Philippine Games

By Stewart Culin
Published in the American Anthropologist
New Series, 1900, Pages 643-656.


The games described in the following account are entirely those in which implements are employed, the paper being based on information furnished by Mr. Alexander R. Webb, United States Consul at Manila (1892), in connection with a collection of ethnological objects which he made for the United States National Museum. The objects appear to have been obtained in Manila. From their names and descriptions it is possible to classify them approximately with reference to their origin as Spanish, Chinese, Malay, and Hindu.

Pungitan

(cat. No. 165421, US National Museum)
Pungitan

A game of shooting with a shell at a small shell placed in a ring; it is usually played on the ground. In the rural districts and mountains. The ring is drawn upon the floor of the native house, and sometimes upon a board made for the purpose. The ring is about two feet in diameter, and has a small circle, about an inch in diameter, drawn in the center (figure 63). Each player has a small white shell which he twirls in the air between his thumb and forefinger to determine who shall shoot first. If one falls mouth up and the other mouth down, the holder of the former takes the first play. If both fall alike, they are twirled again. The first player places his shell on the line of the large circle at any point, and, with a quick, dexterous flip of the thumb and forefinger, shoots it at the small shell placed in the inner ring. If he succeeds in knocking it out of the large circle, he wins whatever has been staked; if he fails, the small shell is replaced and the opponent shoots. The bets are usually from one to five coppers, or fish, fruit, cigarettes, or similar common articles.

Tablita

(cat. No. 154197, US National Museum)
Tablita

A diagram of twenty-six squares (figure 64) is drawn on the ground, or a paste-board or wooden board is sometimes used. A string or strip of bamboo or rattan is stretched about three feet above, over the middle of the diagram; two players seat themselves on the ground, and each one throws a copper disk as high as or over the string. If the disk falls on a line, the player loses; but if it falls within a square he wins. If the disk of each player falls within a square, the one farther from the line wins. The players bet usually from three to five coppers, and the winner takes the pool. Tablita is played in all parts of the country, but is seldom seen in the market-places.

Cara-cruz, "Face-cross"

(cat. No. 154196, US National Museum)
Cara-cruz

This is a game of heads-and-tails. The dealer has a cardboard, with a division line through the center, marked on one side "Cara" and on the other "Cruz" (figure 65). The player places his bet of one or more coppers on either side of the square, and the dealer throws two coppers from a piece of leather into the air, so that they will fall and rebound from a small clay disk about two and a half inches in diameter and an inch in thickness. If either copper remains on the disk it is called a false play. If the play is fair and the two coppers fall with face or cross up, the player who has bet on the corresponding square wins double his bet. If they fall one face and one cross up, the dealer takes all the money on the board. The game is in favor among boys and women. It receives its name from the devices on the obverse and reverse of Spanish coins.

Birachapa

(cat. No. 165423, US National Museum)
Birachapa

This is another game of heads-and-tails: The dealer twirls or spins a coin with his thumb and forefinger, and, while it is spinning, claps a coconut shell over it. The players bet as many coppers as they please on the head or the tail, laying them upon a wooden tablet with the figure of the head of a coin on the right side and the device representing the tail on the left (figure 66). The dealer pays copper for copper. The coin spun is a cuarto, and is worth five-eighths of a cent. The common copper coin is dos(two) cuartos. The cuartois rarely used in trade, the dos cuartosbeing the lowest current coin.

Prinola

(cat. No. 154193, US National Museum)
Prinola

This game is played with a hexagonal top die, with a wooden pin, marked with incised circles from one to six, which are arranged with one opposite two, three opposite six, and four opposite five. This top is spun in a saucer (figure 67). The stakes are laid on a card with six divisions, marked with disks of red paper from one to six. Mr. Webb states that Prinolais a popular game in the market places and is particularly favored by native women. Bets are placed on the spots on the card ; the top is spun rapidly in the saucer, and the winners are paid double the amount of their bets. The chances are largely in favor of the dealer. A game identical with Prinolais played in southern China with a teetotum (ch'é mé), the stakes being laid in the same manner upon a numbered diagram. In India a similar six-sided teetotum (chukree) is used, and the stakes are laid upon a board with six partitions. As before remarked by the present writer1 the name Prinolais evidently the Portuguese pirinola, but the game itself is doubtless of East Indian or Chinese origin.

Puti-pula-itim

(cat. No. 154192, US National Museum)
Puti-pula-itim

A dice game played with two cubical wooden dice, each marked with a single dot on each face, two red, two black, and two white, those of the same color opposite. The players lay their stakes on a cardboard with three divisions - one with a blue spot, one with a red spot, and the third blank (figure 68), - putting one or two coppers on whichever they select. The dealer then throws the two dice from a small bamboo box upon a disk of baked clay about two and a half inches in diameter, the same as that employed in Cara-cruz(No. 3). This disk is used to give the dice greater rolling tendency, and the throw does not count if one of them remains on it - both must roll off to make the play effective. If one die turns up the color played on, the player receives two coppers for each copper bet. If both dice turn up the color bet on, he receives four coppers. This is a popular gambling game among the natives living in the towns and villages, and groups of both sexes, many of whom are professional beggars, may be seen in the market-places, at any hour of the day, betting away their scanty alms.

