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How Lipa’s Ajay Cabrera Created Confusion about the Word Magtatatak on Showtime

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Told you, didn’t I, that this feisty young man named Ajay Cabrera from Lipa City would stand out despite a potentially disastrous breakdown during the semi-finals of this ‘It’s Showtime’ segment called ‘Gandang Lalake.’

And while the title as the first Showtime Gandang Lalake ultimately went to Bulacan’s Nikko Seagal Natividad, Ajay did not do too bad finishing third with a hundred grand take-home prize to boot, now did he?

Because Ross Dimaculangan, the former DLSL working student, also made it to the Top 15 from a large group of 58 semi-finalists, we here in Lipa cannot really complain about the way our boys represented us on national television; albeit in a silly little male pageant that had been crying for a make-over.

In fact, even in yesterday’s finals, let us just say that the contestants who preferred to dance rather did better than those who preferred to sing. And of those who preferred to sing, let us just say that none of them will make it to The Voice of the Philippines.

All these done by a self-effacing young lad from Lipa City who could not even believe that he had made it to the Top 5 because, in his own words, so many others were better looking that him. Hilario, in fact, had to tell him never to sell himself short because he comes across very strong.
And I am being kind because a couple had the potential to flood EDSA and cause traffic jams. But back to Ajay and the magtatatak story.

From the time he was first introduced to the Showtime audience during the elimination round, Ajay had insisted that he was a magtatá-tak – accented on the third syllable – rather than the more conventional Tagalog pronunciation of mág-tataták – accents on the first and last syllables.

Ajay’s magtatá-tak is not even universal in Batangas; and I myself would have said it the more conventional way. Still, with that one word – or rather, with his off-beat pronunciation of the word – Ajay captured the public’s attention in ways he cannot even possibly begin to imagine.

It helped that Vice Ganda – himself half-Batangueño – while sitting among the panel of judges started to pronounce the word Ajay’s way. Taking the cue from Vice Ganda, hosts Billy Crawford, Vhong Navarro and Karylle also started to pronounce the word as magtatá-tak.

Only that spoilsport Jong Hilario, among the judges in the pageant’s finals yesterday, refused to be persuaded to use Ajay’s pronunciation. In fact, he attempted to correct Ajay and the other hosts by explaining that the pronunciation really ought to be mág-tataták because the root word is taták.

Finally, Ajay explained, “Matigas magsalitâ ang mga tao sa Batangas.” I will not deny that this is true because among ourselves, we do speak with a more aggressive tone than most other Tagalogs.

However, Ajay’s explanation was really beside the point because the discrepancy was just down to a matter of provincial accents. At least, Ajay managed to point out something that Hilario and all the other Showtime hosts should have realised long ago – that both pronunciations are correct.

It all boils down to who is talking. If it is a Batangueño, he may say it Ajay’s way. As mentioned, not everyone in Batangas will even say it that way.

Perhaps, it was just as well that Hilario intervened when he did. On national television, and with Vice Ganda as cheerleader, Ajay’s version had every potential to persuade an entire nation to adopt it as the new standard.

In fact, yesterday alone, there was an awful lot of interest in the word judging from the keyword searches that led readers to this web site. The most common search string was ‘ano ang magtatatak.’

Assuming that most everyone who did the searches knew what the mág-tataták was from the more conventional pronunciation, then one can deduce that the searches wanted to make sense of Ajay’s version. In other words, Ajay unwittingly created some confusion about the correct pronunciation of the word.

Assuming that some of the searchers did not even know what a shirt printer was to begin with, then suffice it to say that Ajay stirred enough interest to make them want to find out what a shirt printer does.

Moreover, so many people had been arriving at this web site searching for the word magtatatak since Ajay competed in the elimination round. While I do not really know this for a fact, it is entirely possible that Google made ‘magtatatak’ a keyword for searches because of this.

For instance, somebody arrived using the search string ‘magtatata.’ The person was in a hurry and failed to complete the word by forgetting to type the consonant ‘k.’ Curious, I tried the incomplete string on Google. Look what Google did. It showed search results for ‘magtatatak.’

All these done by a self-effacing young lad from Lipa City who could not even believe that he had made it to the Top 5 because, in his own words, so many others were better looking that him. Hilario, in fact, had to tell him never to sell himself short because he came across very strong.

Truth be told, Ajay’s strength has always been the charisma he does not even know he has; and this enabled him to connect not only with his audience but, more importantly, with the judges who were prepared to overlook his shortcomings to take him all the way to third place.

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