“Talinghaga” is a tabletop card game that not only entertains. It also educates players about the ancient Filipino writing system known as Baybayin.
Designed by Patricia “Patti” Ramos and Juan Miguel “Jam” Tolentino, and published by Philippine-based board game distributor Game Detective, “Talinghaga” is now available for purchase on the latter’s website.
A copy of the game is donated to a public school with every purchase.
“Talinghaga” is a word game where “players create, steal, and collect words in a tableau to get the most number of points in the game,” said Ramos.
The game comes with 90 syllable cards.
Creating words involves stringing together and modifying these syllables. For example, you can combine the A and SA syllables to create the word “asa.”
Alternatively, you can modify the SA syllable to create the word “aso.”
You can also add new syllables to your or other players’ completed words to change them.
Completed words award players points. After a set number of rounds, the player with the most points wins.
“The game is an opportunity for players to deconstruct Tagalog, a language that many of us speak every day but don’t really think about that much,” said Tolentino. “Playing the game has led many of our players into a newfound appreciation of our language.”
“Talinghaga” started as Patti's undergraduate thesis.
“I’ve always been interested in Baybayin and wanted to learn it for myself, so I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to make it my focus,” said Patti, who was also responsible for “Talinghaga’s” art.
Jam joined Patti early in the game’s development.
“I helped Patti with the mechanics, the earliest version of which was actually written on the back of a receipt,” he said.
Game Detective personnel helped the two get acquainted with their present “Talinghaga” publisher.
“We were very excited to see their game, especially with the excellent art Patti had for it,” said Game Detective Managing Partner Coco Quimpo. “Both designers have really brought in their own flavor to the game, as Jam is also a numbers man who’s a whiz at optimizing gameplay.”
Learning through gaming
Educating people about Baybayin was a key reason behind the creation of “Talinghaga.”
“I’m most proud of how ‘Talinghaga’ advocates for the Filipino language,” said Quimpo. “I don’t think there’s a lot of material that blends together learning and pointing to our heritage, while still remaining current and grounded. The fact that ‘Talinghaga’ doesn’t insist on the need for huge words, but includes slang is an interesting way to engage those that might not be interested otherwise.”
She added: “I’m also quite proud [of] how it challenges players to really dig deep for words they have in their system that they might not have thought about very much. I love that it gets people into the habit of practicing the language.”
As early as 2017, Ramos and Tolentino were already pushing for “Talinghaga” to be used as a teaching supplement in schools.
Today, “Talinghaga” is now an educational tool in Assumption Antipolo, Ateneo De Manila University, Ateneo High School, Miriam College, and other schools — and Game Detective is focusing on introducing the game to even more.
“Many teachers, even from traditional learning systems, have been pre-ordering copies with which to teach their students,” said Quimpo. “We find this very exciting since not a lot of games are able to break into the traditional learning space.”
Teachers also “love that we’ve taken an ancient alphabet system and incorporated it into a game, and they excitedly suggested different themes for succeeding games.”
The students have been enjoying it, too, especially for the mental exercise it provides.
“Since there are not a lot of Filipino games to do with Filipino vocabulary, it’s a novel idea to have to rack your brains for words,” said Quimpo.
Game Detective is extremely pleased with “Talinghaga’s” official release.
“It’s been a long road for the designers, and the team has really put their heads together to get this launched, so it gives me such a warm feeling to hear people enjoying the game, and to hear teachers excitedly talking about plans of including it into their curriculum," said Quimpo.
She added: “I’m really proud that we’re advocating for education with ‘Talinghaga.’ I love that we’re also able to give back to the community while selling this game.”
Of course, the “Talinghaga” team aims to stay true to its major goal.
“The goal of wanting people to appreciate the Tagalog language even more remains, and I believe it will continue to have that impact of allowing people a space to dig deeper into the Filipino vocabulary head-space,” said Quimpo. “We really want this to be a challenge to people that takes them back to their roots.”
In addition to the online store, “Talinghaga” is also available at Game Detective’s physical store at 74 Cambridge St., QC, and any workshop or talk conducted by Ramos, Tolentino, and Game Detective. — LA, GMA News