Home » » OLD IFUGAO TRADITIONS Our Past Time, Toys and the Games We Played “Hay at’at’ton mi ya Ay’ay’yam mi han’di” By Anderson Dulnuan Tuguinay

OLD IFUGAO TRADITIONS Our Past Time, Toys and the Games We Played “Hay at’at’ton mi ya Ay’ay’yam mi han’di” By Anderson Dulnuan Tuguinay

During earlier times in the Cordillera highlands of Ifugao, there were no playgrounds and parks where children could spend their leisure time playing.  There were no roads, bridges and schools then.   Only trails, the “payo” (rice fields) and “habal” (slash and burn agriculture) and the wilderness that are basic institutions for learning the basics of life.

Mun ba’nong

 Ha’bal or slash and burn agriculture


The space under the native house called “da-ulon” and the adjacent areas surrounding the house called “aldat-tan” are basically the first known playpen for children of all ages.  The numerous intersecting trails that lead to the vast wilderness serve as the extension for learning basic skills. 

Early Ifugao children have the “yok-ka” which is equivalent to the present day “children’s swing seat”.   “yok-ka” is a “tuwali” word for swinging to and fro in any suspended object, usually a vine or a “lituku” (rattan palm) clinging to a tree.    The player hangs and grasps firmly the suspended object with both hands, and from an elevated platform, pushes himself forward.  The player, after reaching the end of the pendulum, returns to the starting point.  The cycle goes on until external interference or drag brings it to a halt.   

Children always find leisure in catching dragon flies with the use of bird lime or “pu’-kot”.  With the use of a bolo (o’tak), a cut away is made on the bark of a jack fruit (ka’kaw) enabling the white sap to come out and become sticky.  The sticky residue which is the “pu’-kot” is gathered (litigon) by use of twigs or coconut midrib (ba-ing).  The “ba-ing” or twig with the “pu’-kot” on it is placed on the end of a mountain red (bi’la’u’) allowing a farther reach to the unsuspecting dragonfly   Out in the grassy area or rice paddy dikes, children go out to catch dragon flies.


Dragon flies are categorized  in the “tuwali” dialect as follows: “du’-u’-ti – small grey dragon flies; “bal-la-hang” – red and yellow colored dragon flies; “bug-gan” – orange colored dragon flies that stays stationary in midair for an indefinite time; the “bon-ngot” – medium size grey dragon flies and “bang’gu’luwan” the biggest giant dragon flies.   Children do not bother the strange looking damselflies that are found in springs with the belief that they are pets of unseen spirits and deities.

 Damsel fly 

Older children who baby sits (mun’a’dug) their younger siblings are also engaged in other leisure.  The “pan’ni’til” will be one of the numerous “traditional games” that is fitted for a “mun’a’dug”. “Pan’ni’til” is the “tuwali” word for entangle.  The game makes use of the flower of an endemic grass about two to three feet tall.  The flower looks like a round small lollipop which is a few centimeters in diameter.  It has a peduncle which is about one to three inches long.    It is green in color but becomes dull gray to black when mature.  This grass grows abundantly in the “aldat’tan”.  It is the flower that the children would gather to play the “pan’ni’til”.  The playing pair, holding the flower by the peduncle, entangles and locks the lollipop like heads and pull.   One of the flowers’ head would sever and fall.  One flower after another replaces the looser as the game continues.  Some children uses the “o’ban” in securing their subjects. The “o’ban” is a blanket or cloth that is used to strap or secure a baby in the care giver’s body.  The baby could be placed either in front or at the back.  

 Entangled lollipop look alike flowers for the pan’ni’til game
These are the three common beetles in the highlands of Ifugao that children play with.  The “abal-abal” or “salagubang in low lands; the “ang’gi’giya”,  brown beetle that lives underground and a metallic black or green  colored beetle that children call “ling’nga’ling”.  The “abal’abal” is gathered by shaking tree branches.  The “ang’gi’giya” is dug on the soft soil under tree trunks and banana plants and the rare “ling’nga’ling” is caught when it flies near you.  To play with these beetles, a string or thread is tied to the hind legs and let the insect fly while the child secures the string.   Children would also let the beetles engage in a pushing or pulling matches.  The wings are locked at the end of a bamboo stick with splits.    Beetles locked facing each other would go for a pushing match while locked opposite each other would go for a pulling match.


                         Abal’abal                                                                                             ling’nga’ling                                                                                                                            

During those earlier days, children copied from low land children, two spiders (ka’kaw’wa) pitted against each other on a coconut midrib held by the hand of the players.  The spiders engage each other until one falls off the coconut midrib.  The spider who falls from the coconut midrib is the looser while the one that remained is the winner.  

  Ka’kaw’wa (spider)

Out in the “pa-yo”(rice fields), children would gather fish, shells, crustaceans and other edible things.   “Tuwali” folks call this “mang’dut”.  The gathered things are placed in a bamboo node container called “al-la-win” tied around the hip of the gatherer. A hand held fish trap called “kat-tad” is used by early Ifugaos to catch mud fish (dolog).   The “kat-tad” has opened ends, however the base (approx 2 ft in diameter) is larger than the top (approx 1.75  ft in diameter).  It is made up of bamboo strips fastened by rattan cords on bamboo rings, one in the base, middle and on the top.  The “kat’tad” is carried by one hand and placed down in the paddy floor at random.   When the “kat’tad” has a catch, the stunned fish will bump the walls giving a jerking sensation, thus implying a catch.   With one hand, the fish is caught   and brought out through the top end.  



