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


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.

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