Sungka | @natmuseumbohol via National Ethnographic Collection

Sungka: Larong Pinoy

Here’s a little throwback for the kids of the 50s through the 90s! The National Museum of the Philippines features another Larong Pinoy that is popular among Filipino children and adults alike—the two-player, turn-based board game called sungka or sungka-sungkaan.

The sungka set contains two parts: the board (sungkaan in Tagalog, tidora/ sungkalian/ sungkahan in Maranao, kunggit in Bisaya), usually made of wood with 14 small cup-shaped pits (home base or bahay) and two bigger pits on either end (head or ulo); and the playing pieces or counters (pamato), in the form of cowrie shells (sigay/ kigay), pebbles, marbles or seeds.

Seven small home bases, running parallel across the board with seven playing pieces placed in each, are lined up for each player. The player who collects more counters in the head wins the game. The rules of sungka may vary but a general one is followed, as seen in this short video produced by Mindhaven School Inc. in Capiz:

Among the Tagalog, the sungkaan is usually carved in a boat-like shape piece of wood and is sometimes used as a home decor.

For the Maranaos in Lanao del Sur, the liyamin (princess) plays the sungka with her manga ragas (ladies) in the lamin (tower chamber). The board usually has intricate engravings and carvings, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and with sarimanok motifs. Unlike the usual boards in sungka, the tidora of the Maranaos has 16 holes for the bahay.

Sungka is also similar to an ancient game believed to have originated in Egypt called Mankalah (mancala in Arabic, meaning “to move”), wherein boards are carved from stone, clay, or wood. This board game is traditionally played by women, and is popular in Southeast Asia particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. In Indonesia, this game is called congka (from the old Malay term congak, meaning “mental calculation”) and mostly played by royal families, women and children.

The tidora of the Maranao is on display at the “Faith, Tradition and Place: Bangsamoro Art from the National Ethnographic Collection” exhibit at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila, and maybe also be accessed online at

Many among the younger generation are no longer familiar with this game due to the rise of online games. It is time to dust off your boards, revive this traditional game, and bond with your family while keeping safe at home.

SUNGKÂ • (soong-KA’)
a traditional Filipino board game of dropping and capturing shells on a board with holes
Tagálog (Filipino): sungkâ

Derived Word
SUNGKÁAN • (soong-KA-uhn)
sungkâ board
Tagálog (Filipino): sungkâ

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