The Script behind our history

Baybayin is the ancient script of pre-colonial Philippines. It comes from the word baybay which means spelling. According to David Diringer, the renowned expert on ancient scripts, the baybayin possibly came directly from the ancient Kavi script of Java, Indonesia. Or, it may have its roots in Kavi but was introduced to the Philippines by way of the ancient script used by the Buginese people of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Another name for the Baybayin is Alibata (Carrows)

Baybayin script (courtesy of

I first stumbled upon Baybayin when as a kid, I saw my dad having a henna tattoo of his Baybayin name on his shoulder. He said that it’s an ancient Filipino code, adding jokingly that only a few great people were able to read and write it. He taught me to write Baybayin in my name. He even downloaded Baybayin font to the computer so I can learn it better.

It never sinks to me then, how valuable it is to our history. Like other kids, I have no clear sense of the past. In History books, the only things I can remember is the barangays, the social hierarchy of Maharlikas and Alipins, and how Lapu-lapu defies and slays Magellan. After that, next lesson, the Philippines under Spanish Colonialism. I learned that during the olden times, the Spanish repeatedly chugs down to the natives’ throat how the Kingdom of Spain saved us, clothed our barbaric selves, and gave us culture and  civilization. I actually believed them because I don’t have any clear understanding of what we are as people before the Spanish came.

That’s why I was surprised when during our highschool, our Filipino teacher taught us how the early Filipinos developed a unique system of writing waaaay before the Spanish came and that’s Baybayin. When she taught us the basics of writing it, that’s probably the most thrilling moment I can recall from her class! My classmates were just as excited. Like me, they were not aware of how we lived before the outsiders came. Like me, they are thirsty for any knowledge of what it’s like before Tawalisi became the Philippines we know as today.

We have a culture before we became a colony of some western power. We build palaces, temples, altars, houses and farms complete with irrigation systems. Our ancestors just carved rice terraces out of mountains!  We have kingdoms in Tundo, Maynila and Namayan in Luzon, Confederation of Madya-an and Rahjanate of Cebu in Visayas, Lanao Confederation, Sultanate of Sulu and Maguindanao from Mindanao. We have a golden city from Butuan whose goldworks were regaled and coveted by our neighboring lands.

Language is an important foundation of civilization, and despite all odds, despite the geographical fragmentation, our ancestors managed to construct an ancient script of their own and build civilizations.  Who’s the uncultured now?

It makes me cry that we were unable to preserve some of our heritage, but I guess like Baybayin, whose revival is slowly trickling down to the modern Filipino consciousness, it’s never too late to discover our past and create an identity that we can all share. It’s never too late to become a nation, to be united and be enlightened.

I encouraged you guys to learn how to write Baybayin. It’s really fun. And you can learn it within a day! With just constant retention of the characters, you’d be one of those few great Baybayin writers and readers, just as my old man used to say. Pass it down to your children, to our children’s children, because it’s something that is ours to keep, ours to give and ours to preserve.


Mabuhay ang Baybayin! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

(I also suggest you take time to browse this site. It’s a gold mine of Filipino culture, thoughts, media and history. I was like, “OH HEAVEN!” when I accidentally discovered it XD)


About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on January 3, 2013, in It's More Fun in the Philippines, My country, reflections and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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