The Baybayin Movement: An Ancient Scripture’s History and Revival
Philippine culture consists of various historical references to what is portrayed in recent times. Some of these things date back as far as ancient times before the country had been colonized. A part of this is the indigenous script known as “Baybayin”.
Baybayin is made up of 17 characters which had been used by Filipinos in writing before the Spanish colonization. While the scripture isn’t exactly a part of modern Filipino practices anymore, people have been slowly reviving the script by incorporating them in different art forms as well as in modern writing.
While Baybayin was used by the majority during ancient times, it came with other variants as well. These forms of the Baybayin script were used in different regions of the country, most of which make use of varying dialects in current time.
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Baybayin, along with the variants that it came with, had become more like a memory that people have forgotten as the years went by. People practiced it less with the new form of writing caused by colonization. But through the help of various artists and groups, Baybayin had started to make its way back to the hearts of Filipino people.
Baybayin plays a great role in shaping the identity of the Filipino people, especially because it is one of the purest forms of the Filipino language –which now has about 131 government-recognized languages.
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In the year 2018, the House of Representatives of the Philippines had officially declared Baybayin as the country’s national writing system. The proposed “National Writing System Act” seek to promote broader understanding and appreciation for the national writing system. It aims to defend and maintain Baybayin as an instrument of Philippine culture that builds Philippine heritage and identity.
A few of the significant people who have made great contributions to the revival of Baybayin are listed as follows:
Paul Morrow is a Canadian who had gained an interest in Filipino culture. He made a collection of writings on Philippine history, which is mostly centralized on Filipino language. He had written a few on Baybayin and continues to share further in-depth knowledge on Filipino language and culture through his blog.
While learning more on Filipino culture, he had gained knowledge on how to speak, understand and write in Filipino language. Morrow took the initiative to stay in the Philippines for a five-month vacation after four years of slow progress. Engaging himself in the language allowed him to learn much more on Filipino culture than the four years he spent self-teaching.
Coming from Tondo, Manila and being raised in Oakland, California, the Bayani Art team makes use of their creativity and artistry to make unique crafts to promote the ancient script, Baybayin, through their works of art.
Their goal is to strengthen their community by presenting them with pieces of their motherland’s history. Despite moving to a new environment, Bayani Art brings along their culture with them and aims to portray their appreciation and admiration for this through their abilities.
Their profit also goes to non-profit organizations to help out the Filipino youth.
As a Filipino artist, who is now based in San Francisco, California, Kristian Kabuay makes use of this talent to promote Baybayin as a way of showing his gratitude and appreciation for his roots. To Kabuay, Baybayin is more than just ancient scripture. Through his work, he is able to strengthen his ties with his identity as a Filipino.
He preserves the script by incorporating it in his various works in an online portfolio –which also allows him to relive his Filipino experiences and remind him of where he came from.
Taipan Lucaero, a cum laude graduate in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines, had made his way in the creative industry to share his work and abilities. This led to his career as a designer in a company located in Kobe, Japan. From here, he had learned more about calligraphy and was since inspired to return to the Philippines to start an advocacy of art and traditional writing, CalligraFilipino.
He continues his passion by creating different artworks, both locally and internationally, and conducting workshops and seminars globally.
Leo Emmanuel Castro
Being executive director of Sanghabi, a cultural group dedicated to researching and promoting Filipino culture, Leo Emmanuel Castro teaches about Baybayin through different mediums and even creates bamboo crafts. At times, he would also put these two things together.
He teaches people about the Baybayin script as another language rather than just a part of history. The ways in which he aims to revive Baybayin comes from the heart, and allows him to connect deeply with the people he may encounter.
One of the Philippine’s National Artists, Virgilio Almario, uses his position to share his insights on Baybayin as a part of Filipino culture and identity. As chairman of government Commissions on Language and Culture, he states how Baybayin should be appreciated as a part of our language.
Almario believes there should be proper balance between losing the script to extinction as well as the practicality of using it in modern times. He states that Filipinos should be the bridge to keeping Baybayin alive in different ways rather than using it for regular use.
Some tribes and communities had continued to practice the use of indigenous scripture even after the Baybayin script had disappeared from practices. Different offshoots of this script had been made such as Hanunoo and Buhid. A collection of Ambahan, which is traditional literature of the Mangyan tribes written in these scripts, was translated into English by Antoon Postma who is a Dutch Linguist and Anthropologist.
Ambahan literature present artistic value and societal traditions of the Mangyan community. By translating these, the cultural factors are preserved along with the script used –which makes a great contribution to reviving the ancient script.
Where Does Baybayin Sit Now?
With the history that comes with the ancient script, Baybayin has made an impact on Filipinos from natives to immigrants and even those of mixed race. While the scripture had been introduced a simple form of writing used during pre-colonial times, it has shaped Filipino identity greatly.
Despite advancements in the present time, we should continue to learn further about this writing system as more than just a part of Philippine history. The revival of Baybayin focuses on the appreciation of the script itself, whether as an art form or an identity.
We can participate in the Baybayin revival movement through various ways, such as by posting about it on different platforms and engaging in discussions with others to raise awareness. Another option is to donate to causes related to the revival of Baybayin held by different movements and organizations both locally and globally.
Being in the present time, we are in charge of maintaining the scripture alive. Through even the smallest acts of appreciation for the national writing system, we keep the existence of Baybayin in our hearts and our history as Filipinos.