Bringing Back the Ancient Baybayin Text

Author: Jeg Cadayona
Post Date: October 13, 2021

The Philippines, many years ago, has an ancient writing system called Baybayin. It was widely used in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines during the 16th and 17th centuries. The House of Representatives approved a bill that would proclaim Baybayin as the national writing system of the Philippines in 2018. This bill will proclaim 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 information that is at hand 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 differences 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. In modern times, Baybayin has been called 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 oldest printed book in a Philippine language, describing both Tagalog in Baybayin and rendered into Latin script. Baybayin was generally used for secret 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. But, descibed by to William Henry Scott, there were datus from the 1590s who could not sign 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 scepticism 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. Because there's absence of pre-Hispanic specimens of usage of the Baybayin script has led to a usual misunderstanding that fanatical Spanish priests must have burned or destroyed massive amounts of native documents. The scholar Paul Morrow also noted that there are no written instances of ancient Filipinos writing on scrolls, and that the most likely reason why no pre-Hispanic documents survived is because they wrote on biodegradable materials such as leaves and bamboo.

The only surviving modern scripts that inspired directly from the original Baybayin script through natural development are the Tagbanwa script given to 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 fewer extent Kapampangan speaking areas. Usually, Baybayin was written 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 developed and updated last August 1, 2019. It is also viable to type Baybayin right from the keyboard without the need to use online typepads.