just reminisce.  They find ways to push back against the march of time, even though they fully know that one day all their efforts will still be swept under the rug.

Jovencio Ba-ay of Amlan, Negros Oriental continues an age-old traditional game that still gives enjoyment to the kids in his area.  He makes lut-hangs, or bamboo piston toy guns that use wet newspaper as “bullets” (oftentimes saliva is the choice of liquid to dampen the paper).

There are the craftsmen from the hills of Dauin who lovingly craft toys from indigenous natural materials like bamboo, wood and other completely renewable local sources.  The artisans who make them are imbued with a deep sense of wonder and fun that shines through in their products.

Now, just outside Dumaguete in the hills of Valencia is a curio shop and tourist stopover, Subida Souvenirs. Outside their store are several wheeled non-motorized rides made mostly of bamboo and wood which closely resemble scooters.  Visitors are invited to play with the ligiron, and many do, pushing off and rolling along the road.  In the olden times, these and other similar wagons or carts often served as haulers for small to midrange batches of cargo but now this bamboo cart has been transformed into a downhill racing game known to the locals as the Ligiron Challenge.  Subida Souvenirs sells the actual vehicles and they also make playthings that are faithful miniature counterparts as keepsakes.

All these efforts at pushback might be an attempt to lessen digital consumption among kids, or perhaps they simply seek to awaken the inner child.  One thing is for sure, though: it gives children large and small the chance to bask in the sun and retain a vital connection to a culture that binds us all as Filipinos.

Ligiron Jump
Valencia, Negros Oriental | A young man races and jumps his ligiron down a hill to a crowd ready to cheer if he lands clean.


More Photos of Downhill Ligiron Race 2017 |  Photos by Mike Alano



(Buy a Miniature Ligiron |  A traditional cart and now a downhill sport in one of the provinces of the Philippines)

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