An anatomy of a famous bench and its journey into cyberspace
by Connie C. Cagahastian

Click here to join the Tayangtang

The real Tayangtang ni Karyong BadoTayangtang has a rustic, almost musical ring to it, however discordant one may perceive the word upon its playback. Tayangtang, after all, is the pulse of Paete, an ubiquitous presence by which the tempo of life in this little town is measured and recorded.

Tayangtang is vintage Paete, its very own indigenous term for a bench. Similar benches have sprouted around the town, but there can only be one Tayangtang ni Karyong Bado. And it's found just outside the convenience store in Bagumbayan, a few meters away from the Ermita Church. The original store was owned by Macario Valdellon, a member of the Paete Municipal Government.  Valdellon's name rose in value not so much by his success as a businessman, but maybe more so by the historical appendage that now binds his name with the past and present of the people of Paete.

Tayangtang ni Karyong Bado and the Paetenio have seen through life's many seasons together. It has served as a forum where the town's self-proclaimed geniuses, philosophers and gossips drop in to discuss the latest developments on the local, national and international scene. Much rationalizing of motivations and sharing of backroom information is offered. Here, one may chance upon a brilliant discourse on how to solve the country's pressing problems and pick up a nugget or two of wisdom to ponder upon later.

This is also where one hears, first, who just arrived in town, recently died, given birth, found a new job, lost his, married, or who's sleeping with who and other small talk that may sound mundane. But these are the tales that continue to thread the life of a people. They find comfort in homespun accounts and pass them on to friends and relatives now dispersed all over the globe longing for that feel-good stories of the old town.

The first Tayangtang served as a sort of pre-departure lounge where townsfolk waiting for rides to take them out of Paete sat and waited. Its original location was at the main bus stop for the two transportation companies that served Paete about half a century ago, the LTB (it still does) and RayTran, in the southwest corner of Plaza Edesan.

Owing to its strategic location, Tayangtang invariably became the principal source of the latest news from Manila and areas outside Paete, brought in fresh by early-morning arrivals. It eventually metamorphosed into a public forum where people, not necessarily travelers, met to trade stories, at all hours.

Tayangtang had to be moved to its present location in Gitnang Bayan next to the Ermita Church, (Shrine of San Antonio Abad) when the national highway offered greater convenience for embarking and disembarking passengers. This is where, according to Ver Madrinan, standards for non-Paetenian brides the local boys bring home were defined:

(a) iyong mga puedeng iuwi ng tanghaling tapat, and
(b) iyong iuuwi lamang ng "first trip" or "last trip."

Tayangtang remains a congenial spot for male bonding, not only for profound discussions on the meaning of life -- or the lack of it. It is perfect for the uniquely Paete "usloan," a locally concocted term that refers to occasional digs at things personal and irreverent, participated in by the town's most rowdy, raucous types, the "buharo" and the rascals.

Paete's women have stayed clear of the Tayangtang, effectively designating a forum for their men to enjoy their exclusively male talk. For Tayangtang offers, too, a comforting setting for the men's rambunctious exchange of conquests and pleasures, real and imagined. But since Tayangtang participants come purely for a chance to network and socialize, liquor and drugs are no-no's. Discussions have therefore remained cordial, if not 100% wholesome.

Real Tayangtang, real peopleOne sits in at Tayangtang without a pre-programmed topic in mind.  Subject matters are brought in by the discussants, and each new walk-in invariably brings with him new ideas. A topic is not normally exhausted and arguments are left dangling, to be settled the next time the same group manages to get together. When one first joins in, no formal inquiries on topics currently discussed are made. Once he gets the drift of the conversation, he may stay on and engage in the exchange, or just lurk and listen. When a townmate happens to stroll by, he is almost always hailed into joining the foray, with the customary inquiry, "Saan baga ang punta mo?" (And where might you be going?) which to a non-Paetenio can be a downright assault on privacy. Why would they want to know where I'm headed, one may ask, and why should I tell them?  But it's Paete's own way of breaking the ice. The manner by which the inquiry was expressed and the characteristic Paete punto both half-plead for a response. It is good manners for the one invited to pause briefly for the obligatory kumustahan after obliquely parrying off queries regarding his destination. It also provides a polite exit for others in the group who must move on.

A version of Tayangtang ni Karyong Bado surfaced in cyberspace in early 1997, organized by this website's manager, Rey Q. Carolino and his Canada-based kababayans. Rey created a Paete chatroom at the DALNET Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network, invited the members in the Paete mailing list, and the first such chat was launched in real time. Early participants were Rene Peregil, Somy Asido and his children, Lee Quesada and a non-Paetenian friend, Marc Ballesteros.  When TalkCity came up with a web-based chat server, the group decided to move the Paete chat room from DALNET to TalkCity which gives participants a choice of using their web-based EZTALK program or an IRC software such as Microsoft Chat, mIRC, Pirch, etc. EZTALK allows chatters into the chat rooms with just their Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers, without having to install and configure any chat software.

