The Baybayin script has been gaining popularity thanks to social media and people wanting to reconnect with their roots. There are now many people who use Baybayin on their social media accounts, as tattoos, or even as vandalism. However, there are some incorrect uses which means if you know how to read Baybayin properly the words or phrases are spelled incorrectly and awkwardly. So to address this issue here is a helpful guide to get to know and how to properly write the Baybayin.
A Little History
Baybayin, also popularly known as Alibata is one of the Philippines many writing systems that exist before the coming of the Spaniards. The current script used by the majority of Filipino is based on Tagalog Baybayin script. However, scripts from other regions are also known to exist such as Badlit for Visayans, Kulitan for Kapampangans, etc. There are also other sister scripts from indigenous tribes such as Tagbanwa, Hanuno’o and Buhid which are still being used up to this day.
Baybayin is thought to have many variations across different places not just due to linguistic differences but also due to personal handwriting of the people using it. So if you want to write in Baybayin it is okay to not perfectly follow the ‘standard’ if there is such thing, because originally people just wrote the script in whatever way they learned it, as long as symbols were recognizable.
How to Write
There are two ways to write Baybayin, the traditional pre-Hispanic way and the modernized variety which has been modified a little bit by the Spanish friars. To learn the writing system we will go over the traditional version first and then move to the modified version.
Baybayin is classified as an Abugida which means only syllables that are composed of a consonant and a vowel can be written.
So for example:
Add kudlit (small mark) above to make an E/I sound, and add kudlit below to make an O/U sound.
This was the traditional system of writing words for ancient Filipinos, they did not write stand alone consonants.
So for example, ADLAW (sun/day) would be written as A-LA, BULAN (moon/month) would be BU-LA, and DAGAT (sea) would be DA-GA.
Furthermore, in the traditional version, there were only three vowels compared to today’s mostly 5 vowel sounds in the Philippine Languages.
There were no spaces between words, so words would run together similar to Japanese.
To separate sentences, two lines were used like how we use periods today.
The symbols for D and R were the same and NG sound had a different symbol for itself, unlike today which we use the letters N and G together.
So, the script acted as a mnemonic device for reading and was not that efficient to capture the different sounds in the Philippine languages.
Characters from Wikipedia:
Important Notes for Pre-Hispanic version:
- One symbol is one syllable.
- Consonants at the end of syllables were not written.
- No spaces between words.
- Use a double line as a period.
- DA and RA are the same character.
- NG has a specific character.
For the modified version the Spanish Friars added stand alone consonants and spaces between words can be written.
A cross was used below the symbol to negate the vowel sound, giving us, ADLAW into A-D-LA-W, BULAN into BU-LA-N, DAGAT becomes DA-GA-T.
Characters without vowels:
Other Example of Characters without vowels:
IMPORTANT NOTE: Words are written based on how they are pronounced (in the actual language), not based on how they are spelled (in the Latin alphabet).
You might want to read: 30 Beautiful Baybayin Words in Tagalog and Bisaya
Nowadays there are many versions that modify the script to suit the current situation of the Philippine languages, for example, a difference for D and R was introduced as well as symbols for other sounds that are not in the traditional version.
Here are some details:
It is quite difficult to write sentences in the traditional version, so personally I mostly write Baybayin using the modified version. Since there are many modernized styles I prefer not to use them and just stick with the version that was recorded by the Spaniards. So take time to learn how to write our own Traditional Script to avoid making mistakes.
P.S. Baybayin is best used to write languages from the Philippines, writing it for English would be cumbersome.
I hope this guide is helpful
Written by Hernan Palang