This is an urban legend that has a partial basis in fact. I spotted the urban legend on one of the Skype forums one day and decided to do a little research.
The yo-yo has existed for centuries, in one form or another, but only became popular in the 20th century.
There are a lot of Filipinos who believe yo-yos were invented as weapons for hunting. In fact, they believe the word means “come-come” (come back) in various Filipino languages and dialects.
I found absolutely no historical basis for this belief.
When you want to know the truth about something, go to the source. The best source is the company that brought the modern yo-yo into the United States national consciousness, Duncan YoYo. If you read through the history, you’ll find out that a Filipino-American by the name of Pedro Flores invented the modern version of the yo-yo in 1923 and opened a business around it.
Donald Duncan bought the business from Pedro Flores in 1930 and Pedro went to work for him, running promotions for the yo-yo part of the business.
It’s come a long way since Duncan Toys acquired the right to make them. Duncan Toys has made a fortune with the various kinds of yo-yos they’ve made and continue to sponsor competitions around the world.
The kinds that Duncan Toys now makes include the classic yo-yos from my youth as well as newfangled ones that don’t even need a string. The latter is turning out to be the most popular yo-yo line for yo-yo professionals.
I spent many days of my youth playing with wooden and plastic yo-yos and I can’t even remember how many yo-yos I actually had. I never mastered any of the fancy yo-yo tricks, but I had a lot of fun with them just the same.