Why Lato-Lato Is Taking over the Streets of the Philippines

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Lato-Lato took over Filipino culture in 2023.

Clack, clack, clack. 

This sound has been echoing the streets of Cebu for the past few months. The ever-present clacking has started a storm within the country because of a viral trend online. 

The clacking sound comes from the Lato-Lato, an old iconic toy in the Philippines that has resurfaced among the current generation. Its sudden popularity has brought both joy and excitement to some, but annoyance and concern to others. 

These clackers consist of two balls made of hard acrylic plastic, which are connected by a string. With a handle, you can swing and knock them together to make a loud, clacking sound. These are extremely popular among kids, teenagers, and adults for fidgeting and curing boredom. 

HISTORY OF LATO-LATO

A fixture of the 60s and 70s, clackers were an iconic Filipino toy.

Lato-Lato may be one of the most famous Filipino toys, but it didn’t actually originate from the Philippines. Clackers were first manufactured in the United States as an educational apparatus called Newton’s Yoyo. 

Clackers are played by swinging the balls and hitting them together to produce a clacking sound. The challenge is keeping the rhythm and motion going for as long as you can. 

The swinging motion can be difficult and sometimes extremely painful. The balls hurt when they hit your arm or wrist, but you might understand its recreational appeal when you get the hang of it. 

The first iteration of clackers was made of tempered glass and would break while being played. This brought up major concerns in the community, with schools even banning students from using them. 

There are several versions of clackers that have been created over the years.

The balls were soon changed to acrylic and became much safer as a recreational activity. It became an instant hit among the younger generations during the 60s and 70s. 

Its popularity grew outside the U.S., as it became known in Southeast Asia as the “Lato-Lato.” The name is taken from the Buginese word for “make clacking sounds.” 

Its bright colors, addictive sound, and deceptively challenging playstyle made it the perfect noisemaker.   

The toy became a beacon of the past during the 2000s, as the world adapted to the Internet and technology. Ironically, it was the Internet that gave this primitive plaything its quick resurgence.  

The toy gained popularity in Indonesia in 2022 and then garnered a lot of attention in the Philippines with Tiktok users showing off their skills in their timelines. 

This soon spawned a dozen parodies and memes that have taken over social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Today, a dozen kids can be seen clacking their Lato-Latos around various streets and public areas of Cebu. You can even find this toy at public markets like Carbon and shopping malls like Ayala Central Bloc at IT Park

HEALTH CONCERNS AND CONTROVERSIES

Clackers are fun, but there are several health hazards you should be wary of.

Unfortunately, clackers have a few health hazards that have become a major concern among parents. 

The motion used for swinging the two balls can cause bruises if the balls hit the wrist or arm of the user. This can be extremely painful, and continuous collisions may even cause injury. 

The Food and Drug Administration in the Philippines (FDA) has warned the public about a certain glow-in-the-dark Lato-Lato sold online that is made of dangerous chemicals. They claim that it may affect the user’s endocrine and reproductive organs. 

Poorly made clackers may also have broken parts that can cause choking and suffocation aside from serious physical injuries. 

Other than that, a high school in Cebu City banned the toy within the campus after receiving reports that several students had been injured, with others using it as a weapon. 

The Department of Education has not issued guidelines for using the Lato-Lato, but many parents are wary about how this might harm their children. If you have a child, sibling, or relative who is interested in this toy, you should definitely watch out for them and remind them of their safety.

If you have been to Cebu in the past few months, it’s possible that this old toy may have piqued your interest. Whether you’re curious about how addictive or difficult it is to play, you’ve probably thought about trying a Lato-Lato out yourself.

It’s impressive to see an old iconic toy in the Philippines become relevant again despite the many possible health hazards that have plagued it for years. It may take some time to master, but it can be a fun leisure activity once you get the hang of it.

The resurgence of clackers shows that there is an interest in more vintage recreational devices. Who knows what classic Filipino toy will become the next trend on social media?

When playing the Lato-Lato, remember to keep safe and avoid playing it too close to other people to avoid hitting them. Have fun and happy clacking!

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