UAE residents have been trying the latest lato-lato challenge, which involves swinging plastic balls, connected by a string, up and down as they “clack” into each other. The goal is to do this in a sustained motion.
American actors Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors, as well as director Peyton Reed, of Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, were even asked by an Indonesian reporter to try the game during a red carpet event.
The lato-lato craze quickly gripped the Philippines, similarly aided by social media. Filipinos of all ages, were posting videos of them playing with the toy, with some even becoming fiercely competitive.
One boy was dubbed a lato-lato master for holding the clacking motion and rhythm for four minutes in a video on TikTok, which has since been watched 29.2 million times. The hashtag #latolatochallenge has about 33.3 million views in total, with many influencers also joining the craze.
Filipinos in the UAE couldn't let the trend pass without them taking part in it. TikTok content creator Rechel Hoco posted a video of herself playing with a lato-lato at City Walk, with the Burj Khalifa in the background.
“Isn't this really annoying?” she says, as she attempts, several times, to swing and hold the clacking motion. Part of what makes lato-lato interesting is the challenge of actually playing it properly.
Dubai resident Melroy D'Souza got to try the toy when his friend brought one from the Philippines.
“It's a really fun toy that reminds me of yo-yos when I was younger. There is a dopamine hit every time you succeed in playing lato-lato, and making that rhythmic sound,” he tells The National.
He attests to how challenging the game is, and “if you think you got it once, you could forget about the technique as fast as you learnt it”.
Another Filipino content creator in Dubai brought a lato-lato toy to her office and asked her colleagues to try them. In the video posted on TikTok, people from India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and the UK have tried, and mostly failed, to play it.
The lato-lato toy was not invented in South-East Asia. The term, according to local reports, comes from the Buginese (an ethnic group in Indonesia) word “latto-latto” which means “making a clacking sound”.
But the toy actually originated in the US during the 1960s where it was called different terms such as clackers, click-clacks or knockers. It was made of tempered glass that would shatter and was hazardous, until it was changed to plastic spheres.
Clackers were later considered unsafe in the US. A Wisconsin court in 1976 ordered to seize and destroy a shipment of about 50,000 sets of clacker balls under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, mainly to prevent children from hurting themselves.