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Favorite games spur fun-spiced bonding and friendships

Do you ever wonder back to the games you loved to play during your childhood, your youth and on to your adult years? I do, and then I realize … wow! Times have changed. Either those games are no longer popular, or have changed in mechanics and structure, or they no longer exist. Take for example jackstone.

Jackstone was my favorite game in the primary grades. A small group of friends would sit in circular formation on the cement floor in front of our classroom during recess in the all-girls’ school. We played with crisscrossed light metal bars, each about an inch long, painted with bright colors. Two bars glued together looked like a star. Each glued pair was called a jackstone. There were ten jackstones, scattered randomly on the floor and individually picked up each time the small rubber ball about an inch in diameter was tossed in the air and bounced off the floor. Precision and speed were key to the game. The goal was to pick up all ten. I remember the nuns and teachers striving to make clear the path on the corridor amidst groups of players on the floor. My secret fear was that a teacher in high-heels would inadvertently slip over a jackstone gone astray from the huddles. Or that a nun’s hurried steps would unknowingly kick a renegade jackstone to the far end of the corridor.

No such incident happened to my knowledge. Players were diligent about keeping those star-like metal figures within the circles. I never saw jackstone played after my primary grades. I don’t even know if jackstones still exist.

In my early high school years, my auntie would gather the teenagers in the neighborhood and organize a play session outdoors during moonlight nights. The game was called “tubig-tubigan” (tubig means water). The game didn’t need props except water to establish thick boundary lines on the ground in the format of hopscotch, only that spaces were bigger inside the rectangles. Moon beam served as lamp for players to see the water lines. When the water dried up and the lines were indistinguishable, two boys would rush to a neighbor’s outdoor faucet and fetch more water for the ground. One or two “It’s” ran around on the lines trying to catch players inside the rectangles. The goal was to avoid the catchers. Whoever was touched became the “It”, and the “It” was given penalty like singing, or fetching more water, or dancing besides, of course, becoming the catcher in the game.

This activity was wonderful opportunity for youngsters to socialize, especially because in the neighborhood of old-fashioned families, young girls weren’t often allowed to join parties or dances. So, the boys actually reveled in having the chance to spend time with the girls, while the girls overcame their coyness as they played the tag game with the boys. My spinster auntie, however, was the self-appointed chaperone. Oh, she had hawkish eyes. Under her watch, there surely was no misbehaving, but I often wondered why some of the girls always made it easy to be tagged. They were the gigglish ones. Nonetheless, tubig-tubigan was always so much fun.

After the exhausting activity, my auntie led a pounding of cassava (a root crop) mixed with grated coconut, some butter and sugar, all combined in a large wooden vessel resembling a mortar. The heavy wooden gadget for pounding looked like a pestle. The delicious mixture was called “linubak”. Each boy took turns in pounding. Those that tried to show off strength performed the best and fastest pounding. The work station was like a stage exposed to the moonlight, with my auntie portraying a funny figure of a character gesturing, nodding and shaking her head as she supervised the workers. The girls watched in the shadows and egged the workers on amidst teasings and laughter. When the mixture was pounded to perfection and after my auntie ate the first scoop for approval, players sat on the ground or leaned on the fence as they happily partook of the linubak. Linubak to me never tasted so good as on those moonlight nights on the yard in front of our home. Under the bright moon, the shadows on the ground did not appear eerie at all. They looked like happy dwarfs hunched eagerly over their linubak prey. And the shadows on the fence? They looked like sentinels at ease and about to topple over as they bent over their food. No one seemed interested in another game of tubig-tubigan after their fill of linubak.

As a young adult, charade was my favorite game. At parties, I always hoped for a session of charade. My judgment of a party’s success depended on whether there was an exciting and boisterous game of charade. Good food, intelligent conversation, music and dance came next. If the contenders were skilled in their dramatic and bodily gestures, that made the charade more interesting. If the players were too smart and immediately guessed the words, that wasn’t all very exciting. The longer it took to guess the words, the better and funnier.

My partiality to charade perhaps stems from my love for dramatics (stage or theatrical performances). Speech and drama were my favored extracurricular activities, from high school to college. Charade, sans the speech, is a poor imitation of drama. Nonetheless, I considered charade as “acting”. Thus, I loved to play it. It especially was most fun when players were so awkward with play acting that guessing took a tremendously long time, and participants got louder and rowdier as frustrations crept in (in a fun way). That always carried the game on a super exciting ride.

In my advanced adult years, I took a fondness for scrabble, a quiet, clever and absorbing game of skill and luck. With eyes and mind actively at work, there was little room for chat or body movement, unlike the aforementioned games. I especially enjoyed scrabble after a hearty dinner, or when the kids went to bed and my husband and I relaxed after the day’s routines, or when friends came by bringing with them their competitive spirit for a serious board game. It was never openly established that whoever won was better in the English language, but that was always the unspoken presumption adhered to by us. So the challenge was to beat the winner at the next scrabble. It’s really not just all about skill and luck with the tiles – it also is about strategy hinged on outguessing the competitors’ moves. That’s why I love scrabble. Scrabble is still around these days, but played only in small, quiet groups.

And now, in my baby boomer years, I find this quite amusing that I choose to be a spectator than a participant in a game. I enjoy watching the rough and tumble moves of football and the frenzied race of basketball. Thus, I make time to watch my favorite college and professional football and basketball teams on TV. Naturally, it was more fun being a spectator in the company of others. Baseball stimulates my adrenalin, too, but in more subdued ways.

Last weekend, I learned a new board game which I played with my family. My 10-year-old grandson was my very enthused instructor. The game involved establishing travel routes all across the US. Scores were based on the number and length of routes completed. I loved the game. It was real and lively family bonding.

Bonding and friendships, all spiced with fun and excitement – rewards of a good game.

Linda P. Jacob

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