Bato Bato Pik

Rock, Paper, Scissors is Bato Bato Pik

When we were kids, this is the game we played to determine who will go first inside a dark room or who will get the last piece of candy. When playing team sports (like tigso, softball, or basketball), we used it to group ourselves into opposing teams (one group consists of all the losers and the other group, all the winners). I had three grade school classmates who were very good at winning the Rock-Paper Scissors game: Henry Lovitos, Reynaldo Idea and James Asahan. They claimed there is a secret behind their winning streak. I always thought it was sheer luck. And of course, we broke their streak when we pitted them against one another!

It is a simple game with many names and variations. During my childhood days, we call it sambara, although we also call it jack–en-poy because of the chant we use while playing it.  In Manila, they call it bato, bato pik. In English, they call it Rock-Paper-Scissors or RPS for short.


How Bato Bato Pik is played

This is a game where two opponents toss out hand gestures. The opposing players move their fists up and down three times while shouting a pre-agreed chant. The fists come down each time a word is said. Fists should not touch each other; the motion being performed entirely up and down in the air in front of each other.

There are 3 chants I know:

Jack en poy./  hole hole hoy. / sinong matalo, syang unggoy./

Bato,/  bato, / pik!/


One,/  two,/  three!/


The players make the gesture after uttering the last word of the chant.  There are three gestures to choose from:

  • Rock – a closed fist.
  • Paper – a flat, open hand
  • Scissors – index and middle fingers extended.

You win, lose or draw depending on what gesture you used versus your opponent. Rock wins over scissors; scissors wins over paper; and, paper wins over rock. Tossing same gestures results in a tie, and you have to try again. Most of the time, it is a best of three (2/3) game; the first to win two games, wins.


A Bato bato Pik Society and World Championships!

I thought rock-paper-scissors is  one of our indigenous games and only us Pinoys play it.  I was wrong.  I chanced upon an article which talked about the game, including real tips at how to win it.  That caught my curiosity so I did a bit of research on the subject. The new insights I learned about the game surprised me:

  1. The game dates back to the days of the Chinese Han Dynasty(206 BCE – 220 CE), and was called The Gestures.  In 18th century Japan it was called Jan-ken-pon. Could this be why we also call this game Jack-en-Poy?  Was it the Japanese who brought to the Philippines this game or the Chinese who has traded with our ancestors way before the Japanese and the Europeans came?
  2. In 2005, an RPS win secured auction house Christie’s a 10 million deal. Here is the story as narrated by Telegraph, a UK publication (

A Japanese art collector who could not decide whether to sell his Impressionist paintings through Christie’s or rival auction house Sotheby’s instructed them to play the game against each other.

Christie’s consulted its employees on strategies and, on the advice of the director’s 11-year-old daughters, chose scissors.

The little girls, keen fans of the game, explained that “everybody expects you to choose rock”.

As predicted, Sotheby’s went for the open palm in a bid to beat the expected clenched fist, and lost the deal

  1. There is a Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships. There is a cash prize involved. It is held in Toronto, Canada and attracts competitors from countries as distant as Norway, Australia, and Singapore.  The World Champions are Bob Cooper of the UK in 2006, Andrea Farina of USA in 2007, Monica Martinez of Canada in 2008 and Tim Conrad of USA in 2009.

The 2010 world championships was cancelled because of the passing of Wojek Smallsoa, the then Chairman of the World RPS Society Steering Committee and the acknowledged “Father of the modern RPS.  The 2011 championships will be held this November.

  1. The US version of the tournament, the USARPS Championships has a big sponsor in beer company Anheuser-Busch. It features tournaments in bars all over the US of A. The regional winners eventually compete in Las Vegas for a $50,000 prize.
  2. There is a World Rock Paper Scissors Society and it has a website ( This is the group that sanctions the World Championships described above. And there are various Rock, Paper and Scissors Groups and Pages on Facebook!
  3. There are mobile apps on RPS. I was testing a blackberry tablet this afternoon and I browsed through the apps installed in the unit and one of apps was rocks, paper, and scissors!  Similar apps are also available on Facebook.
  1. An article written by Natalie Wolchover for Live ) gave the  following tips on how to win in Rock-Paper-Scissors:
    • Inexperienced RPS players tend to lead with a Rock (so use paper against them during the first toss)
    • Experienced players won’t lead with Rock (so use scissors to win or tie)
    • People don’t come out with the same throw three times in a row.
    • Gesture over and over with the move that you want your opponent to play next. Unconsciously, your opponent will often accept your suggestion.
    • Announcing your next move is a good trick. Because your opponent will think you will not.(so use the gesture that will beat the move you announced)
    • People try to come back from a loss or tie by throwing the move that would have beaten his last one.

