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Philippine Riddles

Philippine riddles are a very important part of Filipino culture. Also known as, bugtong in The Philippines, these brainteasers are enjoyed by young and old alike and are a popular pastime akin to crossword puzzles and word jumbles.


About The Riddles

Riddles have been a central part of Filipino tradition since well before the country became a colony of Spain, and the tradition persisted throughout the colonial period and into modern times. They are an important part of the oral history tradition of the country and have been passed down for several generations. Some of the Philippine riddles popular in The Philippines are versions of riddles that are found in most cultures, while others are unique to the islands. Although thematically some of the riddles may be similar to riddles found in other countries, they are also distinctly Filipino in their references.

When told in the native Tagalong language, the riddles employ many poetic devices. They usually rhyme and they often rely on simile and metaphor to offer clues. The riddles tend to be one or two lines and refer to a specific object. The rhyming is lost in English translations of the riddles. Sometimes, the figurative language is difficult for non-Filipinos to understand as well, since the references and descriptions may be unique to that region. Further, some of the objects referred to in the riddles may be foreign to outsiders not familiar with Filipino culture.

Popular Philippine Riddles

Here are some common Filipino riddles. The trick is to figure out what object is being described in the riddle. See how many you can guess. The answers are below.

  1. Rice cake of the king that you can’t divide.
  2. My cow is in Manila. You can hear its moo.
  3. Roll in the morning. Leaf in the afternoon.
  4. Pedro hides but you can see his head.
  5. I can’t see it in the light but I can see it in the dark.
  6. If you want me to last longer, I must die.
  7. I ate one and threw away two.
  8. When it was young, it had a tail. When it grew up, it had knees.
  9. Cotton that hangs high cannot be wrapped.
  10. In the prairie it was stabbed, in the house it was pulled.

How many did you guess? Check your answers here:

  1. Water
  2. Thunder
  3. Mat
  4. Nail
  5. Star
  6. Candle
  7. Oyster
  8. Frog
  9. Clouds
  10. Crabgrass

Where to Find Bugtong

There are many great websites and books dedicated to Philippine riddles. If you are interested in learning more about these riddles, give the following sites and books a try:

  • Bugtong Filipino Riddles: Riddles About Fruits – Try your hand at the 20 riddles on this site. Here’s a hint: each riddle refers to a piece of fruit.
  • Filapina Soul – Filipina Soul has a large collection of riddles. There are 20 different sets of riddles complete with answers.
  • Philippine Folk Literature – The Riddles – Riddles take their proper place in Filipino folk tradition in this scholarly treatment of traditional riddles. There are literally hundreds of riddles in this book, from all regions of The Philippines. They are presented in their original Tagalong or in the dialect of the region from which they come along with their English translation.
  • A Little Book of Filipino Riddles – This book is not as extensive or formal as Philippine Folk Literature – The Riddles, but it still offers over 100 pages of riddles for you to try to solve.