Saturday, July 9, 2011

Part 2: Native Games and Sports: Palo de Sebo, Kite Duel,and Others


Dr Abe V Rotor


Palo de sebo (bamboo pole climbing). It is tricky – how can you climb a bamboo pole twenty feet tall covered with animal fat or vegetable oil? Because there was no rule to prevent a participant to devise his own technique, we would coach our contestant to pocket wood ash and applies it as he inched upward until finally reaching the top and getting his prize.

Pabitin. It is a portable trellis around two square meters tied at the corners to a common string, and is laden with many goodies. The setup is usually attached to the ceiling or a tree branch with a pulley of sort, enabling the game master to pull it up and down. The game is actually for children of the same age and ideally of the same height. The rule of the game is that the one who reaches and grabs the item is his. And he is supposed to leave and give chance to the other participants. It not unusual for a parent to carry a very young contestant just to reach for the pabitin. But elder children don't want to miss the fun. And if the moderator is not strict, expect something unruly to happen. The game ends up into a free-for-all, and what remains of the pabitin is but a skeleton of bamboo sticks and crepe paper.

For fiestas and local parties the pabitin is popular even to this day. It is characteristically Filipino. And why not? Imagine how attractive it is up there hanging even before the start of the party. Every one would be eying which item to get. It’s apple to the eye – and remains so until the game leader declares the start of the game. The string moves and the pabitin slowly goes down, down and meet a pack of contestant shrieking, jumping, their arms instantly doubling in length.

Kite dog fight – Gladiator kites fight it out in the sky, but it’s the string that is the target more than the kite itself. This is how we did it in our plaza in San Vicente where we used to play kite come harvest time, in the months of October and November. At that time there was no nylon or monofilament, so it was the good old cotton thread, “numero viente” we used, which is the standard for kite string then. We would pound glass finely and mix it with egg albumin, then coat the kite string with it. When it gets dry the string is like sandpaper (papel de liha). Here we go. The opponent’s kite and our kite are flown simultaneously. And when both kites are sufficiently stable in the air, we bring the two kites at striking distance, until the strings get entangled. Now the fight is whose kite falls – or which string breaks. Most often it is the string that stays that spells victory. You can imagine the loser running after his kite across the fields, over fences and making sure no one gets first and retrieve it. A loose kite is everybody’s.

Tug-of-war. It may be a parlor game, but wait until the big boys get hold of the rope. Better an outdoor game then, and be sure the rope is strong. It is a game of strength, but one in unison, so that it needs cooperation and skill. Here are some hints to win the game.

Choose the members of the team for strength and stamina. Distribute the members of the team evenly; the right handed and left handed in their proper positions on either side of the rope they feel most efficient. Keep distance to maximize individual strength with the strongest ones up front and at the rear as anchor. Distribute resistance with both feet solidly anchored on the ground. Do not allow the rope to sway; keep it steady. Anticipate surge and counteract spontaneously. Be sure your hands are protected, say with gloves or hand towel. Be wary of sudden release by your opponents, you’ll end up into a pile.

Kara Krus – Also called buntayug (Ilk), this is more of gambling than game. We kids secretly played kara krus without our parents' knowledge. And we would bet our meager allowance. The rule is simple. A pair of coins of the same denomination, say 10 cents or 50 cents in our time (recently larger denominations up to 10-peso coin are used), are tossed into the air. On falling to the ground, a pair of heads (tao) makes a winner, while a pair of tails or bird - meaning the eagle symbol - makes a loser. A head and a tail means you have to repeat tossing the coins. It is purely a game of chance but foul play (daya) is not unusual. Be sure the coins face opposite each other before tossing them into the air, and they must be tossed high enough so that they bounce and settle freely on the ground. The game could turn into a bad habit and could breed future gamblers.

Jack-n-poi – It is an old game, possibly originated from China, which is used to resolve conflicts like head or tail. It is quite an intellectual and witty way. Here two or more persons play the game. Stone (clenched fist) defeats scissor (forefinger and middle finger open) but it loses to paper (palm open). Paper on the other hand submits to scissor. By law of elimination, the one who survives wins –and the loser faces the consequence he may not like. We, kids on the farm, resolved work assignment through jack-n-poi, like taking the goat to graze, or cleaning the pig sty – and such chores we would prefer someone doing it for us.

Sack race. Open a sack, a 50-kilo jute or plastic sack we used to contain one cavan of rice or corn, put both feet inside it, pull it up and hold the brim tightly with both hands without allowing it to fall as you frog-jump to a designated post, go around it and return. Now it’s your partner’s turn, and then the next’s, similar to a rally race. The group that completes the course first gets the prize. The game is easier to describe than to play it. Try broad jumping in quick succession with both feet ensconced in the sack. I would rather run for a kilometer instead. But surprisingly many people are adept to the game; it really needs practice and honing the skill.

Puto seko eating - Have you tried eating the powdery stuff without water, then whistle to signal you have won? It is a unique game and if you are not careful enough you will surely choke, so that the game is discouraged among the very young and the sickly. Puto seko is made of rice flour, molded and dried. The contestants line the stage and on signal, start eating a prescribed number of pieces. The first to finish all and produce a clear whistle wins.

Others sports and games: Hand cannon war (palsuot), slingshot target (tirador), foot races (different categories), bao (coconut shell) race, blowgun target, stilt race, frog race, turtle race, sipa, patintero, hide-and-seek, agawan ng buko (local rugby with green coconut), Chinese garter jump.

NOTE: Please add on to the list of native games.

No comments: