Comparative table of Baybayin variations by Pedro Paterno, 19th century.

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Comparative table of Baybayin variations In the 19th century Pedro Paterno published this comparative table of the various baybayin variations. Baybayin the correct term for our pre-Spanish syllabary not "Alibata". … [Read more...]

Baybayin – The Ancient Script of the Philippines by Paul Morrow

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Baybayin - The Ancient Script of the Philippines  by Paul Morrow   This language of ours is like any other, it once had an alphabet and its own letters that vanished as though a tempest had set upon a boat on a lake in a time now long gone. "To My Fellow Children”, attributed to Jose Rizal, 1869 English translation by P. Morrow The tempest in Rizal's verse struck the Philippines in the 16th century. It was the Spanish Empire and the lost alphabet was a script that is known today as the baybayin. Contrary to the common misconception, when the Spaniards arrived in the islands they found more than just a loose collection of backward and belligerent tribes. They found a civilization that was very different from their own. The ability to read and write is the mark of any civilization and, according to many early Spanish accounts, the Tagalogs had already been writing with the baybayin for at least a century. This script was just beginning to spread throughout the islands at that time. Furthermore, the discovery in 1987 of an inscription on a sheet of copper in Laguna is evidence that there was an even more advanced script in limited use in the Philippines as far back as the year 900 C.E.  (See The Laguna Copperplate Inscription) Continue at: http://www.mts.net/~pmorrow/bayeng1.htm … [Read more...]

Baybayin: The Lost Filipino Script (Part 1) by Indio Historian

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Baybayin: The Lost Filipino Script (Part 1) by Indio Historian The Baybayin as we know it today is an ancient Filipino system of writing, a set of 17 characters or letters that had spread throughout the Philippine archipelago in the sixteenth century. The graphic contours of the Baybayin are distinguished by smoothly flowing curvilinear strokes that convey both suppleness and strength. For some history enthusiasts, never ever ever ever call Baybayin “Alibata”. This name was invented by Paul Versoza who thought that Baybayin came from Arabic and thus named it ‘Alif-bata,’ the first letters of the Arabic script. Recent studies suggest that Baybayin may have come from Sanskrit, the ancient Indian script, brought to the Philippine shores by Indian traders. Where did the name Baybayin come from? The word ‘baybay’ in ancient Tagalog means ‘to spell’ or in modern Filipino, ‘syllable.’ As early as 900 AD, there are tidbits of evidences that the ancients in our islands had a sophisticated way of writing. As to why it quickly disappeared comes from the fact that we were never a print culture like China and Korea, that used paper and built large libraries of scrolls to preserve their history, their memory. Another factor is the effective colonization of Spain by the forcing of the houses of ‘natives’ to be gathered around a town-square called ‘reducciones’ close to the church and the alcaldes for the close supervision of the Spanish authorities. Continue at: http://indiohistorian.tumblr.com/post/13097309564/baybayin-the-lost-filipino-script-part-1-the … [Read more...]

Documentary: Itinaga sa Bato – Baybayin Documentary written by Howie Severino and directed by Cris Sto. Domingo

Itinaga sa Bato baybayin

Documentary: Itinaga sa Bato - Baybayin Documentary written by Howie Severino and directed by Cris Sto. Domingo   http://youtu.be/nk2SF81q7kY Part 1   http://youtu.be/HWmFhBlJLko Part 2   http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/227829/publicaffairs/iwitness/itinaga-sa-bato-documentary-by-howie-severino http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2010078/ Many Filipinos are in the dark about their pre-colonial past, or Philippine history before the Spaniards came. That past is coming to light with Amaya, the first prime-time teleserye about Philippine society and culture before Europeans knew these existed. But even that history is based on what Spanish chroniclers wrote about the islanders they called indios. A recently discovered stone may change all that. A doormat for many years outside a Masbate classroom, the stone slab was cleaned by school children, revealing beneath the hardened mud writing in the ancient Filipino script called baybayin. Is it really a window into our pre-colonial past, or simply the work of a more recent hobbyist? Howie Severino and his documentary team accompany scientists to Ticao Island in Masbate as they try to authenticate the stone's origins and unlock its secrets. What does the writing say? Their investigation leads Howie's team's to living baybayin writers in Manila trying to keep the ancient script alive, convinced that it is an essential element in Filipinos' modern identity and a way for them to stand tall in a globalizing world where many languages, and the cultures they represent, are vanishing.       … [Read more...]

