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Are You Smart Enough For These Filipino Card Games?

You might learn a thing or two about Baybayin, Tagalog, and Philippine symbols.
IMAGE Andrea Cababahay/Christine Vergel de Dios/Heather Luna/Mavee German
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Filipinos love their card games, but these Filipino card games made by and for Filipinos might teach you a thing or two about Baybayin, Tagalog, and Philippine culture. Instead of gambling, these card games lean more on the educational side, with tricky topics that will surely stump even an adult.

Tuldík

Designed by Christine Vergel de Dios, this card+app game was created to educate Filipinos on a lesser-known element of the language: tuldík. These are the diacritics, aka accents or glyphs, attached to vowels to guide speakers on the proper pronunciation of a certain word. Some examples are: butikî, mapandáhas, dambuhalà.

“Even though they are rarely used in the present, they are distinct and unique features of the Filipino language, an essential part of our culture that must be preserved,” said de Dios.

The card’s visuals handle the proper placement of the marks, while the app’s auditory aspect will tell players how to pronounce the words. And the words in the game range from easy (like isda) to downright difficult (like talibong, which is an Aklan fighting sword, by the way).

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Here’s how you play: The game requires four to six players competing to be the first to win 30 points. Each player is given four tuldík cards to represent the four diacritic marks (patuldok, pakupyâ, paiwá, and pahilís). The 76 word cards will be shuffled and placed face down. A player then draws the first word card from the top of the deck, and each player will put down the diacritic they think matches the card. The answer will show up on the app. The difficulty level of the card will determine how many points you get—if any at all.

The first one to get 30 points wins, and everyone else is required to re-enroll in FILI101. Kidding.

Photo by Christine Vergel de Dios.
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Photo by Christine Vergel de Dios.

BAI!

Created by Andrea Cababahay, BAI! puts a fun (and aesthetic) spin on the indigenous Tagalog script Baybayin. It functions as both a board game and a card game as it requires an elaborate setup to play.

“Baybayin has always been so interesting to me, and I believe that we should give more attention to this treasure of ours,” said Cababahay.

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The script has definitely gained new admirers in recent years, and BAI! is just one of the many ways the old script is being revived by younger generations. Cababahay hopes that her game will encourage people to not only be aware of the script, but to know how to actually use it and read it.

Here’s how you play: The game setup requires two to five players, whiteboards per player, a letter card pile, a word card pile, and an action card pile. The action cards will determine what the player will do with the word card or letter card that’s drawn, such as write or speak a letter or word.

It’s a simple enough game, but as many Baybayin enthusiasts know, the same can’t be said for the language. But it’s a fun, practical introduction to the script that’s been growing in popularity, making it one of the Filipino card games you have to try. 

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Photo by Andrea Cababahay.
Photo by Andrea Cababahay.
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Sagisag

Designed by Heather LunaMavee German, and Danica Bocalan, Sagisag is a simple card game that uses national symbols as its playing cards. Quick: What’s the national gem of the Philippines? (Because apparently, we have one.) Answer: The golden South Sea Pearl. It’s been dubbed the “Rolls Royce” of saltwater pearls, and the Philippines produces some of the best (and most expensive) South Sea Pearls in the world.

Look at that, we’ve learned something new today. This one is targeted mainly at a younger audience, but as we’ve proven, you might learn a thing or two if you play it right.

Here’s how you play: It’s a pretty straightforward matching card type of game. After shuffling the cards and distributing them evenly among the players, each player takes turns putting down the cards that share the same national symbol. If a player runs out of cards to pair, he can randomly pick a card from the next player, thereby disrupting that player’s strategy. The first one to lay down all their cards wins.

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Like the other Filipino card games mentioned, Sagisag definitely gives an educational twist to the recreational game, proving that you can play cards without emptying your wallet.

Photo by Heather Luna/Mavee German.
Photo by Heather Luna/Mavee German.
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About The Author
Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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