Another fish trap endemic to early Ifugaos is the “gu’bu”.   It is made up of spited bamboo and fastened up by rattan strips.  It is cylindrical in shape and more or less feet long.  It is about five to six inches to one foot in diameter depending on the maker.  It has an opened end secured with a bamboo node which allows the catch to be removed.  It has a small round opening not bigger than an inch.  Pointed bamboo strips are positioned inward in the opening to prevent catch fishes from getting out.   “Bu-bud” or refuse from the fermented rice in making rice wine (ba’ya) is placed inside the fish trap as bait.  It is submerged in the rice paddies with the open end a few centimeters above the mud.  The “gu’bu” is intended for the “yu’yu” (tuwali) 


 Another method of catching the “yu’yu” is by the use of the “dol’ak” (tuwali) or particular vines and tree barks that forces out the stunned “yu’yu” to surface.  Said vines and barks are taken in the forest, beaten to pulp and submerged in water opening that goes into the intended field.  Water carries the sap of the vine into the entire field.  As soon as the “yu’yu” surfaces, it is gathered.  Entry of additional fresh water would dilute the water to enable the stunned fish to recover.  The vine is not toxic to human.  

 Rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water are other places where children learn basic native crafts.  

“Mun-halop” is a “tuwali” word signifying a method of catching fish in brooks and rivers using the method used in the rice field “gu’bu”.   The opening of the trap however is placed towards the flow of the water.  The targeted fish is the small “ug’ga’diw” (less than an inch long) which has the nature of following the water upstream.   The fish trap is basically made up bamboo nodes.  Splits are made on one end making it possible to be expanded like a funnel by use of rattan twines.  The other open end is the base which is secured by another bamboo node which could be removed when getting the catch.  The size and length varies depending on where the fish trap is emplaced.  This trap is also emplaced against the flow of water on dikes and brooks.   Fishes crabs and crustaceans that go with the flow of water are caught in the trap.  “Ma’mun’wit” is catching fish through the use of fish hooks and line.  The earthworm and frogs are used as bait on this method.   Fresh water crabs is the main ingredient In the “bi’nayu an pu’hun di ba’lat”, one of the native delicacy of earlier folks.  The freshwater crabs are wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment for three days.  By the time the crabs are brought out, it has a disagreeable odor.  Needless, the hard shell is removed.  The softer and crunchy parts are mixed in prepared banana blossoms through pounding on native mortar (lu’hung) until it turns into paste.  Catching fresh water crabs is a pastime for children. The crabs are caught either with bare hands in crevices of the rocks or catching them at night as these nocturnal crustaceans come out from their hiding places.  Early folks uses torch made up of dried bamboo or reeds.  

As soon as a boy could buckle up a bolo, joins his elders trekking the wilderness.  On these occasions, basic native skills are taught by the elders.   In a short while, children being familiar with the terrain, go on by themselves, basically to gather firewood (ma’nga’iw) and to gather edible plants to be served as side dish. 

 Balang’bang fruit
With the aid of small but tenacious native dogs, boys go in groups to hunt in the forest.  Tuwali folks call this “mun-a’nup” or basically hunting.  The dogs finding their prey, corner them in tree tops or areas where the game cannot escape until the hunter arrives and finishes or catches the game.  Hunting basically encompasses   learning the techniques of laying traps for birds and small animals.  “Mun-hu’lu” is using the “u’-nut” which is the sturdy black fibers taken from a palm that have natural beautiful trimmed leaves.  The black fibers are made into a loop that catches an unsuspecting bird that goes into the trap.  The “hu’lu” is placed strategically on birds’ trails (ho’bang).  It is also used to trap the monitor lizard (ban’niya) squirrels (amu’nin) and other smaller games, although the material used for the tap is the “u’-we” or customized rattan thongs.   Another type of bird trap using the “u’nut” is the “ka’tig”.  It is a series of loops arranged up in a tree branch where an unsuspecting birds is trapped when it lands to feed on fruits.   The “ap’pad” and “li’ngon” are also bird traps using bent bamboo or tree branches that spring up when triggered by an unsuspecting bird.    While the two traps are same in principle, the “ap’pad”  is laid on the ground while the “li’ngon” is constructed above the ground.   Using the bird lime (pu’kot) is another method of catching birds.  The birdlime is made from the sap of endemic trees like the “pa-kak” (bread fruit), alimit, to’bak and many other sap producing trees.  By making a cut on the bark, the sap flows out into a bamboo node prepared for the purpose.   The gathered sap is heated until it reaches the correct viscosity.  It is placed on twigs where an unsuspecting bird that lands is caught.   The “liyok” or winged termite is used as the bait.  Early folks use the “bi’tu” to catch larger game like the boar or the deer.  A “bi’tu” is basically a hole dug on the ground, covered and camouflaged.  An unsuspecting animal that passes on the trap falls into the hole.  Sharp bamboo spikes or “hu-ga” in the Tuwali dialect are planted in the hole to further immobilize the catch.  Ifugao folks gather the “al-laga” or edible red ants that build their homes up in the tree tops for food. 
Ifugao Amu’nin

The “lat’tik” or “pal’si’it” in the “Iocano dialect” (sling shot) came about.  This is no less than a strip of rubber fixed to a Y-shaped branch and customized leather scavenged from worn out shoes that serves as the pouch for the projectile.  Small stones, preferably smooth and round ones, are used as projectiles.  Holding the Y-frame with one hand and stretching the rubber strip with another with a stone in the pouch and releasing it to a target, makes the “lat’tik” a potent toy.  The “lat’tik” which is normally found looped around children’s neck is a handy tool for hunting.  


“Ahi-ani” or harvest season in the “tuwali” dialect is the season when the palay is harvested.  This season usually takes place every June to July.

