The man behind the Baybayin on the new Peso bills

The Baybayin community is quite excited with the new Peso bills just announced. This isn’t the 1st time Baybayin has been on our money. It’s been on Peso bills in the 1940’s on the Katipunan flag and most recently a microscopic “Pi” on coins. These new bills have an actual word spelled – Pilipino. You can see it partially on the bottom right front of the bills. Too bad it has to be held in the light to be seen.

The moment I saw it, I knew it was one of Paul Morrow‘s fonts. For those that don’t know, Paul is actually not Filipino. He’s a white guy from Canada who knows more about Filipino culture than most Filipinos.

I reached out to him to see how felt about having is work on the new bills. To my surprise, he didn’t even know about it. Here’s his statement:

From what I can see in the photos, it is definitely my “Tagalog Stylized” font, which I created in 1992. I would need to see one of the new bills up close to see if it is my current version or an older one, which has some very minor differences.

Nobody from the Philippine government consulted me about using one of my fonts, but I have always offered them for free on my website, so I can’t complain. It’s definitely in the public domain now. Actually, I feel honoured, even though it was not the government’s intention to honour me.

I assume that whoever designed the bills wanted a modern look and chose this font over my other fonts, which are historical replicas of old typefaces. My website and the information sheet that is part of the font’s download state that my “Tagalog Stylized” font is a modern interpretation of the old baybayin script and is not historically accurate.

26 thoughts on “The man behind the Baybayin on the new Peso bills

  1. there’s also another print at the reverse side of all bills, lower left, which starts with what looks like “ni”. Can anyone make out what it says?

  2. True nobody owns the baybayin just as nobody owns the alphabet. But we are talking about a font design, like “Times New Roman” or “Ariel.” These do have owners and individual creators.

    If the BSP had used one of my other fonts, I could not say with 100% confidence that it was mine because my other fonts are replicas of typefaces that were used in books hundreds of years ago.

    In this case though, I am certain it is my design because I made it from scratch. It was based on my own handwriting, which in turn was influenced by the few examples that I was aware of at the time.

    But let me make this clear. I am not complaining and I am not claiming any special rights to the baybayin or even to the font called “Tagalog Stylized.” I’m just saying that it is my design and I’m thrilled to see it on the new Philippine banknotes.

    Thanks for posting the link Christian.

  3. Hi Hammer,

    The baybayin on the back of the bills is part of the same word on the front. It’s just written backwards so that when you look at the front of the bill and hold it up to the light, it shows the complete word “Pilipino” It’s called a “see-through” security feature.

  4. Napakaganda ng labas ng bagong mga pera sa papel natin. here is a slide show of the new peso bill:

    Sayang lang na ang pamagat ng iyong sulat dito ay “the man behind the baybayin” at hindi “the man behind the baybayin FONT.” Ang labas nito ay parang si Ginoong Morrow ay siyang lumikha ng buong baybayin at, que horror! na hangang-hanga pa rin tayong mga Pilipino sa ating mga colonizers at sa mga puti!

    Wala lang sa akin ang mga iba’t ibang mali sa ating bagong pera ( pero masamang-masama para s’kin na ang nakagawa ng font ng baybayin ay hindi Pilipino!

  5. @Makibaka: I think it’s common knowledge to understand that Paul didn’t create Baybayin but he was instrumental in bringing it back. Now that I think about it, I should have sensationalized the title more like “The white Canadian who created the Baybayin on the new bills”. That would’ve got this site more hits.

    Regardless of his color or background, Baybayin today as we know it came from him along with Filam Hector Santos. Paul’s fonts have become the “standard” in Baybayin fonts much like Times New Roman so much that people think your writing it wrong if it doesn’t follow his handwriting.

    His website was one of the 1st to detail the script and has done more for Baybayin than any Filipino at that time. His words are constantly stolen by Filipino teachers who are too lazy to come up with their own.

    I agree that the font on the new bills should have been done by a Filipino but the design team was either too lazy to research for a font created by a Filipino or acknowledges that Paul’s fonts have become the “standard”.

