Sungka: Traditional Filipino Game

I was cleaning up my pad when I found this souvenir I purchased from Dagupan in 2008—a sungka (pronounced as soong-kah) set. Still wrapped in plastic with its ₱130 price tag, my oblong-shaped Filipino board game was gathering dust.

As I unwrapped it, I realized I didn’t really know how to play this game. My parents forbade me to play with sungka as a kid because Filipino-Chinese businessmen considered it bad luck to own one. All I could do was watch the other kids play in school or in their homes. The closest I got to playing sungka was a digital version back in 2000—the bantumi game in my Nokia 3310 mobile phone (time warp!).

Sungka is similar to other Asian mancala games such as congak (played in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Thailand and Indonesia), chongka (from Marianas), and chonka (from Sri Lanka).

In this age of modern technology, I rarely see Filipino kids playing street games and board games, let alone native cultural games such as sungka. I was relieved to find a number of relevant articles about sungka online. It gave me hope that this part of my culture isn’t endangered—yet.

The game of sungka can be confusing for beginners, especially if your math skills are as brilliant as mine. Here are a few helpful sites that break down the rules of sungka:

Once you have the rules down pat, go and play. They say that there are sungka competitions held all over Philippines, as well as fortunetellers who use them for divination purposes, but I have yet to witness either. If you’re the superstitious type, take note that Filipino folklore forbids playing sungka indoors because it could cause your house to burn down in an accident.

Now who wants to play sungka with me? Outdoor, of course.

October 24, 2011