La La Li La Tam Pong

La la li la tam pong
Ah Pek bay apom (Old man/uncle sells pancake)
Apom tim lok hai (Pancake is thrown into the sea)
Ah Pek jiak kau sai (Old man/uncle eats dog poo)

There were a few childhood games that I used to play with the neighbourhood kids and schoolmates during primary school. Those that I remember well were hide and seek, the Asian version of hopscotch and one-legged catch. To select one out of many in any of those games we would stand in a circle and went “la la li la tam pong” while turning the palm up and down following the rhythm of the verse. At the end of each line, we would show our hands, either with the palm facing up or down. The loser will be the only one showing the odd hand. For example, if there are four people, and three show the palm facing up while one shows the palm facing down he loses. If there is more than one with the same show of hands, the selection process continues. The verses are in Penang Hokkien and every kid during those times knew it by heart. I have no inkling who composed this meaningless and perverted verses but kids being kids, we just used it in our games without much thought about its origins or meanings.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

3 thoughts on “La La Li La Tam Pong”

  1. we had so many folk games as kids…. somehow we stopped playing them and forgot about them. i know i have forgotten most of them. i wonder how many kids these days play such games when they have xbox, play station and so on.

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