“I’ve wanted to create a legitimate board game ever since I was a child,” explains Dwaine Woolley, adding, “When I was 12 years old, I loved reading fantasy novels and playing fantasy-themed table-top games such as Dungeons and Dragons, HeroQuest, and others. I loved them so much that I started creating my own board games.”
A former missionary, Dwaine first arrived in the Philippines in 2011 and served for two years. Spending time in Leyte and Samar (an island and province in the Philippines, respectively), he immersed himself in local culture to the point that he became fluent in three Philippine languages – Tagalog, Cebuano, and Waray.
Going back to Australia in 2013, he discovered that he missed how friendly and caring the Filipinos were, their food and sense of humor, and the general Filipino way of life.
Throwing all to the universe, Dwaine packed his bags and left Australia for good, settling in Manila in 2015
“I find being here makes me feel happier because the atmosphere is generally more positive,” Dwaine relates, “Kahit minsan mahirap ang buhay masaya pa rin ang mga Pinoy. Nakakainspire yun eh (Even though life does get a bit hard, Filipinos manage to stay happy. I find that very inspiring.)”
It was when Corona hit that Dwaine decided to resurrect one of the old board games he had invented when he was a child. Suddenly finding a lot of spare time on his hands, he play-tested and straightened out the existing flaws in his old game and adjusted the theme to reflect Filipino culture more.
Called Engkanto after supernatural spirits or beings found in Filipino folklore and mythology, Dwaine describes the game as a quest with Filipino heroes or “Bayani” as the protagonists.
He says, “Engkanto is about the Bayanis travelling from Samar to Biringan City (a mythical city said to be inhabited by paranormal beings and having advanced technology) to rescue human captives held by the “Engkantos.”
According to Dwaine, he had always had an interest in the supernatural. After hearing tales of the engkantos from the locals, he became fascinated with Filipino supernatural beings, and tried to learn everything he could about them.
At first, he did his research online but started interviewing the residents of Samar and Leyte because he felt it would be more interesting to meet people who have allegedly had firsthand encounters with these enchanted beings.
Asked why he preferred a board game over an app, Dwaine said that he wanted to encourage bonding between family members and friends, something that apps rarely do. Besides, he added, not everyone has an affinity for computer and video games.
To head off any accusations of cultural appropriation (Dwaine is, after all, a white dude), he explains, “I’ve never understood why people think that the only cultural inspiration we’re allowed to love is our own cultural heritage. We’re all human beings, we’re all citizens of Earth and I believe that sharing our culture with others is educational and positive. I’m making a Filipino themed game because I love Filipino culture.”
To highlight this, Dwaine says, “The game is riddled with stories of Engkanto and even Filipino humor. For example, there is a card in the game you can draw called “Balut – pampalakas ng tuhod (Balut – to make the knees grow stronger)” which makes your character move faster. This references the Filipino belief that eating ducks’ eggs gives one extra vigor.”
He adds, “There’s also “Pancit – Pampahaba ng Buhay” (Pancit – For longer life) which gives you more health, again referencing yet another Filipino belief, that eating noodles grants one long life.”
Perhaps the greatest hurdle Dwaine faces in creating Engkanto is funding. While most details have been ironed out, that of funding remains a major obstacle.
“If I can’t generate enough interest in two months then the game would never really be successful,” Dwaine laments. He then declares enthusiastically, “Crossed fingers we can hit that goal!”
For those interested in helping Dwaine out with Engkanto’s production, you can donate to the Engkanto Kickstarter campaign here:
Words by Jigs Arquiza. Jigs is a journalist-turned-mechanic who lives on the island of Cebu, Philippines. He’s been cooking since he was 12 years old, but refuses to go professional because he doesn’t want to get into arguments about how authentic his food is. Follow him on Instagram at @eatssogood
Photos provided by Dwaine Woolley
Visit Dwaine’s fan page HERE