Ahi a’ni (harvest)


Harvested Palay Sheaf (nab’tok an Pa’ge)

 Mun ba’ta’wil

Mun ba’ta’wil

Customary Ho’nga’n di Pa’ge Ritual during harvest season

 Ti’ngab containing the bu’ga (black stones) nd pa’lipal (bamboo clapper as paraphernalia for the bu’lul

Bu’lul – Ifugao granary deity
 As part of the preparation “Tuwali” farmers prepare the “botok” or bundling cord for the “pa-ge” (harvested “palay” sheaf).    The “pun-botok” (bundling cord) is a specially prepared bamboo strips measuring approximately 1/4 of a centimeter thick, a centimeter in width and about a foot in length or the length of the inter-node suggests the length of the bundling cord.   The choice of material is the wild bamboo variety called “a’no”.  This wild bamboo variety climbs up and dominates portions of the forest floor or forms a thicket on brooks and small waterways.  Choice stems are gathered and cut by inter-node.  It is sliced lengthwise into four.   The inner soft part of the culm is removed.   The maker who is usually in a squatting position or sitting in a “dalapong” (one-piece stool about six inches tall),  firmly grasps one end while carefully stripping the “botok” piece by piece with the use of a sharp knife.  This taxing process is called “mangul’yun” in the tuwali dialect. The maker occasionally shift his stripping on the other side until what remains is a pentagon shape  with a tail.  This is called the “pa’to”.  Children would gather the “pa’to” and use it as a dart in a competing thrown distance.  The “pa’to” is thrown by holding the end of the tail and spinning it overhead or above the shoulder.  It is released forward with the tail acting as the balance.   
Another variation of this distance throwing game is the use of the “ug’gub”.    The “ug’gub” is the young shoot of a mountain reed (bila-u’).  Before the “ug’gub” is thrown, the player holds it by this fingers to where it balanced.   Then bending back the elbow, jerks it briskly forward releasing the dart.   It could also be thrown similar to the throwing of a spear. 
The traditional “Bak-le” or rice festival, marks that the end of the harvest season (ahi-ani) and the “kiwang” season is at hand.  

 Pounding the rice with the customary 3 pounders during the bakle fetival.

 As women folks participate in the rice pounding

 The customary bakle rituals

After the “tungo” (customary day of idleness) is over, farmers start cleaning the rice fields for vegetable plating. Weeds, grasses and rice stalks that are left after the harvest are cut and piled in a mound in the watered rice field. Tuwali folks call this “ping-kol”.   The mound is about two feet high and more or less two feet in diameter to be planted with variety of vegetables. During earlier times, no organic fertilizer or insecticide of any kind is used on the planted vegetable. 

 Kiwang season

  Only in Ifugao – the traditional Ping’kol
It is at this time of season that children mimic the primary chores of a farming village - playing with miniature rice fields.  With bare hands, children carve out from the mud miniature rice fields.  Plants, tadpoles and other aquatic creatures are gathered and added to the miniature rice fields.   When the children are tired of playing with their play rice fields, later inundate it.  Amid cheering and jests, children watch how the water released from a nearby body of water utterly wash out their miniature play things.  It is from this type of children’s merriment that is told in a portion of the “bukad di tumitib”.  American writer Roy F Barton translated a part of the “baki” on one of his books relating how “Ballitok, son of Ma’I’ngit from the “kabun’yan” (sky world), played “miniature rice fields” with the sons of Ambalit’tayon.
The rice fields become shining crystals with scattered dots in a distance.  It is during this season in the rice cultivation cycle that children have the chance of playing  in the vast terraced rice fields.  From the endemic bamboo, children would made variety of toys.  The “pug’ik”.   This native toy is made up from the bamboo variety called “u’go”.  That particular bamboo variety has thin stem walls.  Choice materials for this toy are internodes which is about two to three inches in diameter.  From the prepared inter node, one of the end is open but leaving the other end with its diaphragm intact.  With the use of s sharp pointed knife, a small hole is carefully bored in the center of the diaphragm.  A stick which is about 5 inches longer than the prepared bamboo inter-node is made.  Stripes of old clothes or soft tree barks  are secured in the end of the stick which is fitted into the open end of the toy.  The toy is submerged in the water to enable the strips of clothes be saturated with water enabling it to fit snugly inside the inter node.  When the closed end of toy is dipped in the water and the stick pulled back, it siphons water.  The toy is raised up, pushing the stick forward thereby compressing the water.  Water gushes or sprout out from the hole reaching several meters forward.  “Naban’nu’uy in Imbungyaw”, is the scene of those unforgettable moments of my childhood when we play the “pug’ik”.  . We would run after one another each with his “pug’ik” sprouting water at each other.   We would eventually wet ourselves playing with the native toy.  At times we would stumble and muddied ourselves but it would be one of the best days we always look ahead”. 

The “bul’did” is another toy that traces its existence to earlier times.  It is equivalent to the present day modern dart.  The toy is simply a bamboo node with open ends.  It has a diameter of approximately one to 2 centimeters.  The stem walls are preferred to be thin. The projectile or bullet is loaded inside the toy and putting the toy in between the lips, is blown vigorously to propel the bullet. Mongo seeds are commonly used.  Rice grains could also be used, but have to be surreptitious to avoid being admonished. With a bigger tube diameter, the “kabba’ung” fruit that looks like beads could be used as projectiles.  A child who expertly plays with the “buldid” puts a handful of projectiles inside his mouth and with the use of his tongue, manipulates the loading of the bullets inside the tube and alternately blows into the tube to discharge the projectile.  Depending on the weight of the projectile and the force of the blow, it reaches several meters and at times could cause injury.
The “buduk’kan” is another toy invented by the early Ifugao children.  It is made up from the bamboo variety which has a small stem cavity (approximately 1 – 2 cm) but with thick stem walls.  There are two components for the toy.  One is an inter-node about more or less a foot long.  The diaphragms are removed to make the cavity open from end to end.  The other component is a shorter inter-node about four inches long with a sturdy bamboo stick stuck on the stem cavity.  The stick should fit in the stem cavity; likewise, its length should be shorter by an half an inch so that the second projectile would not be removed when it is pushed forward. During earlier times, wild fruits and tender coffee beans are used as projectile or sealant. When playing with the “buduk’kan”, the first projectile that serves as the first sealant is fitted into the stem cavity.  Using the other component with the stick, it is pushed forward to the far end of the toy.  Another projectile or sealant is emplaced like the first one.  Pushing it further would compress the air, thus producing the popping sound.  The compressed air propels the first sealant forward reaching several meters, the second sealant, taking place of the one that was propelled.  Another sealant is fed inside the tube, hence, repeating the same process.  With the availability of paper into the highlands, children discovered that saturating the paper could also be used as a sealant.  The paper is made into shapes and fitted into the stem cavity.   Using the component with the stick, the saturated paper is hammered to make a more fitted sealant.

