Bugtong is a Tagalog riddle (palaisipan) that showcases the Pilipino
wit, literary talent, and keen observation of surroundings. It involves
references to one or two images that symbolize the characteristics
of a unknown object that is to be guessed. Bugtungan is the playing
Bugtong Tagalog started generations ago and has passed from one
generation to another. New ones are being created with the passage
of time but to be considered a true Filipino bugtong the riddle should
meet all the elements of a Tagalog bugtong . These elements are:
A Pilipino bugtong, or Tagalog riddle, is a short, one-liner, statement.
The statement is consist of two phrases. Each phrase refers to an
image, or characteristic of an image, that symbolizes another object
that is to be identified.
The two phrases end in words that rhyme.
The object to be identified must relate to our daily lives, personal
experience, and observation of common things around us.
Let us study some examples:
Example 1: Balong malalim, puno ng patalim
In this example the first phrase is: balong malalim (deep well). The
second phrase is: puno ng patalim (full of knives.) These phrases
are distinct of each other. Both phrases end in words that rhymes:
malalim and patalim.
Although it literally refers to a deep well full of knives, the bugtong
uses this symbolism to refer to a different object and challenges us
to use our wit and imagination to identify that object as it relates to
our daily lives, personal experience, and observations. The word
balong (or balon) symbolizes cavity and patalim symbolizes a sharp
cutting object. In other words the riddle is referring to a cavity filled
with cutting objects. The answer is mouth.
Example 2: Mataas kung nakaupo, mababa kung nakatayo
In this example the first phrase is: mataas kung nakaupo (tall when
seated.) The second phrase is: mababa kung nakatayo (short when
standing up.) Both phrases end in words that rhymes: nakaupo and
Think of something that is tall when seated but short when standing
up. The answer is dog. One can think of other animals, cat for
example, as an answer that also fits the description but the best
answer is the one most people will usually relate to in their daily
lives. This is what makes bugtong, or bugtungan, an inherently
Example 3: Nagtago si Pedro, nakalabas ang ulo.
In this example the first phrase is: nagtago si Pedro (Pedro hides.)
The second phrase is: nakalabas ang ulo (his head is exposed.)
Both phrases end in words that rhyme: Pedro and ulo. The bugtong
uses a masculine name to symbolize physical strength. The name
Pedro, being a very common name, represents just about anything
and it also rhymes with ulo. The bugtong uses the symbolism to
refer to a common object that is strong and if hidden out of sight
would still have its head exposed. The answer is pako, or nail.