Tapatan

(cat. No. 154190, US National Museum)
Tapatan

This game is played by two persons on a square diagram, divided into eight equal parts. Each player has three men, consisting of pebbles, or of pieces of bark or wood. The dark plays first by placing one of his pebbles in the center of the diagram where the lines intersect, or where one of the cross-lines touches the line of the square. The object of the game is to get three pebbles of the same color on a line in any direction. When all the pebbles are on the board, each player moves in turn. Diagrams for this game are frequently seen marked on the floors and doorsteps of native houses. The board collected by Mr. Webb (shown in figure 69) consists of a tablet of hardwood, 10 inches square, and is accompanied with six round pieces of wood, three white and three dark. Many families, says the collector, have boards and pieces like them; he also states that Tapatanis played by the natives at all times and places when they have money with which to gamble. The game has the advantage of requiring no pparaphernalia that cannot be picked up on the roadside. In southern China an identical game is played under the name of luk tsut ki, "six man chess."

Dana

, "Draughts" (cat. No. 154194, US National Museum)
Dana

The board consists of a small wooden table, 10 by 11 inches square, inscribed with a diagram as shown in figure 70. Mr. Webb states that the board is not necessary, the diagram being drawn upon the ground, a table, or the doorstep or floor of a house. The pieces, or men, twenty-four in number, twelve on aside, which are placed at the intersection of the lines as shown, consist of small sections of bamboo, half being colored red on both sides to distinguish them. The usual pieces are stones or colored tiles. The moves are the same as in ordinary draughts, except that a king has the power of passing over any number of squares in a straight line, taking all the men in its way. It cannot cross a square, however, nor can it return on another line until after the opponent has made another move. The game agrees in the king's move with the game of Polish draughts, and also with the game of draughts played in the Hawaiian Islands under the name of moo.2

Capona

, (cat. No. 154191, US National Museum)
Capona

This game consists of counting off small shells in fours and betting on the remainder. The implements of the game consist of about seventy-five shells (Umbonium vestiarium Linn), a small china teacup, a piece of wood or a stick of cardboard marked with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and a curved slip of bamboo, twelve inches in length (figure 71). The native marks the numbers on the ground by the wayside, and with his cup of shells by his side and his bamboo hook in his hand awaits his customers. The player lays his coppers on one of the four numbers, and the dealer, or banker, empties the shells upon the ground, covers them with the cup, and divides them into two unequal piles, allowing the player to select either pile. This done, the dealer counts off the pile selected in groups of fours, using the hooked stick for the purpose to avoid the suspicion of a false count. If the remainder agrees with the number bet on, Mr. Webb says, the player receives the amount of his bet, otherwise he loses. Bets are limited generally to five coppers - equivalent to about six and a quarter cents of our currency. As the odds are three to one against the player, he should receive three times the amount of his stake when the number bet on remains. This game is identical with the Chinese game of fan t'án, in which Chinese coins or glass buttons are counted off from under a specially made brass cup with a straight rod of black wood, or, as the writer has seen among the Chinese in the United States, with a curved piece of bamboo identical with that used in the Philippine game.

Ripa

(cat. No. 154198, US National Museum)
Ripa

A lottery played with twenty cards, each having two figures, forty wooden hemispheres having figures corresponding with the cards and a bottle-shape bamboo wicker basket (figure 72). The cards in the game collected by Mr. Webb measure 1 by 2 inches, have uniform backs with blue-dotted card paper, and are made of Spanish playing cards cut to size and having white paper pasted over the faces, on these are pasted two small disks of paper, inscribed by hand, each with the conventionalized suit-marks of two of the Spanish playing cards. The pack from which they were taken is the Spanish pack of forty cards in which the eights, nines, and tens are suppressed. Each of the wooden hemispheres, three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has a corresponding disk bearing .the device of one of the forty cards pasted upon its face. The cards are sold to the players for one copper (one and a quarter American cents). The bottle is shaken and one of the hemispheres is thrown out upon the ground or table, and is taken up by the holder of the card bearing the corresponding figure. The player who first receives two hemispheres bearing the figures corresponding with those on his card, takes the pool of twenty coppers, or less, according to the number of cards sold, paying the dealer one copper as his percentage or commission.

Mr. Webb states that so far as he could learn at the time the collection was made, the game had been played in the various cities of the archipelago for fifty years or more. It is rarely played in the rural districts or small cities, but is in favor where the better class of natives congregate. There are small thatched sheds in every city and town, where it is played nightly - formerly, at least, under license of the government. The game is very attractive to cooks and house servants, as it seems to promise large gains on a small investment.