Tops  are spun in an axis while balancing in a point as it rotates in a circular motion until the gyroscopic effect gradually lessen,  finally causing it to topple.  The “pad-di-ing”  is the earliest  type of top played by Ifugao children.  This indigenous top is made up from a spherical or round shaped fruit about an inch in diameter and a  bamboo stick about five inches long.  One end of the bamboo stick is sharpened.  The fruit is pierced in the center until the stick protrudes for about a few centimeters on the opposite side.  The protruding stick would serve as the point of axis. The toy is spun by clasping the stick with both hands and in a clock wise – counter-clockwise twisting motion, the toy is finally released with momentum enabling it to spin on its own.  The wild “lab-labong” or an immature pomelo/orange (tabuyug) is choice fruits for this toy.  
Lab’la’bong tree and fruit

The “Baw-wot” or native tops are endemic to Ifugao children since earlier times.  The native top is made from hard wood variety trees. It is pear shaped and exceptionally with a conical base.  A two inch nail is fitted in the base leaving approximately half an inch protruding to serve as the axis. The nail is sharpened to enable the top to spin smoothly (ma’di-ing).  A top with a blunt spin (mun-gal-ga-landok) spins into a pendulum and have s shorter time in spinning compared to a top which has a sharpened nail (axis).  It is normally played by tightening a cord (alittan) around the body, starting from the axis up.  The other end of the cord is looped in the player’s middle finger.  The conical tip of the toy should face up before throwing it and jerking it momentarily as the top is about to disengage from the cord.  While spinning on the ground, with the stroke of the point finger and middle finger would let the spinning top hop on the player’s palm. Tuwali children call this “tapay-ya-on” meaning letting the top jump and continue spinning on the player’s palm.  While the top is still spinning, the player with a tilts of his palm and with a jerking motion smash the spinning top to the group of tops placed inside the circle.  Ifugao children have an array of games using the native top.   The most common is gathering all the tops in the center of a drawn circle.  The player after lacing his top, smashes it into the gathered tops.  While the top is in full spin, the player let the top jump in his palm and smashes the spinning top to his target.  Tops thrown out from the circle are returned to be target in the next round of game.  Only the tops that had not been thrown out in the circle are removed to join the player on deck.  Prior to the start of the game, players determine their sequence.  This is done by targeting a dot drawn on the ground.  The distance of one’s top from the drawn dot manifests their sequence in playing. Another variety of top game is using the string (alittan) to loop the top.  It is looped in such a manner that it resembles a medieval flail with the nail pointed towards a right angle.  The player squats or kneels facing the target,  his strong hand holding “alittan”   from the desired length.  With a calculated aim, smashes the top into his target.  The force would break and splinter tops.  Other tops that are made of soft  wood would break into two, considering them losers.  At the end of the game, almost all tops are dilapidated, signaling the kids to start making another new top.  To enhance the color of the top, it is buried beneath the decaying grass and mud in the rice field for a couple of days to make it black.  This method is called “inil-bog” in the Tuwali dialect.  This particular toy is immortalized in one of the passages in the “baki” ritual, “bukad di tumitib”.  It is in this occasion that Bal-lituk, son or Ma’ingit of the sky world and grandson of Amtalao of Kiyyangan played tops with the children of Ambalittayon.  In the “bukad’ (part of oral tradition in a ritual), it relates how Amtalao gave to his grandson, “Bal’lituk” his top made up from the core of a “galiw-giwon” tree and how Bal’lituk was too much (na’ma’hig) to his opponents in the game of tops. 

Mun’ba’baw’wot (game of tops)

Early Ifugao practices animism.  They believe in the existence of deities and numerous supernatural beings.  They also worship the spirit of their dead ancestors and departed loved ones.    This is done through the performance of rituals by the “mun’baki” or native priests.  Aged old oral traditions of the Ifugaos called “baki” based from the Ifugao Mythology are invoked in the ritual.

The chicken, pig or water buffalo (carabao) are the common choice of animals to be offered depending on the ritual to be performed.  The pig’s bladder is a priced material for a toy ball during earlier times.  Tuwali folks call it “kabu’ut”.   After the prognosis is announced, the carcass is chopped into pieces.  A waiting child is nearby to claim the “kabu’ut”.  Air is puffed immediately inside the “kabu’ut”.  The opening is tied securely as to prevent the air from escaping.  After a few minutes of air drying, comes a ball.  This ancient tradition, it is not only practiced by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, but the early Ifugaos as well. 

 The Ifugaos are known as one of the tenacious headhunters of Northern Luzon. 

  Head hunting victim

Another Head hunting victim

It was only through the governance by the Americans in the Cordillera that the practice gradually came to an end.  

A child by nature learns the art of spearing which is basically the fatal blow before a head is severed during head hunting expeditions.  Spear replica made up from reeds, shrubs and tree branches are thrown to a banana stalk as an imaginary target.  As a game, children would take turn in throwing his toy spear on the designated target.   

