Laro ng Lahi: What It Should Mean to You and Your Child
In this age of technology, it's hard to get kids to simply go outside and play. A father looks back at the traditional Filipino games he played as a boy, hoping to encourage fellow parents to continue the spirit of laro ng lahi with their kids.
What is Laro ng Lahi?
One would think that growing up in a vastly progressive 1980s urban community would have hindered a Manileño youngster from learning about traditional Filipino games. This child wouldn’t even bother playing them, right?
On the contrary, the city life never stopped laking-Cubao, 10-year-old me from experiencing and loving every exciting minute of agawan-base, patintero or luksong-baka. Absolutely no part of the concrete jungle called Quezon City made me refuse to play traditional Filipino games. This included the card games like pusoy, pusoy dos or tong-its, all of which I used to play with the household help. Also, I’ve always enjoyed watching my older neighbors gather around a stick where they pit a pair of scary-looking spiders together for a death match.
As a Filipino child born and raised in the capital, I’ve always known that there is something more than just sitting in front of the television all day. I guess it’s a “Filipino thing” not to waste time or energy, even if they’re both reserved for playtime. Or maybe it’s because we treat playtime seriously. One thing’s for sure: the experience of Filipino laro ng lahi made me who I am today. In fact, our laro ng lahi helped shape who Filipinos are today.
You are the Games You Play
The Filipino phrase laro ng lahi simply means “games of our culture.” Without laro ng lahi, I wouldn’t be able to say, “I am Filipino,” with a straight face. Speaking for and about my 30-something age group, I dare say that these laro ng lahi make up a huge part of any Filipino’s childhood.
My wife Bing, who spent her entire childhood way up north in Laoag City, fondly remembers as much as I do playing agawan-base — its general rules on how to save your captured teammates and the tactics involved in stealthily approaching the opponents’ base.
Filipinos’ understanding of this laro ng lahi is quite universal, and most of these games are known, if not played, by every Filipino. I’m pretty sure each Filipino has a personal favorite.
My personal favorite is patintero because of it’s simplicity. Patintero is basically a laro ng lahi of tag usually played by a huge group of players, but 5 or 6 is the minimum for it to be exciting. All I needed to play this laro ng lahi was a family gathering, my cousins, an open street, and that was it! We’d play tag the whole day.
The game was what bonded us together, and it taught us how to communicate with each other, even if it were in a competitive manner. It also taught us to value team work, sacrifice, and respect for rules — definitely things I’d like my child to learn at a young age.
Play the Game, Wave the Flag
So why would I want my daughter to learn and play laro ng lahi? Why would I want to teach her how to strike a stick in siato, flick a marble with her thumb and jump over my outstretched fingers in luksong-tinik? Aside from missing out on all the fun, she’d gain an edge over her classmates in school when it comes to socializing with peers.
A huge bulk of this life skill is usually shouldered by the school, but with our laro ng lahi, the school, including the parents, would be significantly relieved of that burden to teach it. As parents, we should remember that much of learning happens outside of school, usually while children are at play and when their mood is positive, stress-free and open to absorbing knowledge.
I truly feel it’s my responsibility to teach my child our laro ng lahi. Pushing my argument further, I also think that we have to allot time to actually play these games with them. I believe It’s my duty to pass them on as a Filipino parent.
Who wouldn’t want to commit to a task that would strengthen the bond with one’s child, make both of them enjoy as they exercise and promote culture and national identity?
Okay, now stop staring at this screen. Get your kid and go play outside!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JUSTIN POSADAS
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