How an Old Handwriting System, the Baybayin can be Brought Back

Author: Veronica Sabanillas
Post Date: June 04, 2021

An aged writing system called the Baybayin was used in the Philippines way back many years ago. The people from Luzon extensively used this language during the 16th and 17th centuries. The House of Representatives approved a bill that would announce Baybayin as the national writing system of the Philippines in 2018. This bill will announce Baybayin as the country's national writing system which will generate consciousness to the script. In the Tagalog language, 'baybayín' means to write or spell. There is no proof supporting that Baybayin reached Mindanao based from the notes that is available and it is clear that Baybayin was used in Luzon, Panay, Leyte and Iloilo. Way before the Spaniards got a hand of what we know today as the Philippines, it seems direct that the Luzon and Palawan classes started to develop in different ways during the 1500s. This puts Luzon and Palawan islands as the oldest regions where Baybayin was and is used in the Philippines. Baybayin has been denoted Badlit, Kudlit-kabadlit for the Visayans, Kurditan, Kur-itan for the Ilocanos, and Basahan for the Bicolanos in recent times. The oldest printed book in a Philippine language, depicting both Tagalog in Baybayin and reworded into Latin script, is the 1593 Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Española y Tagala. Baybayin was generally used for secret writings, poetry, etc. which was regarded by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by most Filipinos. But, descibed by to William Henry Scott, there were datus from the 1590s who could not inscribe affidavits or oaths, and witnesses who could not sign land deeds in the 1620s. The hesitancy over vowels (i/e and o/u) and final consonants, lacking letters for Spanish sounds and the stature of Spanish culture and writing may have contributed to the demise of Baybayin over time, as eventually Baybayin fell out of use in much of the Philippines. Because there's missing of pre-Hispanic specimens of usage of the Baybayin script has led to a familiar missapprehension that fanatical Spanish priests must have burned or destroyed massive amounts of native documents. The scholar Paul Morrow also noted that there are no recorded occasions of ancient Filipinos writing on scrolls, and that the most likely reason why no pre-Hispanic documents lived is because they wrote on biodegradable materials such as leaves and bamboo.

The only surviving recent scripts that based directly from the native Baybayin script through natural development are the Tagbanwa script left on from the Tagbanwa people by the Palawan people and named Ibalnan, the Buhid script and the Hanunóo script in Mindoro. The people who historically use Baybayin are Tagalog and a lesser extent Kapampangan speaking areas. Usually, Baybayin was recorded upon palm leaves upon bamboo with knives, and the writing tools were called panulat. Filipinos would sometimes write down lessons taught in church and some began keeping records of their property and financial transactions all in Baybayin. For iOS and Android mobile devices, a virtual keyboard app Gboard was developed and updated last August 1, 2019. Directly typing Baybayin from the keyboard is also viable without the need to use online typepads.