The Philippines are an archipelago of islands in the Pacific Ocean, just off of the coast of Vietnam. Like most other South East Asian countries, the Filipino people have significant portions of their culture borrowed from the Chinese civilization.
However, in the last 300 years, The Philippines existed as a colony, both of Spain and then the United States. This European influence over the Philippines has distanced its culture from these purely Asian roots. This has generated a number of card games played in the Philippines, some with Chinese influence, and some with European/American influence.
History of Filipino Card Games
The Philippines have a long history of cultural osmosis. Prior to the Spanish settlement of the Philippine Islands, a number of independent cultures existed on each island. Separated by bodies of water, these peoples saw themselves as distinct from one another, culturally and politically.
These independent island nations formed an extensive trading network with the Vietnamese, as well as the Chinese, opening up the native Filipino peoples to cultural exports from China.
In 1521, World Famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan chartered the Philippines after sailing to many of its islands. 22 years later, the Spanish began the process of conquest, sending military expeditions to each of the Islands until they were completely under Spanish control.
This Spanish influence altered the Island’s culture, a culture that was further altered upon the American intervention of 1899. To this day, the two official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and English.
These nations influenced the culture of card games in the Philippines, with Spanish and American cards, and card games, growing there.
List of Most Popular Filipino Card Games
A form of Chinese Poker, this game utilizes the standard 52-card Anglo-American deck. Pusoy is distinguished from other Poker games by having the suits themselves be ranked. Generally, in Pusoy, the suits are ranked ♣, ♠, ♥, ♦, with 2 being the highest-ranked card. This makes 2♦ the highest-ranked single card in the game.
A variation of Pusoy utilizing the entire deck. The game is only playable by 4 Players, because each Player must be given 13 cards in order to evenly distribute the entire deck amongst all 4 Players. No less and no more than 4 can play Pusoy Dos. Four-of-a-Kinds must have a kicker.
A shedding-type card game that is popular in the Philippines. Pekwa is essentially the Filipino name for Fan Tan, a Chinese card game that is intended to resemble a game of Dominos. The game is also similar to a multiplayer version of Solitaire, with Players forming tableaus and 7s acting as Kings, beginning new tableaus.
A Rummy variation, a slightly modified version of the popular game Tonk. The United States invaded the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, arming guerillas in the Philippines to fight the Spanish. After, instead of granting them independence, the United States stayed in the Philippines and put down a rebellion during the Philippine-American War. The Philippines remained a U.S. territory until after WWII, during which time the popular game Tonk made its way into the Philippines.
Cuajo is a game derived from the Philippines time as a Spanish Colony. The name Philippines derives from the Spanish King Philip, who established Spanish control on the Islands. Cuajo utilizes a special Spanish deck with 112 cards, with the deck and game resembling games played with the 112 card Four Color Chess Deck, which is popular in China.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Decks of cards are used in the Philippines?
Some Filipino games use the Anglo-American standard 52-card deck, such as Tong-its. These games were inspired by games played by European colonists.
However, there are also Chinese influenced decks used in the Philippines, such as the Four Color Chess Decks, or even tile games. Mahjong, for example, is very popular in the Philippines, as it is in most Asian countries that exist within the historical Chinese sphere of influence.
What is the most popular Filipino Card Game?
Tong-Its is generally considered to be the most popular Filipino card game, and could be considered one of the national games of the Philippines, along with Pusoy Pinoy.
Tongits exists as the perfect blend of the Philippines cultural heritage, a game that is based on the American card game called Tonk, and the Chinese Tile Game Mahjong.
Can you play Filipino Card Games online?
Yes, there are a number of Filipino card games available for play online, using the mobile application store of your choice. Both the Android Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store, provide a number of applications that allow you to play Filipino card games. However, they may not all be free, and some might require a login to be created before play.