How an Old Text, the Baybayin can be Brought Back

Author: Christopher Chiong
Post Date: October 07, 2021

Baybayin is an ancient writing system that was used way back in the Philippines. It was extensively used in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 2018, the Philippine House of Representatives approved a bill that would state Baybayin as the national writing system of the country. The measure seeks to state Baybayin as the Philippines’ national writing system, generating greater consciousness on the script. The term 'baybayín' is described as 'to write' or 'to spell (syllabize)' in Tagalog. There is no proof supporting that Baybayin reached Mindanao based from the material that is accessible 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 coherent that the Luzon and Palawan types started to develop in different ways during the 1500s. The regions that has used Baybayin the oldest in the Philippines are the islands of Luzon and Palawan. 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, featuring both Tagalog in Baybayin and rewritten into Latin script, is the 1593 Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Española y Tagala. Baybayin was noted by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by Filipinos, and was generally used for exclusive writings, poetry, etc. But, admitted by to William Henry Scott, there were datus from the 1590s who could not write affidavits or oaths, and witnesses who could not sign land deeds in the 1620s. Eventually Baybayin fell out of use in much of the Philippines because of the uncertainty over vowels (i/e and o/u) and final consonants, absent letters for Spanish sounds and the prestige of Spanish culture and writing may have contributed to the demise of Baybayin over time. The incompleteness of pre-Hispanic specimens of usage of the Baybayin script has led to a usual misconstruction that fanatical Spanish priests must have burned or destroyed massive amounts of native documents. The most likely reason why no pre-Hispanic documents existed, according to scholar Paul Morrow who also noted that there are no noted cases of ancient Filipinos writing on scrolls, is because they wrote on biodegradable materials such as leaves and bamboo. The only surviving recent scripts that built directly from the original 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. Usually, Baybayin was noted upon palm leaves upon bamboo with knives, and the writing tools were called panulat. Some Filipinos established keeping records of their property and financial transactions, and would write down lessons they were taught in church, all in Baybayin. For iOS and Android mobile devices, a virtual keyboard app Gboard was programmed and updated last August 1, 2019. It is also possible to type Baybayin right from the keyboard without the need to use online typepads.