Baybayin: An Ancient Text not Taught in the Philippines

Author: Jeg Cadayona
Post Date: October 11, 2021

During the early times of the Philippines, an old writing system was used by its people The people from Luzon comprehensively used this language during the 16th and 17th centuries. The House of Representatives approved a bill that would reveal Baybayin as the national writing system of the Philippines in 2018. The measure seeks to reveal Baybayin as the Philippines’ national writing system, generating greater apprehension 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 notes that is obtainable and it is clear that Baybayin was used in Luzon, Panay, Leyte and Iloilo. Way before the Spaniards came what we know today as the Philippines, it seems understandable that the Luzon and Palawan varieties started to develop in different ways during the 1500s. The regions that has used Baybayin the earliest in the Philippines are the islands of Luzon and Palawan. In modern times, Baybayin has been denoted Badlit, Kudlit-kabadlit for the Visayans, Kurditan, Kur-itan for the Ilocanos, and Basahan for the Bicolanos. The 1593 Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Española y Tagala, the earliest printed book in a Philippine language, displaying both Tagalog in Baybayin and rewritten into Latin script. Baybayin was generally used for exclusive writings, poetry, etc. which was recognized by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by most Filipinos.

There were datus from the 1590s who could not inscribe affidavits or oaths, and witnesses who could not sign land deeds in the 1620s descibed by to William Henry Scott. The doubt over vowels (i/e and o/u) and final consonants, lacking letters for Spanish sounds and the regard 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 absence of pre-Hispanic specimens of usage of the Baybayin script has led to a regular missapprehension that fanatical Spanish priests must have burned or destroyed massive amounts of native documents. The most likely reason why no pre-Hispanic documents sustained, according to scholar Paul Morrow who also noted that there are no noted samples of ancient Filipinos writing on scrolls, is because they wrote on biodegradable materials such as leaves and bamboo.

The only surviving modern scripts that built directly from the primary 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. The people who traditionally use Baybayin are Tagalog and a marginally extent Kapampangan speaking areas. Usually, Baybayin was noted 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 instituted keeping evidences of their property and financial transactions all in Baybayin. The virtual keyboard app Gboard made by Google for iOS and Android mobile devices was updated on August 1, 2019 Without the use of online typepads, it is also viable to type Baybayin directly from the keyboard.