Book review: “Baybayin Atbp.: Mga Pag-aaral at Pagpapayaman ng Kulturang Pilipino” – Why is baybayin relevant today? Ime Morales

Baybayin Atbp book cover

Book review: Why is baybayin relevant today? Text and photo by IME MORALES If you think that baybayin, or the alibata, as it has come to be known in recent times, is simply our Filipino ancestors’ way of writing, then the contents of “Baybayin Atbp.: Mga Pag-aaral at Pagpapayaman ng Kulturang Pilipino” (Teresita B. Obusan, Raymond M. Cosare, and Minifred P. Gavino) will awaken your curiosity and, hopefully, your spirit. It is true, first of all, that baybayin is the indigenous writing form invented by our great grandfathers. But it is also true that it is much more than that. During a September 28 lecture organized by UP Tomo-Kai in Palma Hall, UP Diliman, social worker and writer Dr. Teresita B. Obusan said that the baybayin is a symbol of our culture and a means to study and understand mysticism. She explained, “We did not copy this. It was created by our ancestors and it becomes us.” In the booklet, which was printed earlier this year and written in the vernacular, she writes: “Baybayin is a gift from heaven, given to us through our ancestors; it is a legacy for the Filipino people... and it is our responsibility to take care of it and nurture it.”   Article continues at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/278915/lifestyle/reviews/book-review-why-is-baybayin-relevant-today … [Read more...]

Book: Estudio de los antiguos alfabetos filipinos by Cipriano Marcilla y Martín (1895)

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Estudio de los antiguos alfabetos filipinos (1895) Author: Cipriano Marcilla y Martín Publisher: Tipo-litografia del asilo de huérfanos Year: 1895 Language: Spanish … [Read more...]

The Calatangan Pot inscription

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A new translation of the Calatangan Pot inscription The Calatangan Pot is a prehispanic (14th-16th century) artifact containing an inscription around the neck. It is said to be one of the earliest expressions of prehispanic writing in the Philippines, and there have been several attempts at translating the inscription. Rolando Borrinaga is the latest person to offer an translation of the script, based on old Bisayan and old Tagalog alphabets. An earlier attempt to decipher the Calatangan Pot incription was made by University of the Philippines’ Ramon Guillerm *** The mystery of the ancient inscription The Inquirer, 23 May 2009 AFTER 50 years of enigma, the text inscribed around the shoulder of the Calatagan Pot, the country’s oldest cultural artifact with pre-Hispanic writing, may have been deciphered as written in the old Bisayan language. Diggers discovered the pot in an archeological site in Calatagan, Batangas, in 1958. They sold it for P6 to a certain Alfredo Evangelista. Later, the Anthropological Foundation of the Philippines purchased the find and donated it in 1961 to the National Museum, where it is displayed to this day. The pot, measuring 12 centimeters high and 20.2 cm at its widest and weighing 872 grams, is considered one of the Philippines’ most valuable cultural and anthropological artifacts. It has been dated back to the 14th and 16th centuries. *** The Calatagan Pot by Hector Santos © 1996 by Hector Santos All rights reserved. http://www.bibingka.com/dahon/mystery/pot.htm In the early 1960's, an artifact was offered by treasure hunters to National Museum staff as they were working on a nearby excavation. It was the Calatagan pot, the first pre-Hispanic artifact with writing to be found. As such, it is the best known and written about among all artifacts with writing. Even at that, it is still undeciphered. Calatagan Pot The late Dr. Robert Fox brought the pot to the offices of the Manila Times to ask help from its editor, Chino Roces, in deciphering the writing around the mouth of the pot. The newspaper, as a result, commissioned the sculptor Guillermo Tolentino, an expert on Philippine syllabaries, to decipher the writing. Tolentino had a hard time with certain letters so he, as a spiritist, reportedly summoned his special powers to come up with a translation. The authenticity of the pot has been questioned since it first showed up. For one thing, no other pot has been found decorated with writing. Carbon dating was reportedly done on the pot but the results pointed to such an extremely early date that it had to be rejected. Dr. Fox wanted to do some thermoluminescence testing but didn't live to see it done. Nevertheless, the pot may still be authentic. It would have been very easy for a forger to write something decipherable on the pot, especially text which made sense. Anyone attempting to create a phony artifact would probably have done so. As it was, the strangeness of the characters and the direction of writing (or to be more precise, the direction in which the artisan wrote the letters) gives us something to think about. Juan Francisco, a respected Philippine paleographer, did some analysis of the letters in his 1973 book, Philippine Palaeography. He could not decipher the writing, however. His analysis mainly consisted of classifying the letters as curvilinear, lineo-angular, or a combination of the two. I cannot see the usefulness of such a classification because there is no benefit from its use, whether in trying to find the script's heritage or in classifying it among the known scripts of the world. His book contains good sketches of all the letters though, which makes the section on the Calatagan pot in his book not entirely useless. The writing on the pot goes around its mouth. The letters look similar to those of classic Philippine scripts (Tagalog, Tagbanwa, Buhid, and Hanunóo) but some appear to be oriented in strange ways. Some show a similarity to older scripts used in Indonesia, suggesting an earlier development of classic Philippine scripts. The symbols are divided by stop marks into six groups (which may be phrases), each consisting of five or seven symbols. Calatagan Writing What is strange and maybe significant about the writing is the apparent direction in which the artisan wrote it. A look at the pot will show that the artisan engraved the letters into the soft clay in a direction going to the left looking at the pot as it stands right side up. He apparently misjudged the length of the writing and ran out of space so that its last few letters go under the starting point. This gives us a clue as to the literacy of the artisan. We know that ALL Southeast Asian scripts share a common ancestor and were meant to be read and written from left to right. (Forget what others have said about having observed Tagbanwans writing on bamboo slats in a direction away from their body. You have seen … [Read more...]

