The Philippine Ancient Scripts: Baybayin

Philippines has been a colonized country way back 1521 under the Spanish Empire led by the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan until the Philippine Revolution in 1898. After which Spanish – American war took place and the U.S took possession of the Philippines prompting again another war, the Philippine – American war from 1899 to 1902. This year, the Philippines will celebrate its 122 years independence.

Philippine Scripts Baybayin
Rappler

Baybayin: The Native Script

Before Filipinos learned the Spanish and other dialects, Filipino ancestors had an alphabet of their own. From the tagalog term meaning “alphabet”, it is recorded to have been existed since the 16th century. Baybayin is more of a syllabary, it comes from the root word “Baybay” which means “to spell”. Some dubbed it as “Alibata” which is according to Paul Rodriguez Versoza came from the arrangement of Arabic alphabet: alif, ba, ta, eliminating the letter “f“. He is a member of the old National Language Institute and also the person behind the alibata name. However, due to the inaccuracy and illegitimacy of evidences, it never materialized.



Baybayin 101
Harley Oñes

There are early Spanish accounts stating that baybayin is also called Tagalog letters or Tagalog writings. Visayan natives called it as Moro writing. Many writing systems in Southeast Asia originated from the ancient scripts used in India about 2,000 years ago, and baybayin shares the same important features. Despite its spread in the Philippines around 1500s, it began to decline in 1600s. Some say due to practicality, others noted social expediency. However, in some parts of the country, it was never lost or forgotten, instead, it developed into distinct styles spoken by other natives.

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Today, baybayin is taught in schools and some millennials are keen on learning it. For someone like me who is new to this ancient scripts, and despite of my age, it piqued my interest. After learning a little of the Japanese scripts – Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, I find the baybayin almost similar to it including other scripts like Arabic. Take note though that I didn’t learn how to write Arabic and I badly needed a refresher from Japanese because I forgot as of this writing. And I have a not-so-good personal memory about the time I am learning the Japanese scripts (so, please bear with me).

Baybayin 101 Chesz Dylan
http://fredsbaybayintopics.blogspot.com/

Learning baybayin is fun, I felt the Filipino pride somewhere in my heart. However, while it is fun learning it, I had a hard time of some letters since it doesn’t have an equivalent in baybayin. Some English words especially the consonants doesn’t have Baybayin equivalent. I have to transfer it in Tagalog in order to write its Baybayin scripts.

The Baybayin Vowels

Similar to the vowels in English alphabet, the English alphabet consist of vowels such as a, e, i, o, u, in the baybayin scripts the vowels however are a, u/o and i/e. However, to make the accurate sound, you have to put a kudlit marks. Abugida is the method of writing in baybayin. The vowels along with kudlit marks work together to emphasize the sound. If the kudlit mark is placed above the letter, the a changes to i or e sound. While when placing the kudlit mark below the letter, it will sound like o or u.

The Baybayin Consonants

Similar to the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana, baybayin has consonants: ba, ka, da, ga, ha, la, ma, na, nga, pa, ta, wa, ya. Almost like in Japanese or other alphabets, it is written to how it sounded.

The difficulty when writing consonants in Baybayin scripts is when the consonants has no vowels. Generally, those letters are omitted.  But there is also a way how to write it. Based in Doctrina Christiana of 1593, the oldest surviving example of baybayin and similar to Japanese script, consonants can be separated by inserting a vowel in between and usually, it’s the same vowel that follows the consonant pair.

The Non-Baybayin Scripts

Similar to Kanji in Japanese, there are also some baybayin scripts that doesn’t have a direct equivalent. These letters are substituted as b for letter v, p for letter f, k or s for letter c as few of the examples.

Baybayin vowels and consonants Chesz Dylan
paulmorrow.ca

This language of ours is like any other,
it once had an alphabet and its own letters
that vanished as though a tempest had set upon
a boat on a lake in a time now long gone.

“To My Fellow Children”,
attributed to Jose Rizal, 1869
English translation by P. Morrow

Learning something new especially when it has to do something with your country’s tradition and rich history is fun and exciting. I got to write my name in baybayin.

Baybayin Chesz

You can use this link to generate your baybayin name.

The Philippine Ancient Scripts Baybayin

Did you learn something? Do you see the similarity of Baybayin from other foreign alphabets? Tell us in the comments section below.

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