Chabtqui

(cat. No. 165422, US National Museum)3
Chabtqui

This is a sort of lottery, played with a wooden tablet with painted numbers from 1 to 12, and a corresponding number of numbered cards (figure 73). The dealer takes one of these cards from the pack (after shuffling them well and covering his hands with his hat or handkerchief while taking the card) and places it in a small stoppered bamboo box. Each player chooses a number on the board on which he places a copper. The bets all being made, the dealer opens the box and throws the card on the board, and the player who has bet on the corresponding number receives ten coppers besides the one he has bet. When the board is not full and the number thrown out of the box corresponds to one of the uncovered ones, the dealer takes all the coppers on the board; but the game is seldom played with any uncovered numbers. The cards collected by Mr. Webb are made of cut Spanish cards, with the faces pasted over in the same manner as are those used in rips.

Chungcajon, Mancala

(cat. No. 165422 US National Museum)
Chungcajon

Played with a boat-shape board with fourteen holes in two rows and a large hole at each end (figure 74). Ninety-eight shells (of the same variety as those used in the game of Capona) are employed, which, at the opening of the game, are evenly distributed in the fourteen cavities, seven in each. The two players sit on opposite sides of the board; either may begin, as may be agreed on. The first player takes the shells from any one of the holes in the row nearest to him and drops one in each hole, passing to the left, and also in the large hole at the left end, but not in the large one at the right, which is the depository of his opponent. When he has dropped the seven shells, he takes the shells from the cavity in which he dropped the last one. He continues in this way until he has dropped his last shell into his end cavity. Both players continue alternately until all the shells in the small cavities are exhausted, when the player having the larger number of shells in his home is the winner.

As before described by the writer, this game is widely distributed through Asia and Africa where Arab influences have penetrated. In Ceylon it is called chanca, and at Johore, Straits Settlements, chondkak. The arrangement of the board in both cases is the same as in the Philippine game.4

Billar de barimbao

(cat. No. 165420, US National Museum)
Billar de barimbao

Figure 75 shows a model of a table for a game resembling the European game of billiards (Billar). Mr. Webb states that nearly all the pin-pool tables in use are built by natives and Chinese after the European pattern, but with wooden instead of stone beds; vegetable ivory and wooden balls are also used. The old billiard or pin-pool table was constructed after this model, without the beds being covered with cloth, and without pockets; it was four feet long. The manner of playing is as follows: The small pins count four each, and the larger one, which is placed in the middle, counts five, making the game twenty-one. The leader plays on the spot-ball from the lower end of the table, and counts only when the spot-ball knocks down the pins; if he gets one or more pins on the first shot, he continues to play until he misses, or until all the pins are down. Each player puts up the amount to be played for, and the one who first makes exactly twenty-one wins the pool. If he makes more than that number, he must begin over, and loses the points already made; but he is still allowed to play on, without putting up more money, until someone wins. Before billiard tables were introduced, the game was known as barimbao, but when European paraphernalia made their appearance it was changed to billar de barimbao, to distinguish it from the regular billar.

Lan-Sè

(cat. No. 165419 US National Museum)
Lan-Se

A puzzle made of a flat slip of bamboo, thirteen and a half inches in length, with a lateral rectangular orifice across which a cord is tied, passing through holes in each end. Another cord passes around this cord and through a hole in the bamboo beyond, terminating in two rectangular pieces of bamboo (figure 77). The object of the puzzle is to remove the second cord.

Puzzle

(cat. No. 154198, US National Museum)
Puzzle

This consists of a bar of bamboo, eighteen and a quarter inches in length, with a hole burned at each end and one in the middle (figure 78). A cord is fastened to one end, passes as a slip-noose through the central hole, and is attached to the other end. The object of the puzzle is to remove the seven bamboo beads which are strung upon this cord. A modern puzzle of like form from Saharanpore, India, as well as similar puzzles from Indians of Guiana and from the Hawaiian Islands are contained in the writer's collection.

Football

(cat: No. I 527(99, US National Museum)
Asian Football

Football is played with a rattan ball three and three quarters inches in diameter (figure 76). It is identical with the football of Siam, Java, Borneo, and the Malay peninsula.






NOTES:
  1. "Chinese Games With Dice and Dominoes", Report of the US National Museum for 1893; Washington. 1895, p. 496.
  2. See Hawaiian Games, American Anthropologist, N. S., vol. 1, p. 244
  3. See "The Game of Chap-ki ji", by G. T. Hare, in Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, No. 31, July, 1898, p. 63. The name is here explained meaning "twelve cards", chap-ki being "twelve" and the word ji merely a Chinese numerical classifier for the term "card".
  4. See "Mancala, the National Game of Africa", Report of the US National Museum. for 1894; Washington, 1896, p. 599.

Last update January 30, 2010