The “upak di moma” (betel nut fronds) is another indigenous play thing among the children.  This particular part of the areca palm, by nature disengages when it matures thereby giving new fronds to replace the fallen one.  When fresh, the sheathing base is soft and smooth.  A mature betel nut frond is normally a foot wide and about 3 to 4 feet in length.     It is this fallen frond that the children gather to be used as a toy in the “gigin-nuyud”. This word literally comes from the word “guyud” meaning to pull.   It is the leathery soft portion of the frond where the rider compact himself by sitting and putting his foot together and holding the stripe with both hands.  The other child, who is the puller, pulls the stripe forward and moves around.  At times, there could be two or more puller enabling the native toy to be towed faster.  Likewise, two to three small children could also compact themselves inside the frond, grasping the other riders by the waist.   Only the front rider holds securely in the stripe.  There are instances when the toy would overturn as it hit a bulge in the ground sending the riders tumbling on the ground or every player gets wet and muddy when playing on a rainy day. 
 Mo’ma, dong’la in the rice fields
The “ak-kad”  (hand held stilts) is another indigenous Ifugao toy.  It is made from two straight poles of hard wood variety trees.  It is more or less six feet in length depending on the user.  It is exceptionally bigger in the base (approx 2 – 3 inches in diameter) and decreases gradually to the top.  A piece of wood is fixed securely at approximately two feet from the base.  This  serves as the foot support.   Smaller children and beginners usually mount from a platform to enable them to have an easier access to the foot support and balance.  When mounted, the stilter balances himself as he holds the upper end of the pole while synchronizing his foot, hand and body movement.  Seasoned stilters can negotiate the rice paddy dikes and narrow trails without much ado. 
Early Ifugaos have their own games of strength. “Bul’tung” or Ifugao native wrestling is primarily a method of settling boundary disputes on adjacent rice fields and inherited lands.   In the course of the wrestling match, to where the victor throws and immobilizes the looser would be the new boundary for the disputed property.   It is however played by young boys and older men alike as a game of proving ones prowess.  This is played by two opponents. The competitors wearing only the native g-string wrestles each other until one is pinned and immobilized to the ground.    Starting position on this game is holding the opponent by the g-string.  The belligerents grapple each other until one falls and is immobilized.  

 “Hin’nukting” is derived from the “tuwali” word “huk’ting” meaning to bump.   This game of strength is played by two or more players.  The players bend one of his legs towards the buttocks and holding it steadily by the arm.  A right bended leg must be held by the left hand or vice versa. The other free arm must not dangle but must stay steady at the midriff area.   It is however the option of the player if he holds on to his g-string or shirt to enable his free arm not to dangle.  The player limps with his free leg and balances himself as he poised forward to engage his opponents.  This is done by pushing or bumping using the shoulders and forearm.  A player who stumbles or falls looses and automatically leaves the arena.  A player who loses his grip on the bended legs is also a looser.   The game initially starts with several players unless it would be a matching game for two players.  On the course of the game, players who stumble or loses his hold on his bended knees automatically leaves the matching arena until only one player remains as the winner.

Another version of the “Hin’nukting” is played by players grouped by twos.  One of the players straddles at the back of his partner and wrap his arms just above the shoulder and stretches his legs forward.  The stretched legs are held by firmly and use it to bump and knock down his opponents.  A player looses the game if he stumbles or fall, loses his hold on the straddled player or a straddled player loses his hold on his partner.  

Another variation of hin’nuk’ting
Sang’gul  (arm wrestling) is another game of strength. This particular sport is played by two players. Each participant places one arm, either the right or left, on a surface.  The player face his opponent with bent elbows and touching the surface.  One version of this sport is that the competitors start the game by griping each other's hand.  Another version of this is that the participants engage his opponent by interlocking the forearm.  Upon the go signal of a referee, each participant puts his force on the other until the arm of the opponent is pinned in the surface with the winner's arm over the loser's arm. 



“Dulhi” or middle finger wrestling is another game of strength.  This game is participated by two individuals who engages his opponent by gripping each other’s middle finger as the elbow is set on a flat surface.  Upon the start signal, the participants grip the middle finger of his opponent and put his force on the other until the loser is pinned on the surface. The mechanics of this sport is similar to the “sangul”.

Spanish rule in the Philippines starts with the establishment of the first Spanish settlement in Cebu by Lopez de Legazpi on 13 February 1565 and ended when Spain seceded her colonies to America on 25 August 1898.  

During the three century period rule of Spain in the Philippines, the highlands of Ifugao remained free from foreign bondage even after the establishment of the Spanish mission in Kiangan in 1892.   In spite of the Spanish presence, the Ifugao natives continued unhampered in their way of life, customs and traditions.  


 Mun’ah’hud hi ba’yu (two pounders)

No schools were established during that era, with the exception of a few who are taught to read and write by Spanish missionaries Juan Villaverde and Julian Malumbres.  In 1904, American soldiers introduced the first formal learning classes in Kiangan.

Other schools were opened in other areas of the Cordillera, such as this in Benguet.

With the Americans in control not only the whole cordillera but Ifugao as well, travel to not only to adjacent villages but to neighboring provinces was made safer.  

As a result, new games were introduced and borrowed. “Tag games” were introduced.  This involves a player chasing other players in an attempt to tag or touch them with the fingers.    The one chasing the other players is called “mang’-nge” in the “tuwali” children’s dialect.  It is equivalent to the “it” in the English language.  The players usually makes an elimination process who would be the “mang’-nge”, otherwise the last player to join the group automatically becomes the “it”.  The player who is being chased, try to avoid the tag as it would make him the next “mang’-nge” in the succeeding game. Other “Tag and Touch” games have the “home base”.  It is a pre-designated area, or a prominent feature in the vicinity where the players are safe from being tagged.  The base could be a line or circle drawn to the ground.  It is also the place where a tagged player may outwit the “it” by running ahead to the base after being tagged,  thus making him free from being the next “it”.  

Inside “abung” (Ifugao Native house), a child who is blindfolded with the use of old clothes, goes after his playmates.  The other children run about in the four cornered native house to avoiding being tagged.  With shirks and laughter, the “mang-nge” would eventually be able to tag one of the playmates who will eventually be the “it” in the succeeding game.

