Learning Baybayin, an Ancient Philippine Script

I’ve always loved reading about a country’s myths and legends. Unfortunately, while growing up, I didn’t get to read many genre novels about myths from my own country, the Philippines. Well, sure there were stories in my English and History textbooks, but I wanted urban fantasy or historical fantasy involving these mythical heroes. Thankfully, I was able to find graphic novels and some stories that featured Filipino deities.

My search for more stories that heavily featured Philippine myth revived my interest in Baybayin, an ancient Philippine script that is in danger of going extinct. After the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the number of Baybayin users slowly dwindled. I’m currently writing and planning urban fantasy stories that feature several Philippine deities and myths, from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao and some of my characters are going to be sporting tattoos of Baybayin characters.

It’s important to remember that the proper name of the script is Baybayin and not Alibata (as it used to be mistakenly called), and that it is not an alphabet, but a script and that it is an abugida (alpha-syllabary), much like the Indic script, Devanagari, or the Kharosthī, a sadly extinct script used in the 3rd century in areas of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Currently, there are only three tribes who have continued to use Baybayin: the Buhid, Hanunoo, and Tagbanwa living in Mindoro and Palawan. Unfortunately, even among the elders of these tribes, Baybayin is used for composing love poems on pieces of bamboo. Contrary to popular belief, we young people do value our country’s culture and heritage.

Part of the reason I want to use Baybayin in my stories is so that I can help preserve this piece of Philippine history. For anyone who wants to learn more about Baybayin, here are some resources you can use.

Baybayin Chart

 

Today, there are several modern scripts that have evolved from Baybayin: the Hanunóo, Buhid, Tagbanwa, and Kapampangan script. There are slight variations in the way they are written.

 

 

 

Tutorial Sites

Kristian Kabuay’s Baybayin.com

AncientScripts.com

Baybayin Buhayin on Facebook

Dr. Bonifacio Comandante’s Research on Baybayin

GMA’s Primer on Baybayin

Fundamentals of Baybayin (This was particularly interesting about the equal-education and use of Baybayin among the ancient and native Filipinos since this script was not limited to the upper class)

Pilipino Express

The Bathala Project

Mandirigma.org

 

Comics That Feature Baybayin

Agla – an ongoing graphic novel that traces the origins of the Pintados (Visayan painted warriors) of the Philippines to ancient gods; you can read it on Tapastic or on the author’s website. It’s got a very interesting take on the ancient Philippine gods, each one colorful and unique. 

 

Skyworld (issues 1 – 3) – one of the biggest paranormal urban fantasy comics in the Philippines; I love this series by Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria. It is edited by Budjette Tan, another iconic artist and storyteller who features Philippine myths, legends, and folklore in his works. The story is gigantic, in that it focuses on a somewhat post-apocalyptic Philippines, where the good guys are struggling to contain the evil creatures that want to destroy the country and the world. Also, it features one of my favorite characters of all time, Alexandra Trese, who has her own paranormal investigation series. Check it out on Goodreads.

 

There aren’t a lot, but I’m hoping more will appear in the following years. As for the stories I’m currently creating, one is a story that features a Visayan god of war, Ynaguinid (portrayed either as female or male). I’m planning for it to be shorter than a full-length novel, but then again, it might become longer than expected so I’m not going to call it a novella prematurely.

Right now, the working title is Fallen From Grace and this is my tremporary blurb:

Despite looking like a teenager, Yna is an ancient Philippine warrior god who has enjoyed power and immortality over the years… until one attack leaves her powerless and mortal.

Now she must live in a foster home with a social worker, her psychiatrist husband, and their two adopted boys, one of whom is suspicious of Yna’s strangeness.
 

Not only does Yna have to contend with a cute but nosy mortal, she now has to deal with things that plague humanity – sickness, exhaustion, hunger… trigonometry.

But when a fatal sickness befalls the students of her school, she realizes that it is the work of an ancient enemy, another god, and only she can stop him. If homework doesn’t kill her first.
It’s young adult urban fantasy that’s actually set in California, for reasons that are part of Yna’s arc and it features other mythical beings from other cultures. I’m hoping to finish the manuscript and revisions this year though, although I’m not the most productive person on the planet so I’m hoping to light a fire under my own ass to get this one done quickly.

 

 

 

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