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A Game of Pinoy Henyo

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1615
  • Category: Games

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For two meetings, the class played a famous Filipino guessing game called Pinoy Henyo. The aim of the game is for an individual to guess a word correctly by narrowing down the possibilities using different categories. The most common categories used in the game include “tao”, “bagay”, “lugar”, and “pagkain” but of course it is still up to the individual’s cunning and own strategy to come up with words that will narrow down the possibilities.

The rules of the game were pretty simple – a guesser is supposed to ask questions or categories about the word and the other players (henceforth be called the audience) can only answer with “oo”, “hindi”, and “pwede”. Ideally, the individual narrows down the word using these categories and correctly guess it but this was not always the case for the class. While seemingly an uncomplicated game, a deeper analysis of the game shows that the problem actually lies not in the mechanics itself, but on the differences of viewpoints of the players participating in it.

In fact, although the game sounds pretty easy, more than half of the class were not able to guess their word correctly. At the start of the game, the unknown words seemed pretty easy to guess. From the audience’s perspective, most of the words were totally simple, too much in fact, that even grade-schoolers will be familiar with the word. While this may seem like an advantage to the guesser, it could possibly work in a negative way as well. It could actually cause pressure to build up on the guesser as the timer ticks down, making their mind a mess and causing them to panic.

There were some cases during the game where students got lucky and the words given to them were concrete things that are easier to describe compared to abstract ones. The use of language, both verbal and non-verbal, for both the guesser and the audience plays a vital role in successfully guessing the unknown word. The three possible responses to a guesser’s questions can suggest an entirely different meaning from their literal meaning when paired with the right tone, body language and facial expression (Bulan & De Leon, n.

d. ). The response “oo” does not always literally mean a yes from the audience. When paired up with different tones that can signify emotions, and body movement, “oo” can have an entirely different meaning. For example, during the game, some of the audience got excited and repeatedly answered “oo” to a question while either stomping their feet or tapping their tables as if saying that the guesser is getting really close to the word.

Other times the same “oo” will be delivered with not much conviction – sometimes not even getting a uniform response from the whole audience. This may imply that the question asked was that of a vague one or the category asked is too broad and may include a whole other range of concepts not closely related to the unknown word. Crazily enough, there are also instances when the audience will answer “oo” and get reactions from other members of the audience.

This makes it a lot confusing to the guesser as he may have a hard time choosing which side to believe in. The same also goes for the responses “hindi” and “pwede”. Although “hindi” may also imply different meanings, it is actually the least complicated response to decode from the three because getting a “hindi” from the audience will eventually end up with the guesser asking a different question about the word. “Hindi” with a plain tone from the audience meant its literal meaning – the question asked by the guesser simply does not apply to the word.

“Hindi” paired with the shaking of the head or the meeting of eyebrows and an abrupt change in the pitch or tone of the audience, however, can mean that the question is getting too far from the concept implicating that the guesser must ask a different question from the previous one. From what was observed during the game, the response “hindi” was actually more of a measure of proximity to the unknown word more than giving information about it. The last possible response and quite arguably the most confusing from all three is “pwede”.

Right from the start, the word “pwede” carries with it a sense of vagueness and ambiguity. The word “pwede” is undeniably confusing because it is something in between a yes and a no. It may mean, in a way, that there is no clear distinction about the word being a member of the category asked by the guesser – only the possibility of it. The endless possibilities this response provides can either get you to narrow down the word by asking another question or pull you away from it which will be counter-productive to the objectives of the game.

Although facial expressions such as faces lighting up and high-pitched voices that show excitement can help increase the credibility of such response, the guesser is still left to wonder on the numerous possibilities the word presents. The most complicated responses as I observed during the game were the “oo” and “pwede” because a lot of different combinations of tone and body movements can be employed with both to have different meanings. Getting these responses, provided that they aren’t meant literally, may also mean both good and bad news for the guesser.

The good part about this is that getting these responses open up a wider range of possible questions to categorize a word but the bad news is that the guesser is then again clueless to the limits of the scope of the unknown word. Another philosophical concept that is present in the game is the extension and intension of concepts. According to Acuna (2004), the extensions of a concept are those that are members of the domain of the concept while the intensions are the set of traits, characteristics and function that are shared but not necessarily distributed among all the members of a concept.

Simply put, in the game of Pinoy Henyo, the extension is the term being described by the intensions – the unknown word. The intensions are those that are used to distinguish the extension to make it easier to narrow down on the word or in other words, the categories and questions asked by the guesser. Proper intension of concepts is an important part in being able to guess the correct word. It would also help to provide more specific intensions that can really narrow down on the possible choices of the succeeding questions.

In this way, the guesser will have a better grasp on the idea he is guessing at. Throughout the duration of the game, there were some words that proved somewhat harder to describe and categorize. Due to the fact that some words are purely imaginary, narrowing down on such words will prove to be difficult because it exists outside the norm (at least in Metro Manila). There were also those that weren’t considered a common word by some people due to differences in culture and growing environment. An example of both during the game was the word aswang.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word aswang simply means a witch or an evil spirit. For Filipinos and their folklore, and now also a common trend in local horror movies, the aswang is a shape-shifting monster that can take the form of humans, dogs and other wild beasts. Clearly, between the two, the latter provided a more detailed description using characteristics that are unique to the concept or known only to a few compared to saying that an aswang is simply an evil spirit; a description that can also be used by a wider range of concepts such as poltergeists, demons and such.

Several problems, however, may arise due to poorly described definitions and intension of concepts. Some definitions can cause the guesser to go in circles such as by defining using synonyms. Inappropriate definitions will also not be really helpful in narrowing down the possibilities. Some intensions, although should be helpful in narrowing down the possible extensions, sometimes are not fully used because of the ambiguity of the term or the lack of knowledge to make use of such intensions.

For example, in guessing provinces in the Philippines, the most common trick used by students is categorizing it as a province found in Luzon, Visayas, or Mindanao. The problem with this, however, is that inclusion to any of the three major divisions will not be of significant help without familiarity to the regions and provinces found in each. Differences in personal standards of what may and what may not be part of an intension of a word may also pose a problem when defining it. This can cause a discord upon choosing whether to respond with a yes or no.

Another is the inclusion of words that bear ample resemblance to the description provided that leads the guesser to think that related concepts to such descriptions will sufficiently categorize the unknown word thus making the guesser stray away from the original word. In a sense, the game Pinoy Henyo is a guessing game that employs precising definitions. Guessers are tasked to categorize and narrow down on the unknown word by enumerating possible and hopefully unique characteristics of each word; the only difference is that they are supposed to work their way up to the term rather than simply defining it.


Acuña, A. (2004). Extension and Intension of Concepts. Philosophical Analysis. (pp. 29-31). Diliman, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

Aswang. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aswang [accessed April 24, 2016]

Bulan, C. & De Leon, I. (n.d.). Nonverbal Communication The Potent Hidden Language. Comm 3 Practical Speech Fundamentals.

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