Dr Abe V Rotor
Do you still play native games and sports? At least you remember the games you played on the countryside when you were a child. Or occasionally watch old folks playing the games in their own time.
Here are traditional games, many of them endangered. There are contemporary games which have traditional roots, while others are simply versions on old ones.
1. June Beetle Gladiators – Raise the tough outer pair of wings of this seasonal insect (Leucopholis irrorata) in a perpendicular position and clip it together with the split end of a barbecue stick five inches long. Do the same thing on another beetle of the same size so that each one faces the opposite direction. Draw a line between the two gladiators equidistant to each other. The contest begins. The struggle goes on until the stronger beetle pulls its opponent across the line and wins. A second or third round may be necessary to resolve any doubt.
2. Rhinoceros Beetle Gladiators – Oryctes rhinoceros is coconut beetle known as u-uang (Tag) orbarra-irong (Ilk). The larva (grub) bores and feeds on the growing bud of the coconut. The males have horns which naturally makes fierce looking. The females on the other hand, have no horns and are relatively docile. During the mating season the males ferociously fight over their mates, a ritual that may last for hours, and this is what makes them favorite gladiators especially among the Thais who bet heavily on them like fighting cocks. The game is celebrated on a national scale during the emergence of the beetle usually from April to June. It is a traditional game for all ages and classes, lately the rearing of fighting beetles known as kwang has evolved into business in as much as the game has transformed into big time gambling.
Shielded by a tough armor made of chitin, the male is reminiscent of a medieval knight - clean, shiny, compact, and armed with horns. Normally the horn comes in a pair, vertically positioned, but in some species the horns form a trident with the lateral pair as long and as pointed as the central horn. Horns may reach a third of the body length of the insect, but these are more decorative than functional, except that in the insect world the horns are a deterrent to potential predators, and are used by the insect to bluff its own rival.
3. Spider Gladiators – Spiders are by nature ferocious and they attack even their own kind. Why, we do not find spiders living in group. It is because they will always try to defend their niche and will resort to kill any intruder. Even in mating the male which is smaller may end up instead as a meal. It is for this trait that this sport takes advantage of. Curious kid as we were, we would conceal our spider gladiator in empty individual match boxes. The matchmaker arranges the duel between two similar species of the same size.
The contest starts. Actually it is a game of death. Some people even bet to the point of gambling, especially for large spiders like the gagambang hari which measures up 5 inches from tip of front leg to tip of the hind leg. Tarantulas, other than being rare, are docile and would rather try to scare off their enemies before considering any bloody confrontation.
Our folks used to warn us, “Beware of the black widow spider!” We kids would hesitate to capture any unusual kind of a spider. The skull and crossbones insignia embosomed on the back of the black widow is still fresh in my mind. By the way, whatever kind of spider you find, take precaution; there are cases of allergy from spider bite and from inhaling hair dust specially during molting.
4. Beetle “kite” – It’s a game we children on the farm played when the salagubang (L. irrorata) finally emerges at the onset of the rainy season, usually in May or as early as April, although the insect normally comes out of the ground in June, hence its name – June beetle. We would tie the end of a thread like a kite on the pair of hind legs, then make the insect fly into the air. The beetle that flew the highest and the longest won. But we had to repeat the game over and over until the insect is exhausted, and then we replace it with fresh ones – or until we ourselves got tired.
5. 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 yolk, then coat it on the kite string. 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 spells victory. You can imagine the loser running after his kite across the fields, over fences and making sure no one gets ahead to retrieve it. A loose kite is everybody’s, and ends up to somebody.