The Butuan Silver Strip by Hector Santos

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The Butuan Silver Strip by Hector Santos © 1996 by Hector Santos All rights reserved. http://www.bibingka.com/dahon/mystery/silver.htm The Butuan area has been a rich source of material from ancient Philippines for both treasure hunters and trained archaeologists. So it was in the mid-seventies when a team from the National Museum of the Philippines excavating a site was told that a strip of metal with some kind of writing had been found by a treasure hunter. Fortunately, the artifact was already in the hands of Proceso Gonzales, the city engineer of Butuan. He understood the importance of the find and took possession of it. Butuan Silver Strip The metal strip was found inside a wooden coffin by treasure hunters who were looking for ceramic and gold objects that could be sold for high prices to private collectors. According to Dr. Jesus Peralta, similar burials in wooden coffins in the vicinity of Butuan had previously been found to contain human remains with skulls that have been artificially deformed. This practice was apparently limited to Southern Philippines, the beauty standard for such head shapes never finding its way to Luzon. Ceramics and ornaments were usually placed in the coffins, the ceramic pieces dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. If the metal strip was found within a typical coffin, it would have logically come from the same era. While the metal piece could have come from foreign shores, the safest and most conservative position one can take is that an artifact belongs in the place where it was found unless it can be proven otherwise. The letters were cut into the piece of metal with a knife. The difficulty of making curved lines on metal with a knife is apparent in the clumsy shapes of the letters. The strip measures 17.8 x 1.3 cm. Peralta reports that the late Dr. Boechari of Indonesia identified the script as "similar to a Javanese script that had been in use from the 12th to the 15th century" (late Kavi?). At this time, the writing has not been convincingly deciphered nor have the letters in the strip been identified. A successful transliteration would not guarantee a decipherment because of the brevity of the sample, though. A companion piece with similar writing was also reportedly found in the same coffin. However, the owner refused to part with it because he believed it held the key to the location of a treasure hoard. How he hoped to use that piece to locate the treasure without translating the message is not known. Neither do we know why it is that piece and not the one he gave up that holds the secret. That second piece will play an important role in solving the mystery of the Butuan silver strip. Additional Reading 1. Peralta, Jesus T. "The Butuan palaeograph: ethnographic implications of an ancient script," in Archipelago 6:A-55 (1979): 31-33. 2. Santos, Hector. "Artifacts with writing revisited" in Sulat sa Tansô, 2:5 (June 1995), 1. 3. -----. "Other pre-Hispanic writing artifacts" in Sulat sa Tansô, 2:2 (February 1995), 1. 4. -----. "The Butuan Silver Strip" in Sulat sa Tansô, 2:2 (February 1995), 3. Butuan Silver Strip Deciphered? by Hector Santos © 1996 by Hector Santos All rights reserved. "Butuan paleograph deciphered using Eskaya script" by Jes Tirol (in UB Update) attempts to show that a "translation" of the Butuan silver strip had been done by using the Eskaya script. A clipping of this article was provided by Antoon Postma of Mindoro, who in turn obtained it from the late William Henry Scott of Mountain Province. This proves that "real" scholars do share information. Eskaya is a secret organization based on the island of Bohol. Its members claim that their ancestors arrived on the island in 677 A.D. from Sumatra. Tirol writes: One of the books of the Eskaya of Bohol is entitled Unang Katawhan Sa Bohol (First People of Bohol). According to the book, Dangko and his 12 children of 11 boys and one girl and his men arrived in Bohol in 677 A.D. They started from Sumatra-Manselis which is the western side of Sumatra, Indonesia on board a "Lutsa." (See: "Lorcha," Webster Int'l Dictionary, Unabridged.) The only daughter of Dangko got married to a chieftain of Butuan. From that time on until the present, the inner psyche of an Eskaya is geared towards Butuan. Since the center of Eskaya culture is now at Biyabas, Guindulman, Bohol, the migrant Eskaya in Butuan maintain close contact with the Eskaya of Bohol. Further on, Tirol continues: The Butuan Kingdom is no more. Its literature and writings are gone, except for the Butuan paleograph. But the Eskaya of Bohol is still existing with their system of writing. It is logographic system not alphabetic, and therefore older than the Malayan-Bisayan recorded by the Spanish writers. The Eskaya scrupulously transmitted their system of writing and literature by conducting classes. At present, classes are conducted every Saturday and Sunday. The Eskaya … [Read more...]