During the 1960’s, one would not miss the massive rectangular granite table under the avocado trees fronting the old Kiangan Central School building.  It is to the right, just after negotiating the stone stairs.  The granite table, which is more or less two meters long, a meter wide and a foot thick is placed atop two perpendicular stone slabs.   It is the favorite playpen for children before the bell rings for children to line up for classes.   Children would climb atop the stone table to play their variation in the “tag game”.  The “it” or “mang-nge” would go under the stone table and emerge suddenly on the left or right sides trying to tag the feet of anyone up in the stone table.  Children in the stone table would shriek and laugh while moving to the safe area to avoid the tag.  Some would fall as a result of the sudden surge of the children on a corner.  When a “tag” is made, the one who was tagged gleefully replaces the “it” who joins the other children atop the granite table.  The process goes on until the bell rings for classes or time for the pupils to go home. 

The “ball tag” is one of the variations of “tag” games.  It is another popular game among children.  It is basically called a “ball tag” since a thrown ball is used to tag players.   Two teams play this game, the playing team and the opposing team.  There is no limit in the number of players.  The playing team position themselves inside of the playing field while the opposing team positions themselves at the far ends of the playing field.  The game starts when the tag ball is thrown to the playing team.  The players do their best in avoiding the thrown ball, otherwise, will be obliged to leave the playing field when hit.  As the thrown ball reaches the other end, the playing team runs to the opposite side to maintain a safe distance from the opposing team who will throw the tag ball at random.  The game continues until all the players are eliminated.  This automatically makes the opposing team the playing team and vice versa.  During summer, the playing ground is elaborately marked with charcoal or at times a line is etched on the ground.
“Pin’nung’pung” is the traditional “hide and seek” children’s game in English. It is a game wherein the players conceal themselves in the environment, and to be found by the lone "seeker" who is the “mang’nge”. The home base is usually a landmark or prominent terrain feature.  It is the place where the seeker starts the game by leaning in the home base (wall, post, tree trunk) and burying his eyes in the back of his palm while counting.  After counting some numbers, the “mang’nge” shouts in a warning, “umali’yak” (I’m coming).  The player (hider) who has not concealed himself yet, answers, “in’dani” (just a moment).  The “it” repeats, “umali’yak” , several times and when no one answers, finally shouts, “umaliyak man mo” (I’m coming now).  The “it” leaves the home base and goes about seeking for the concealed players.  The “seeker” shouts, “pung” affixing the name of the player who was compromised and makes a dash to the home base, tagging it and shouting “save”.  The “seeker” continues looking for all the other players until everyone is accounted.  A “hider” who had been compromised could outwit the “it” by running ahead and tagging the home base it before the “it” makes a tag.  This special situation makes the “it” still the “it” in the repletion of the game.  The only way to reverse the status of the “it” is to successfully locate all the players and tagging the home base ahead before any player could make a tag.  In this situation, the first “hider” to be compromised automatically becomes the “mang’nge” in the succeeding game. 

 “Pi’pin’nal’lat’tug” is a variation of the “hide and seek” game.  Children playing this game are divided into two groups, each with a leader who selects the members.  The players, upon the start of the game, scamper to their respective “start” areas and blend with the environment.  Then move cautiously towards the direction of the opposing team to locate and compromise them. The player, who sees an an opposing player, shouts the traditional “pung” and affixing the name of the one compromised (i.e. – pung, Dumayyahon).  The one, who was compromised, automatically comes out in the open and announces his status.  All players who are compromised proceeds to the base area.  After everyone is accounted for, the succeeding game starts with the swapping of start area.  This game is played as a war game and in the absence or scarcity of toy guns during earlier times, the children uses indigenous native materials as replica, depending on the user’s imagination.  
The banana plant or “ba’lat” in the “tuwali” dialect is the largest herb flowering plant that grows 6 to 7.6 meters tall depending on the variety. The banana produces a single bunch of fruit and slowly decomposes after harvest. Several offshoots however grow from the plant which replaces the former plant. It is through the resourcefulness of early natives by diverting the flow of water with the use of the banana stem sheaths to make instant water showers.  This is called the “tud’de in the “tuwali” dialect. Through the ingenuity of children, variety of play things is made from the fallen banana trunk.   The “bal’bal’le” (play house) is primarily made up from materials taken from the banana.   After the basic structure of a play house is made in place, banana stem sheaths are laid for the roof.   Inter-lapping the stem sheaths enables the roof to be resistant from the rain and sunlight. Another set of banana sheaths are placed for the walls.  Covering the ground with banana leaves makes a perfect cool play pen where children spend the rest of the day cooking and playing.    Banana leaves could also be used for the roofing and walls of a play house.  The children organized themselves as   members of the family such as father, mother and children.  Customarily, the eldest boy and girl shall act as the father and mother respectively.  Younger children represent other members of the family and are sent for errands. Food, water and other necessities are normally foraged from homes of the players.  Cooking food and other house chores are mimicked inside the playhouse.  The frolic of playing “bal-bal-le” would at times last until dusk until parents come looking for the children.  From the banana core (bu’ngol), children will fashion the body of a four wheel vehicle.  The round banana core is cut diagonally for the wheels while the axle is made up from reeds or twigs.  It is fastened on the body by twigs.  When everything is ready, a twine is tied securely on the toy truck.   Children would line up, each towing his toy.  Round and round in the neighborhood, the toy trucks would be towed, unmindful of the time passage.

