Traditional games, toys, and other similar objects used for recreational activities are part of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Philippines. These are created and decorated from simple to intricate for the entertainment of all ages.
“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 is also an avenue to develop their skills in preparation for competitive sports and other everyday situations such as the role-playing game called lutu-lutuan or cooking game, which is often played together with the bahay-bahayan or family role-playing game.
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.
Another recreational activity popular among Filipino children is the spinning top. Different groups 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.
Sungka or sungka-sungkaan is a the two-player, turn-based traditional board game enjoyed by both children and adults. The sungka set contains two parts: the board, usually made of wood, with 14 small cup-shaped pits and two bigger pits on either end; and the playing pieces or counters in the form of cowrie shells, pebbles, marbles or seeds.
Aside from games, the most common and indispensable source of enjoyment in many ethnolinguistic communities is the consumption of betel and tobacco. Betel chew or mamá usually consists of about a quarter of areca nut (Areca catechu), buyo or piper betel leaf (Piper betle), a bit of lime (apog), and tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). While they are usually kept for personal consumption, they are also offered to extend a gesture of friendship, to establish rapport with visiting guests, or to seek assistance from the deities during ceremonial rituals. The importance of betel chewing is evident through the small portable containers that were specifically made for the ingredients of the mamá. Some are made of wood with carvings the while more luxurious containers are made of brass with intricate designs and usually have separate compartments for the lime and other ingredients.