Meet Norman de los Santos, Nordenx

We are fortunate to have Baybayin artist Norman de los Santos aka Nordenx share his story and love for the pre-Filipino script with us.  Norman is also one of the artists in the upcoming Baybayin Art Gallery opening February 1st. So don’t forget to check that out!

Please introduce yourself.

I am a graphics design artist from Southern California. I am originally from the island of Mindoro in the Philippines; I immigrated to the United States in 1989 when I was 18 and settled in the Palm Springs / Coachella Valley area.

My online persona/nickname “Nordenx” came about in the early 90’s. It has several meanings:

  • It’s a contraction of my name: (Nor)man (de) los Sa(n)tos, and (x) has various personal meanings like stands and beliefs, et al.
  • It’s also a contraction of me and my wife’s first names: (Nor)man and (Den)ee.
  • I’m into world history, cultures, and languages – Norden = Nordic countries. I was studying Norse mythology and Germanic languages at the time I was playing WWII video games and developing apps & mods for them. Nordenx was my handle in both games and forums, particularly in German forums where a few of my game mod & dev team mates frequent. And, yes, I can read and understand a little bit of Standard German language.

What made you interested in Baybayin and how were you introduced to the Pre-Filipino script?

My first acquaintance with Baybayin is through my father (John “Jun” L. de los Santos) who, in the late 70’s, taught me to read and write the script (popularly known as Alibata back then); my dad was an intellectual of sorts. Also, one of my maternal aunts married a Mangyan; growing up in Mindoro, there were several occasions, in the early 80’s, where I’ve observed Surat Mangyan (their living version of Baybayin) written on bamboo and wooden crafted objects. I was in my teens back then and didn’t know its significance; I just thought it was some cool form of shorthand.

Later on in life, about a year or so after emigrating to the U.S. from the Philippines, I began soul searching and looking back into my heritage (maybe it was due to the fact that I was homesick). I began looking around in the Internet for any Philippine related info. Not until the late 90’s when I was researching content for a game development project that involved pre-Hispanic history, mythology, and tribal tattoos like those of the Pintados when I came upon the website for Apat na Alon and saw that they use Baybayin script in their tattoos. Intrigued, I looked further and found the early baybayin/alibata related sites and publications, I eventually stumbled upon the “Sarisari, etc.” site with Paul Morrow’s work on Baybayin (also materials by Hector Santos’, Carl Rubino’s, Bayani Mendoza de Leon, and a few others.).  This inspired me to pick up my brush and pen and practice Baybayin again and study subjects related to ancient writing, calligraphy, and typography. In 2005, I was confident and proficient enough with what I’ve learned that I began designing Baybayin fonts. I started creating my own fonts based on my handwriting and calligraphy. I also began incorporating the script into my other projects such as artworks and even software development. Along with recently developed Baybayin Transliteration Tutor (online keyboard) and Typepad, I also currently have a dozen Baybayin fonts available for free download in my blog and on my deviant art gallery.

Why do you think it’s important that everyone should learn Baybayin?

People should care about their cultural heritage and traditions. We should learn about Baybayin for posterity.  Personally, I think that it is more important for Filipinos to be aware of Baybayin’s existence and its true significance & origins first. Very few Filipinos outside of the Internet know about Baybayin, and those who do only know it half-heartedly as Alibata.

I don’t believe that it is a necessity or even practical in today’s world that Filipinos proficiently practice to read or write whole articles in Baybayin script and it is idealistic to say that all Filipinos should learn to use this form of writing, but it is only right for all of us to educate ourselves about our history and culture in order to preserve it. It gives us our core identity; let us know who we are and where we came from.  The most I expect is for Filipinos to recognize the script and at the very least learn how to read and write short phrases or poems.

Where do you get your inspiration for your art work?

I get inspired by myths, history, fiction, books, magazines, television, movies, or romantic notions; whatever comes to mind on any particular time or on a certain mood. But I usually have artist or writer’s block most of the time; inspiration is hard to come by these days.

What does being Filipino-American mean to you?

“Any-Ethnic”-American is a title that brings entitlement. I prefer not to dwell on the socio-economic and sociopolitical issues that the title brings, but I recognize them as part of the American cultural fabric. As a naturalized American citizen of Filipino descent, I am a U.S. patriot who is still proud of my Filipino cultural identity.

What do you feel needs to change with Filipinos and how the world views Pinoys?

Filipinos should stop dwelling on some of their “isms” i.e. Regionalism, Parochialism, Manila Imperialism, Tagalism, etc. – these are divisive and counterproductive. They should focus more on an altruistic approach and learn to get along and be proud of other people’s differences. Espouse a holistic pride of every culture in the whole nation archipelago. In these global times, it is important that we show solidarity as a people because others are already judging our actions as the actions of a whole. The world doesn’t care if an Ilocano did well or a Cebuano did this or a Tagalog did whatever – to the world we are all just “Filipinos”. Ask non-Filipinos where Manny Pacquiao came from and they will say “Philippines” and rarely will they specifically know that he’s from “Mindanao”.  Being proud and preserving our different regional cultures is one thing, elevating or lowering one over another is another, the later practice needs to stop.

Do you look up to any famous Pinoys as role models?

José Rizal

What is your favorite Filipino dish?

Kare-kare over steamed rice with a side of ginisang alamang.

Please tell us about the upcoming Baybayin Gallery 2010.

Christian Cabuay spearheaded this project to bring together some of the most active Baybayin practitioners and supporters (online). I am lucky and honored to be selected with his first batch of artists. Basically, the conept is simple, an online gallery with Baybayin as art as a main subject or element, using all types of mediums. An online gallery where various artists will be submitting original art that corresponds with assigned monthly “themes”.

Christian wanted to have a physical gallery, as do I, but finding venues/sponsors is quite difficult. He was thinking that we need to create some buzz online then find sponsors to be able to take it to a venue.

Is there any additional information you would like to share with us?

Please, feel free to visit my Baybayin blog at http://nordenx.blogspot.com/ to get font download updates. It also explains some of my font design views and decisions as well as info about Baybayin and related subjects.

Oh, and I implore everyone to please stop using the misnomer “Alibata”, we now know that that erroneous word has no basis on or correlation to historic, linguistic, and orthographic fact. It only serves to confuse and devalue the cultural legacy of Baybayin.

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