It has been decades since I have seen Henry, Rey and James. I could have told them that I have finally cracked their secrets. But better yet, I could pit their Rock-Paper-Scissors skills versus a computer program; or versus mobile apps.  But if they are already abroad and near North America, maybe I could encourage them to join the world tournament?

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Of Horses and Horsefighting

Two stallions in a horsefight during a city-wide thanksgiving festival
A 1950s photograph of a relative proudly atop his most prized possession at that time -his horse.
Horse Ownership: A status symbol
Ownership of a horse  especially among the lumads and upland farmers in my part of Mindanao is some form of a status symbol. Wealth and stature is judged by the number and quality of horses a man owns.  Horses are not only primary means of transport used to carry  people and crops to the lowlands, but as medium of exchange in lieu of money. Horses are given to a bride  as  a dowry; offered to an aggrieved family to settle blood debts;  and, as gifts to cement various forms of peace settlements among warring families.

And of course, the worthier horses are those which won more fights in horsefighting events.

 Fiestas and Festivals Features Horsefighting 

Horse fighting are featured events in  annual fiestas, thanksgiving festivals and during celebrations by locals to honor a special guest. I have been to some of these events, and they are very much like cockfights in terms of the betting that goes around;  and like the present day Universal Fighting Contests in the degree of brutality between combatants.

Two stallions in a horsefight during a city-wide thanksgiving festival

Briefly, this is how it goes. The organizers build  an enclosed pen.  A mare that is in heat is tethered in the  pen.  It ignites the sexual desire of two stallions and will lead to a fight to determine which between the two of them will become the female’s partner. During such fights the horses push, shove, head-but, bite, and kick each other to submission.  A stallion loses the fight if it runs out of the pre-defined ring drawn within the enclosed pen or,  if his owner will throw the towel to prevent further harm to his horse.  In some cases, the organizers allow the victorious stallion to mate the mare.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people watch the horse fights.  Children climb trees for a better view of the festival. There is a lot of shouting and jeering from the crowd.  Bet taking precedes the fight very much like what happens in a cockpit arena.

Before horsefighting was outlawed by the Animal Welfare Act of 2009, various festivals in Mindanao have horse fighting as one of their featured events: the  Lemlunay Festival of the T’bolis in South Cotabato;  the Dorong Festival in Digos Davao del Sur;  during several fiestas in North Cotabato; and,  during the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City to name a few I am familiar with.  Now, some local governments have stopped the events during fiestas, but some enthusiasts are still holding such events insisting  that it is part of their culture and even complaining that  it should be allowed since cockfighting is legal in this country.

I have not watched horsefighting  in the past several years. The last one was in 2004 during the Kadayawan festival and I am sharing with you a short video that I took of that event.

Horsefighting during Kadayawan 2004



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The Choice that Man Made for Himself

They say that the reason man is in a mess he is in today is because when he had a choice, he wanted to get the best for himself. Below is one such account which I got via email  from Reynaldo “Bembot”  Española  of Compostela Valley, Mindanao:

 On the first day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?” So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”  The monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the Dog did?” And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”  The cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?” And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”  But man said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?” “Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.

For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family.

For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.

And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

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This is this blog’s 49th day


This post serves as a documentation of my blogging experience since June 28, 2011 when  I  posted by first entry…

I have published 14  posts in this work-in-progress blog. The blog has now 76 tags and 9 categories.

The first post was about the pointers I got before starting this blog.

The next two were earlier works:

  • Alon – a Filipino poem I wrote in 1979 and was published together with other art and literary works of various Davao born and Davao based artists and/or writers. I selected this  because was looking for a personal literary work I can type quickly,  but good enough to show readers.
  • A Homecoming Speech was an attempt  at copying and pasting an existing word file, then inserting an image  from the media library.  I used a speech I delivered in December 2004 during the 50th annual alumni homecoming of St. Michael’s School of Padada. Later on, I discovered that the same material was posted in a website about my hometown ( http:\\

Kanin CLub at UP Ayalaland Technohub talked about  a most recent dining experience. Here I tried to insert images I posted in Flickr. Unfortunately, I was not successful in making the plug-in  work. Which tells me that I should spend more time reading the WordPress tutorial or I hope I could get some pointers from friends on how to do it better.

I could have written on similar categories/topics  as the blog about P-noy’s  first year in office  but I don’t want this blogsite project to become political. Or maybe, not at this stage, yet.