In the Paetenians Internet Seminar last August, 1997 in Toronto, live internet chat brought in other kababayans from other parts of the globe, including Ver Madrinan in New York and Gunnar Emausson in Paris (he married a Paetenian, Elena Cagahastian). Paete's internet mailing list grew, but internet interest was still not there. Wired, but still lacking participants, the chat stopped for a while. Then several members on the list urged Rey Carolino to revive the chat, and Rey obliged, but only on condition that there must be enough interest in the group to join the chat.

Day after Christmas, December 26, 1998, the chat was re-launched. The turnout was great (click here for the transcript), and it inspired the holding of yet another session in the succeeding week. The clamor to chat grew stronger as more Paetenians heard about it and found a great way of reliving the old times and renewing ties with long-lost friends and relatives. It was then that the cyberleaders decided to hold the chat on a regular basis.

It was Pastor Gagaring, a staunch Tayangtang devotee from Saipan, who recommended to name the forum, "Tayangtang ni Karyong Bado." Thus, the Tayangtang went high-tech. The participants are now males and females, of various age groups and diverse occupational backgrounds. Language used is a mix of English and Tagalog . But decidedly Usap-Paete in character and appeal.

Owing to the new generation of chatters, many of whom may not have been born in Paete and only claim an affinity by way of parents and relations, the language used in TKB has also evolved, and on occasion, the chat becomes a forum for recalling used-only-in-Paete words, dissecting their meaning and relevance to today's usage. Outside of the Paete realm, some of those terms may sound bizarre and ridiculous, but native-born Paetenians attest to the precision by which these words deliver the message. Even the most authoritative dictionaries cannot succeed in reporting all their shifting nuances. Expect a Paetenian to recognize another, by simply overhearing the former's use of a uniquely Paete word or phrase.  An interactive collection of such terms is also available on this website. It ensures that the ties to Paete will never be severed wherever else in cyberworld the Paetenio is bound.

Tayangtang's internet format has retained that of the original Tayangtang in Paete which incidentally, is now a historical icon in that little corner just outside the original grocery store of Karyong Bado. Callers from different parts of the world log in on TKB, briefly interrupting the conversation with a string of hello's and glad-to-be-here stuff thrown both ways for those who arrived in the chat room ahead, and the newcomer. Then the talk somewhat assumes a formality when divergent views start to be expressed. Joy surfaces when relations are traced, or friends re-discover one another. Invariably, new friendships are forged, made more enduring by private Email correspondence that will surely follow.

Tayangtang very often explodes into a wild "usloan" when the old hands at this type of puckish poking take over. There may be moments of rough glee, but it's purely Paetenian mirth, and everyone soon forgets how the bantering bordered on the profane and the sacrilegious. Good byes are always temporary….see you next week in TKB.

Tayangtang ni Karyong Bado has gone a long way from its original setting in Paete. It is now replicated in the worldwide web -- host to a weekly chat that brings Paetenians together from various corners of the globe. It's the next best thing to being in the actual Tayangtang, they say. It still echoes the sentiments of a people craving for a glimpse of the quaint little town they left behind, whose images and memories they may not be able to hold on to for long, but they remain vivid and alive, at least for an hour of two in Tayangtang, cyber style.


About the Author

Connie's PictureConnie C. Cagahastian is currently Vice-President for Marketing and Franchising of Dermhaus, a pharmaceutical company in the Philippines, that manufactures medicinal skin preparations and other personal care products. She worked for many years as Vice-President of Hemisphere-Leo Burnett Advertising where she managed the advertising accounts of the country's biggest brands from Procter & Gamble, Pepsi Cola International and service-oriented organizations such as Bank of the Philippine Islands, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines. She is currently marketing consultant for a family entertainment center/video arcade and a company engaged in soy-based foods and drinks. She teaches market research part time in a local university. Prior to this, she published a travel newspaper in Singapore before going to the United States where she resumed her studies and worked with a United Way agency as an information officer.

Connie graduated with a BA degree, major in English, from the University of San Francisco in California where she was editor of The Evening College publication. She took up MS in Advertising at the Asian Institute for the Development of Advertising, UST Graduate School. She was a journalism student in UST and Features Editor of the Varsitarian when she dropped out in favor of a reporter's job with the defunct Philippines Herald -- its first female reporter.

Connie's e-mail address is msccc@netasia.net.



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