Ancient Filipino writing systems that aren’t Baybayin

Baybayin is just one of at least 16 different writing systems that were used in pre-colonial Philippines. Illustration by ELLE BATTUNG via cnnphilippines

By Chang Casal/CNNPhilippines.com – When a House committee approved the “National Writing System Act”, which seeks to declare Baybayin as the country’s national writing system and aims to put the script to use in street signs, public facilities, government halls, publications, and even food labels, many linguists, historians, and even average Filipinos got upset, to say the least. Baybayin has enjoyed a resurgence over the past few years, with many Filipinos taking an interest in learning the script as a means of tracing one’s roots and connecting with one’s culture.

According to Leo Emmanuel Castro of Sanghabi, an NGO which conducts research and workshops on Filipino culture, most of the people who took an interest in Baybayin in the early days of its resurgence some five to 10 years ago were Fil-Ams. “Kasi ito ‘yung mga tao who grew up in an American society and their parents did not teach them the culture of their parents. So nagkaroon ng tension between their identities,” he says. “They began looking for their roots.”

Castro says another catalyst for the renewed interest in the ancient script was the boom of arts and crafts and calligraphy in the country. As Filipino calligraphers wanted to hone their skills, they sought out a writing system they could identify with instead of practicing in Japanese or Korean, which they could not understand. Fast forward to today and Baybayin can be found on T-shirts, jewelry, and even on tattoos.

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