Baybayin: Pre-Spanish Philippine writing system

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Baybayin Baybayin is a pre-Spanish Philippine writing system. It is a member of the Brahmic family and is recorded as being in use in the 16th century. It continued to be used during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines up until the late 19th Century. The term Baybay literally means "to spell" in Tagalog. Baybayin was extensively documented by the Spanish. Some have attributed it the name Alibata, but this name is incorrect. (The term "Alibata" was coined by Paul Rodriguez Verzosa after the arrangement of letters of the Arabic alphabet  alif, ba, ta (alibata), “f” having been eliminated for euphony's sake." ) Versoza's reasoning for creating this word was unfounded because no evidence of the baybayin was ever found in that part of the Philippines and it has absolutely no relationship to the Arabic language. Furthermore, no ancient script native to Southeast Asia followed the Arabic arrangement of letters, and regardless of Versoza's connection to the word alibata, its absence from all historical records indicates that it is a totally modern creation. The present author does not use this word in reference to any ancient Philippine script. Modern scripts in the Philippines, descended from Baybayin, are Hanunó'o, Buhid, Tagbanwa, the Kapampangan script and the Bisaya script. Baybayin is one of a dozen or so individual writing systems used in Southeast Asia, nearly all of which are abugidas where any consonant is pronounced with the inherent vowel a following it— diacritical marks being used to express other vowels (this vowel occurs with greatest frequency in Sanskrit, and also probably in all Philippine languages). The term Baybay literally means "to spell" in Tagalog. Baybayin was extensively documented by the Spanish. Some have attributed it the name Alibata, but this name is incorrect. (The term "Alibata" was coined by Paul Rodriguez Verzosa after the arrangement of letters of the Arabic alphabet  alif, ba, ta (alibata), “f” having been eliminated for euphony's sake." ) Versoza's reasoning for creating this word was unfounded because no evidence of the baybayin was ever found in that part of the Philippines and it has absolutely no relationship to the Arabic language. Furthermore, no ancient script native to Southeast Asia followed the Arabic arrangement of letters, and regardless of Versoza's connection to the word alibata, its absence from all historical records indicates that it is a totally modern creation. The present author does not use this word in reference to any ancient Philippine script. Modern scripts in the Philippines, descended from Baybayin, are Hanunó'o, Buhid, Tagbanwa, the Kapampangan script and the Bisaya script. Baybayin is one of a dozen or so individual writing systems used in Southeast Asia, nearly all of which are abugidas where any consonant is pronounced with the inherent vowel a following it— diacritical marks being used to express other vowels (this vowel occurs with greatest frequency in Sanskrit, and also probably in all Philippine languages). Origins Baybayin was noted by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by most, and was generally used for personal writings, poetry, etc. According to William Henry Scott, there were some datus from the 1590s who could not sign affidavits or oaths, and witnesses who could not sign land deeds in the 1620s. There is no data on when this level of literacy was first achieved, and no history of the writing system itself. There are at least six theories about the origins of Baybayin. Kawi Kawi originated in Java, and was used across much of Maritime Southeast Asia. Laguna Copperplate Inscription. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines. Butuan Ivory Seal It is a legal document, and has inscribed on it a date of Saka era 822, corresponding to April 21, 900 AD Laguna Copperplate Inscription#cite note-bibingka-1. It was written in the Kawi script in a variety of Old Malay containing numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin is ambiguous between Old Javanese and Old Tagalog. One hypothesis therefore reasons that, since Kawi is the earliest attestation of writing on the Philippines, then Baybayin may be descended from Kawi. A second example of Kawi script can be seen on the Butuan Ivory Seal, though it has not been dated. An earthenware burial jar, called the "Calatagan Pot," found in Batangas is inscribed with characters strikingly similar to Baybayin, and is claimed to have been inscribed ca. 1300 AD. However, its authenticity has not yet been proven. Old Sumatran "Malay" scripts Another hypothesis states that a script or script used to write one of the Malay languages was adopted and became Baybayin. In particular, the Pallava script from Sumatra is attested to the 7th century. Sulawesi The Liboginese and/or Makassarese … [Read more...]