A rubber band is made up from rubber and latex.  It comes in the shape of a loop and in different colors.  It is typically used to bind objects.  With the appearance of the rubber band in the high lands, children used it in varieties games.   Tuwali children call it “kal’lat”.   Under the Ifugao native house (da’ulon), children would play “ti’tin’nuduk hi kal’lat”.   “Ti’tin’nuduk” literally comes from the borrowed Ilocano word “tu’duk” meaning to penetrate or pierce an object.   It is synonymous to the “tuwali” word “tu’wik” but the game was never called “tu’tu’wik”.  With an equal amount of rubber band from each participant, one of the players, burry it inside the dust or soil gathered into a mound.   Then one after the other, each player, with the use of a coconut midrib or “ba’ing, pierces or penetrates the mound for the hidden rubber band.  Rubber bands that are caught by the midrib are won by the player.  Other rubber bands that have been uncovered are hidden back into the mound before the succeeding player takes his turn.   The piercing or penetrating of the mound for the hidden rubber band goes on until all the rubber bands are won.  The game continues until most of the rubber band are won or until one of the players lost all his rubber band in the game of “ti’tin’nu’duk”.   
“Pin-nuk-puk” is another children’s game using the rubber band.   It comes from the borrowed Ilocano word “puk’puk” meaning to beat on a platform.  Two players would sit by the floor or bench and move two rubber bands towards each other by beating alternately their closed palm on the flat surface where the rubber bands are placed.  As a result, air emanated from the closed palm moving the rubber band forward.   A player wins over the other when he successfully over lapped his rubber band on his opponent’s rubber band.  
Hin-nap-ud comes from the “Tuwali” word “hap-ud” meaning to blow.  Two players lay in prone position facing each other on a flat surface, preferably in the wooden floor.    Their respective rubber bands placed a few inches away from the mouth.  Taking turns, each player blows vigorously on the rubber band enabling it to move forward.   The player wins when he successfully over lapped his rubber bahnd on his opponent’s rubber band. 
Each player contributes an equal number of rubber band.    The collected rubber band is randomly divided into two parts and then are looped together.  Using their foot, the players take turns in unloosing the rubber bands.  A player could stomp, kick or make any foot movement that could unloose the rubber bands.  Rubber bands that separate individually from the looped are won by the player.  Rubber bands that had separated from the loop but still connected are not considered won.   The game of untying the looped rubber band continues until all the rubber bands placed on the bet are won.  Children possessing several rubber bands, loop it to make a chain like figure.
A marble is a small spherical toy made from glass.  It is about ½ inches in diameter and comes in strange combination of swirling colors inside.  Ifugao children call it “bulintik” or “holen” corrupted from the non-Ifugao word “jolens”.  It is traditionally used in variety of games.   Basically, it is played by knocking the other players’ marble by holding it between the bent index finger and the knuckle of the thumb. Then with a calculated aim, flips it towards the target by the straightening action of the thumb.  

One of the common marble games starts from a line etched in the ground as the starting point.  Four small holes of approximately 2 - 3 centimeters wide and a centimeter deep are dug in the ground after the drawn line.  The distances of each hole is measured by a player connecting the left and right foot, then marking the spot for the hole.  To determine their order of succession in the game, the players flip their marbles one at a time on the first hole.  The nearest to the hole or the one who shoots his marble into the hole  automatically becomes the first player followed in succession based on the distances of marbles.  A tie is broken by repeating the process; however the rematch would be vying for the sequence which the two had a tie, the other placed ahead before the looser.   From the starting line, the first player flips his marble on the first hole and continues the course until he failed to shoot his marble in the targeted hole.  This is the only time the next player starts or continues his course.   As a rule, the players arriving at the fourth hole, reverses towards the third, second and first hole.  In the course of the game, a player after making a successful shoot can hit other marbles of his choice.  In this process, marbles that are hit are obliged to start again on the first hole.  Every hit is equivalent to a shoot; hence a player who is the second hole shall omit the third hole in the process.  That player would proceeds to the fourth hole as his next target.  A player who has two hits would be exempted for two successive holes. The player who completes shooting his marble on all the holes is the winner.  The elimination of the players as winners continues until only one player is left – the one who is unable to complete the course and now the looser.  The looser shall be punished by every player. 
The common punishment is to let all winners hit the loser’s marble while the latter positions his marble in every hole after a successful hit.  What is taxing is that the looser goes after his marble which is propelled in a distance after a hit.  Other punishment includes hitting the clenched fist of the looser with a marble flipped by the winners.   
Another variation starts by each player putting equal amount of marbles in the center of the drawn circle.  From the drawn line, players take turns in knuckling out the marbles out from the circle.  A marble thrown out from the circle is considered a win.  Marbles that remain inside the circle are targets for players.   The game continues until all the marbles are won.
“Kandiling”  is another popular game for children.  This game is predominantly played by girls.  It is an ancient game, each geographical place have a native name for it.  It is similar to the English “hopscotch”.   It is a game played in a course through a pattern drawn or etched on the ground.  The pattern is divided into several geometrical figures.  Players use aiming markers, usually a small flat object such as stones or pebbles, in playing the game.   Starting the game, the players aim their markers in a line drawn in a distance to determine the sequence of players.  The player whose marker touches the line or closest to the line is the first player.   The one farthest from the line automatically becomes the last player.  Players hitting the same mark or distance from the drawn line will have to compete again to break the tie.  The first player tosses her marker into the first square and continues traversing the course unless a rule is violated.  It involves hopping, straddling moving the marker in the pattern using the foot.  Other players, who are always on the lookout for violations, caution the player to stop if a rule is violated.   Common rules that apply to the game are:  the marker should land inside the targeted pattern without touching the lines and it should not bounce out from the pattern.   A player should not step in any drawn line or traverses outside the pattern.   In a certain sequence of the course,   the player looks up denying the visual guide on the pattern.   A player who completes the course is entitled to throw her marker in the pattern.  She marks the pattern where her marker falls.  The player who has more marked pattern is the winner.  