I also started posting articles or speeches of some people’s life stories. I always liked sharing these types of materials since I want my readers to pick up some life’s lessons out of it. In fact, this is the same reason I write about some anecdotes about my life.

The ones that generated the most number of reads so far, are the puzzles. The blog ideas came from a recollection of those logic twisters I encountered through my TV-less days in my hometown. So, I posted puzzles about “the missing peso“, how best to bring “a cabbage, a cat and a rabbit” across the river using a limited capacity boat, etc.

I have also been experimenting on various themes for the site. I also toyed with some plug-ins and widgets.  Indeed, for somebody who has no idea about the various blogging program’s languages, I oftentimes end up in a dead-end. And my search for the best theme and design is still ongoing. Would I try buying premium themes? Which one has the best fit with my site?

I have started to invite some friends to view my blog via facebook and twitter. I specifically used the posts containing puzzles and invited them to answer. This upped the site visits, although most of those who answered the puzzles did it in my facebook page. Only a few used the reply section of the blog.

So far, the blog has 811 views over the 49 day period June 28 to Aug 16.  I could definitely increase this using some inbound marketing strategies but I want to manage the traffic number slowly until I will have learned more technical aspects of maintaining a blog.

Moving forward, I will start insert media into my blog – pictures, video and slide presentations among others. How best to do this is something I should be reading about.







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The Rabbit, the Cat and the Cabbage

Up to the early 70s, there were no television and daily newspapers in Padada- my hometown. Our main form of information and  entertainment during those years was radio. So we listened to radio dramas, to the radio commentaries, and to songs played over the radio. Radio announcers were celebrities, and radio characters were our heroes.

If we don’t like the radio program(s) and for lack of anything else to do before bedtime, we spent our time telling stories; or more accurately, the adults telling the stories and us the younger ones listening to them.  On some of these occasions, they played games of wits – the most popular of which are challenging the other people in the crowd if they can solve a puzzle. The dynamics of the puzzle game was amusing. As one person gave his solution, the other people in the group retorts back why the solution is wrong.

Here is one of the puzzles I remember being discussed in one of those. Lets see if you can solve it!

The Rabbit, the Cat, and the Cabbage

A farmer is returning from the farm. With him is his cat, a rabbit and cabbage. On the way home he must cross a river. His boat is small one, allowing him to take only one of the three things. He can’t keep the rabbit and the cabbage together (because the rabbit would eat it), nor the rabbit with the cat (because the cat would eat the rabbit).

How shall the farmer get everything on the other side (without any harm)?


And for my kababayans, the original version  is as follows:

Ang Rabbit, ang Iring, ug ang Repolyo

Ang magbabaol pauli na gikan sa iyang umahan. Duna siya dala nga iring, rabbit ug repolyo.  Bag-o sya mo-abot sa iya nga balay, kinahanglan nga molabang siya sa usa ka sapa. Pero gamay ra ang iya nga baruto mao nga usa ra sa tulo nya ka dala ang pwede nya nga makarga sa baruto. Dili nya pwede unahon ug dala ang iring unya  biyaan  ang rabbit ug ang repolyo kay kaunon man sa rabbit ang repolyo. Dili pod nya pwede nga biyaan ang iring ug ang rabbit kay kaunon man sa iring ang rabbit.

Unsaon man iyang himoon aron malabang nya ang  rabbit,  ang  iring ug ang repolyo sa tabok sa sapa nga walay mahitabo sa bisan usa sa tulo?



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Lessons from John Gokongwei

The first time I heard about Mr. John’s “batel” adventures, was from my former boss and research mentor, Ms Rosie Chew. Rosie was Mr. John’s kababayan and she referred to Mr. John as Robinson. This was probably the name she used to call him when they were still growing up in Cebu. The other times I heard about him was via anecdotes shared to us by his niece and his executives during my stint as a sales and marketing  executive of a major network.

I was amazed by the riches to rags, rags to riches story of the man.  I was awed by how a “probinsyano”  became a major player not only here in the country but also in the Asian region.

About four years ago, Mr John delivered a speech to marketing and advertising practitioners at the 20th Ad Congress in Subic.  I am sharing this here because of the inspiration this story brings to me, and the key points I picked up from his speech:

  • When I wanted something, the best person to depend on was myself.
  • One must teach people to take over a business at any time
  • I succeeded because I overcame my fear, and tried.
  • Sticking to our philosophy of “low-cost, great value.”
  • Think bigger.
  • Create world-class brands.

This is the   speech by John Gokongwei at the 20th Ad Congress last November 21, 2007. I hope you will enjoy this and learn from it as I do.

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