Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Part 2: Indigenous Games and Sports (carabao race, sack race, catching piglets)

Dr Abe V Rotor

6. Kara Krus – Also called buntayug (Ilk) this is more of a gamble than game. We kids surreptitiously 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.

7. Spin top (trumpo) – Our town is famous for furniture making, so that the lathe machine (pagturnuan Ilk) makes the best tops in town. Everyone could easily recognize a top made in San Vicente, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital. There were top tournaments held on certain occasions and we would send our best players to the capital.

To be a good player, first you must be accurate at a target. Then there is the real tournament. You should be able to demolish your opponent’s top, by puncturing or chopping it into pieces. This is why the wood used in making tops is molave, better still kamagong, the hardest wood. Exhibitions are part of the game. For example whose top makes the loudest humming sound? How balanced and stable is the spinning of your top? How long will it keep on spinning before it finally dies out? Then there is the skill to “capture” a spinning top and continue it spinning in your palm.

But how do you make a top by hand, that is without a lathe machine? I’ll tell you how. Cut a fresh branch of guava or isis or Ficus, the one that produces sandpaper like leaves, around three inches in diameter. With the use of a bolo shape one end into a round peg, and drive a 3-inch nail through it, leaving half of it to become the shank. Smoothen the surface, and make it even and balanced as you rotate it by hand. Shape and severe the upper part of the top with a saw or sharp knife. An immature wood when it dries up has a tendency to crack. That’s why you have to look for a seasoned branch; the harder it is the better, and the more durable is your top. For the spinning rope, get a pure cotton thread, numero cuartro, that is ¼ of an inch, and a meter long. Sometimes we would twist two thinner threads to make the standard spinning rope.

8. Sack race. Open the 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.

9. Carabao race – I would tell joke in a puzzle, “What is the first car race?” The children of my age then would think of Ford or Chevrolet. Sirit? “It’s car-abao race.” It’s a corny joke, moreso today. But if you haven’t seen one. Go to Polilio, Bulacan during the fiesta of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. It is like horse race, with the “jockey” riding without harness. So there’s a lot of skill needed to stir the animal to the finish line, galloping the carabao way.

Carabaos are known to be very docile. They say, you won’t be able to reach your destination on time with a carabao even if you use a horse whip. And don’t ever force the animal cruelly. In Thailand a carabao in the middle of a race broke away and attacked the spectators hurting dozens of them. An animal is still an animal however tame it is. The biological instinct is unpredictable.

10. Catching piglets (bi-ik) in mud. It takes a day or two to prepare the arena or pen, some 5 by 5 meters square, or bigger in area, and secured with interlink wire or wooden fence. To make the game exciting the ground is puddled like a rice field ready for planting. A smaller pen is made next to the big pen. The piglets – some ten are released per batch of contestants. It is a game of two or more contending groups. It could be a one on one contest in the final stage. The rule may be that he who catches the piglet either gets a prize or takes the animal home – like in the movie, Babe, a story of a piglet won from a fair by an elderly farmer who reared it to become a “sheepdog” and earned its place on the farm.

It’s a messy game; it is full of wit and skill. It is in catching the piglets and putting them into the adjoining pen within the prescribed time frame that determine the winner. Imagine the winner standing on stage receiving his prize – or piglet. Can you recognize him?


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