Saturday, March 2Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What are Clackers in Tagalog? Origin, Ban, and Huge Comeback

The clackers in Tagalog are called “lato-lato,” a toy that used to be popular in the 60s, 70s, and 90s. But in late 2022, it made a huge comeback in Indonesia and Malaysia and reached the Philippines in 2023. As of posting, lato-lato is still a trending toy in the country despite the potential hazard from parts and injury it might cause to young children. 

clackers in Tagalog
Filipino children playing lato-lato / Lato-lato street selling

Contrary to what many people think, the lato-lato did not originate in the Philippines or Indonesia. Instead, it was introduced in the US in the late 60s and was called “clackers.” During that time, the balls in clackers were made of acrylic plastic and shattered when hitting each other. After receiving reports of eye injuries, the US FDA decided to ban the toy in 1971. 

Clackers were initially called Newton’s Yo-Yo, which was designed to be an educational toy. This is to let the students have a better understanding of two Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. The 90s version of the lato-lato was safer, but causes noise pollution, especially when played inside the schools. It was then dubbed “plastic orbs from hell.” 

Also called “knockers,” clackers have many other Indonesian names such as etek-etek, katto-katto nok-nok, and toki-toki. However, it is believed that the toy got its Asian name “lato-lato” from “latto-latto,” a Bugis word for “clacking sound.” The lato-lato was used as a weapon in the anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and was called “Hamon clackers volley.” 

Interestingly, Indonesian President Joko Widodo also played the lato-lato in December 2022. In February 2023, Hollywood actors Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors also played the viral toy during the red carpet premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania” in Indonesia. None of them played the clackers the way kids do, though. 

The extreme popularity of lalo-lato in the Philippines has its own issues. News reports reveal some incidents when the addictive toy caused bruises and swelling of arms in kids and young adults. This is because the latest design of lato-lato uses string to hold the two plastic spheres, which can go in different directions for non-expert users. 

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning against the distribution and sale of the unnotified glow-in-the-dark lato-lato. According to the agency, the toy may result in health risks including “reproductive or development effects; or may result in injury, choking or suffocation due to its small or broken parts.” 

Some barangays and local schools also issued a ban against selling and actual playing of lato-lato, but the toy seems to be unstoppable. For some people and parents, playing lato-lato also has advantages. According to them, it helps users improve coordination, concentration, and patience, and children can get away from using their smartphones.

Use lato-lato in a sentence.


Huwag mo ipalaro sa mga maliliit na bata ang lato-lato; baka matamaan ang braso o ulo nila. 


Don’t let small children play clackers, they might hit their arms or head.

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