“Shiatong” is a game since ancient times.   In the course of time, this game found its way into the hinterlands of present day Ifugao. This game is played by teams or individual players.  Two sticks are required in this game.  A stick which is more or less a foot long and a shorter one approximately 4 to 6 inches long.  An elongated hole, about two inches wide, three to four inches long and two inches deep is dug in the ground.  This serves as the base.  The base player is the player who is in the vicinity of the base hole doing the courses of the game.  The opposing players are the rest of the players who position themselves a few meters away facing the base.  The opposing players are on the guard trying to catch or hit the shorter stick propelled by the base player.  There are basic rules for the changing of the base player:  one;   If the propelled stick in any stage of the game is hit by the opposing players, two; if the horizontally laid stick on the base hole is hit by the shorter stick thrown by the opposing players and three; if the base player misses to hit his shorter stick in any stage.  In this case, the shorter stick will just fall in front of the player instead of propelling forward. Before starting the game, the players determine their sequence.  One at a time, each player puts the shorter stick in an angle inside the elongated hole.  The other end of the stick must be protruding.  Using the longer stick, the player hits the end of the shorter stick. The inertia makes the stick leaps into the air.  The action of the player must be instantaneous as he must hit it while it is in midair.  The short stick must be propelled in a distance to have a score. Using the longer stick, the player measures the distance from the point where the short stick is up to the base hole.  The player who will have the most number of measurements automatically becomes the first player.  Relatively, this is how the third stage of the game is played. 
Starting the game (stage one), the base player positions himself near the elongated hole.  Then arranges his shorter stick horizontally over the hole.   Bending low, and in a wedging motion, propels it forward to the direction of the opposing players.  The other players try to catch or hit the propelled stick.  If the short stick is hit or caught, changing of base player rules apply.  However, if it was not caught or hit, the shorter stick is picked up and thrown back targeting the shorter stick was laid horizontally over the base hole.  If the shorter stick is hit, changing of base player applies.  If it is not, the base player proceeds with stage two.  The base player picks up the shorter stick.  Holding it by the edge (either horizontally or vertically) and hitting it to propel forward.  Rule of the game apply.  If the shorter stick is not caught or hit, the base player stands on guard near the base hole holding the longer stick ready to hit back the short stick which will be thrown back by the opposing players.  If the base player misses the thrown stick and the stick fell near the base hole, changing of base player applies.  This is so especially if the short stick fell near the elongated hole and the distance is too near to make a measurement for a score.  However, if the stick fell further away enabling the base player to measure a score, he continues to stage three.  This is practically a good score for the player if he was able to hit thrown stick in midair and propelled it further away to enabling to make a measure for the score.  Stage three is described in the mode of determining the players’ sequence in the game.  A player who finishes the stages of the game is not a win yet.  Individual scores is the factor in winning this game.  It however depends on the agreement of the players for one of them the reach an agreed score before all scores are tabulated.  The player who garnered the most score is the winner while the least automatically is the looser.  As punishment for the looser, the short stick is propelled forward as in stage two by the winner(s).   The looser would then pick up the stick and run towards the base shouting “shaaaaa” continuously without interruption.  Arriving at the base hole, the looser would then briefly add “tong” while briskly putting down the stick to the hole, thus culminating the punishment.  While serving the punishment, the punished player should inhale then controls the exhalation of his breath while shouting “shaaaa” to enable one not to be out of breath before completion of the punishment.  A stoppage in the word “shaaa” is noticeable since the player will have to pause to inhale.  At this point the player being punished would stop where his shout is interrupted. The winner would again propel the stick forward as in Stage two.  The loosing player is obliged to repeat the punishment until he completes the punishment without interruption on the word “shaaa” which he shouts while running towards the base hole.  Then reaching the base hole, the punished shouts “tong”, completing the word “shatong”, while simultaneously shooting the short stick into the base hole. 
Today, most of the ethnic games in Ifugao are either a thing of the past or games rarely played.  The “kabu’ut”, “gi’gin’nuyud” using the betel nut frond (u’pak di mo’ma), children practicing spear throwing in a banana trunk or fern tree (kati’bang’lan), pug’ik, buduk’kan, bul’did and many other games are not played any more.  Hunting as a sport or pastime using the spear is now obsolete.  The sling shot or “lat’tik” came in as a substitute weapon for hunting but is now replaced by the present day compressed air rifles which are now the fad of hunters aside from small caliber firearms which are commonly used.  Other traditions such as the “mang’dut” or gathering shells and crustaceans in an open rice field are dwindling.  The “dol’ak” was replaced by the potent and destructive insecticides.  This contributed to the rapid destruction of the environment.  Several plants that grow abundantly in the rice fields, fishes, crustaceans and birds became endangered or were never seen again.  An example is the beautiful colored bird called “ti’wad” that only appear during the season of “kiwang” and “ahi’tu’nod (planting season).  Just like the old Ifugao “talindak” that is worn by farmers to protect themselves from rain, would be a miracle if you see it today. 

Talin’dak  (equivalent to the present day poncho

And before I reached my teens, the “yakayak” which is used by earlier folks to catch fish, tadpoles and other freshwater edibles was already extinct.

Thanks to the early Americans who built schools thus introducing literacy to in Ifugao.  This was followed by Early Belgian Missionaries.  Today, present day games such as basketball, volleyball and others games are played in schools and communities.   With the availability of video games in the high lands of Ifugao, it is virtually everywhere, from homes, arcades, and school. It is a fact that computer game, particularly those that involves violence gives a negative influence to the growing child.   Unlike the old traditional games that promotes family and community ties.  Moreover, it gives a positive influence to the development of a growing child.  Whatever the future game be, the Ifugao children is prepared to adopt and be a part of it.

My thanks to the various Ifugao cyber forums with whom I copied the pictures

Malpao, Kiangan, Ifugao
16 February 2013


  1. thank you very much.. ongar an tulung pirmi. hahaha tnx :-) continue writing articles regarding our culture and traditions here in ifugao, malaking tulong po sa mga studyante at sa ibang tao na nag re-research.. :-) GodBless and more power! :-)

  2. can you help me conducting more researches about the physical games in ifugao? for thesis purposes only, my plan is to go in lagawe ifugao sooner this october or 1st week of november if you'd like or if youre not busy can you bere with me or help me?

    yours truly.


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