Baybayin: The Pre-Filipino Writing System

Most of Asia has written characters in their language except for the Philippines, leaving many Asians questioning if Filipinos are really Asian. As a country influenced by the western world (Spain and America), the Filipino script of Baybayin was slowly becoming lost from our culture. According to Paul Morrow baybayin continued to thrive in many parts of the Philippines in the first century of Spanish occupation. Filipinos wrote on many different materials (leaves, trees) using the writing tools or panulat were the points of daggers or small pieces of iron were used to write the Filipino script.

Baybayin comes from the word “baybay” which means to “spell.” More recently, baybayin is being resurrected and preserved by Christian Cabuay who’s goal is to help educate/reeducate everyone about this writing system and for Pinoys to dig deeper into other aspects of our pre-Spanish history. Mr. Cabuay can be seen at Filipino Festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area and even has a Baybayin Book that is being published scheduled to be out by October/November 2009.

Incorrectly Known As Alibata
Alibata is the incorrect name for the Filipino script which was coined by Paul Versoza in the early 1900s. According to Paul Morrow, Versoza’s intent for coining the word Alibata in 1914 at the New York Public Library, Manuscript Research Division, was to base it on the Maguidanao (Moro) arrangement of letters of the alphabet after the Arabic: alif, ba, ta. There was no evidence of baybayin having connection or relationship to the Arabic language as it is a member of the Brahmic family having similar characteristics with Java and Sanskrit.

Educating and Reeducating Pinoys of Baybayin
I hope many of you can take a lot out of this post and visit Christian Cabuay’s website for more information of this pure Filipino script that was almost lost from Filipino culture. Also, Baybayin has become popular for people wanting tattoos so I urge those people to please visit so you can get a proper translation of Baybayin.


How to write Baybayin from Christian Cabuay on Vimeo.

Christian Cabuay in this video shows some of the better painting applications he uses to write Baybayin, the iPhone.

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