Baybayin: An Early Text not Taught in the Philippines

Author: Jeg Cadayona
Post Date: June 10, 2021

During the early times of the Philippines, an old writing system was used by its people The people from Luzon extensively used this language during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 2018, the Philippine House of Representatives approved a bill that would declare Baybayin as the national writing system of the country. This bill will declare Baybayin as the country's national writing system which will generate consciousness to the script. The word 'baybayín' means to spell or write in Tagalog language. From the material that is accessible, it is clear that Baybayin was used in Luzon, Panay, Leyte and Iloilo, but there is no proof supporting that Baybayin reached Mindanao. Way before the Spaniards came what we know today as the Philippines, it seems understandable that the Luzon and Palawan variations started to develop in different ways during the 1500s. This puts Luzon and Palawan islands as the first 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 1593 Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Española y Tagala, the first printed book in a Philippine language, featuring both Tagalog in Baybayin and transliterated into Latin script. Baybayin was generally used for personal writings, poetry, etc. which was acclaimed by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be defined by most Filipinos.

There were datus from the 1590s who could not write affidavits or oaths, and witnesses who could not sign land deeds in the 1620s according to William Henry Scott. Eventually Baybayin fell out of use in much of the Philippines because of the hesitation over vowels (i/e and o/u) and final consonants, missing letters for Spanish sounds and the fame of Spanish culture and writing may have contributed to the demise of Baybayin over time. Because there's incompleteness of pre-Hispanic specimens of usage of the Baybayin script has led to a ordinary misconstruction that fanatical Spanish priests must have burned or destroyed massive amounts of native documents. The most likely reason why no pre-Hispanic documents lived, according to scholar Paul Morrow who also noted that there are no noted instances of ancient Filipinos writing on scrolls, is because they wrote on biodegradable materials such as leaves and bamboo. The only surviving recent scripts that based directly from the indigenous Baybayin script through natural development are the Tagbanwa script inherited from the Tagbanwa people by the Palawan people and named Ibalnan, the Buhid script and the Hanunóo script in Mindoro. Baybayin usually was used in Tagalog and to a fewer extent Kapampangan speaking areas. The writing tools used to write Baybayin were called panulat and it is usually noted upon palm leaves upon bamboo with knives.

Filipinos would sometimes write down lessons taught in church and some instituted keeping writings of their property and financial transactions all in Baybayin. For iOS and Android mobile devices, a virtual keyboard app Gboard was made and updated last August 1, 2019. Without the use of online typepads, it is also possible to type Baybayin right from the keyboard.