  6. hi all, this is actually the first time I’ve seen the site. and I’d like to thank Christian for putting the effort in making it and for Paul for reviving the script into something that can be used as a standard in this age of electronic technology I should say. I think i can understand what Makibaka feels. I know its a matter of national pride (which unfortunately is kind of dwindling among Filipinos living in the Philippines, don’t know the reason why though) for at least a Filipino to have designed something (specially an indigenous script) and be placed in the country’s banknote which is in a way a country’s physical identity (like the dollar to the US, yen for Japan and so on.). Not being something purely Pinoy in nature kinda feels a bit disrespectful to some maybe. But personally I believe that there’s no such thing as a pure blooded lowlander Filipino anymore ( except indigenous tribal Pinoys which in my opinion still retains a high percent of pure blood qualities inherent to our pre-hispanic ancestors) and integrating something that is not uniquely ours in our culture has always been our way. Just like the bamboo tree (where Lalak and Babay the visayan counterpart of Malakas and Maganda came from) we bend and conform if need be.
    so i guess my point is Filipinos should be proud regardless of who puts something uniquely Pinoy to the World’s attention. and besides Paul may have been a filipino in his past life or may have had pinoy ancestry (being Caucasian does not automatically say you don’t have any non Caucasian ancestry somewhere in history) which technically be still “gawang pinoy” (Filipino made). Its a possibility 🙂

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  9. hi paul!! first i like to give thanks on your writings second let me ask apology for what our government did or if they bypass you, thanks again for your contribution on this matter

  10. Hindi ko maiintindihan kung bakit ginamit ang isang font na gawa ng isang puti at saka hindi taong pilipino. Hindi lamang yun, kundi si Paul Morrow ay isang skeptiko ng mga sinulat at gawa ni Guillermo Tolentino, isa sa mga national artist natin, at Pedro Paterno, isa sa ating mga kasaysayang politiko. Ang sinabi niya sa The Pilipino Express, July 1 – 15, 2009. Vol. 5 No. 13 :
    “Guillermo Tolentino invented “hidden” meanings for all the baybayin letters,
    embellishing the fantasy of a 19th century author – photo from Wikipedia
    three that either came together to form Bathala, or were derived
    from Bathala. Conflicting theories about every other letter of the
    baybayin script have also been conjured from these improbable
    “Last time, we were talking about the pre-colonial Filipino
    syllabic alphabet and about the ancient, secret meanings that are
    supposedly held within the shapes of its baybayin letters.
    These alleged revelations focus on the word bathala – the name
    of the pre-colonial Tagalog god of creation – which is said to
    contain the concepts of male, female and the divine because
    its baybayin spelling has letters that apparently look like a
    vagina, the wind and a penis.
    b h l
    ba ha la
    According to Bathala Code believers, these three baybayin
    letters, b h l, acquired their shapes because they represent
    the first syllables in the Tagalog words, babae, hangin and lalaki,
    respectively – though some speculate that the letters came first
    and the words came from the letters! Then, extending an
    already tenuous premise, they are somehow certain that, of all
    the Tagalog words that contain any of these syllables…”

    Hindi maganda ito. Sa pagamit ni Paul Morrow ng mga salita na “”hidden”” “conjured” “improbable” “tenuous” “supposed” “alleged” pinaliliitan ni Paul Morrow ang mga gawa at mga paniniwala ng mga respetadong Pilipino sa ating kasaysayan at sining bayan.

    Guillermo Tolentino was my grandfathers’ good friend and a mentor to my father and uncles.

    • Sorry to take so long to respond to these allegations. Since they came two years after this article was posted, I was not aware of this particular comment until now.

      Yes, I am a skeptic, but do not confuse that with being a knee-jerk denier of anything that I don’t like. I use critical thinking and when the evidence shows that my understanding of an issue is wrong, I change my opinion to conform to the new evidence. I value the truth even if it makes me look bad.

      As I have said before, Guillermo Tolentino is highly respected, as he should be – but as an artist, not as a historian. No real historians, foreign or Filipino, take him seriously as a historian.

      And while Pedro Paterno is an important figure in Philippine political history – remembered mainly as a self-aggrandizing and serial turn-coat – his reputation in the field of history and ethnology is worse.

      The respective statures of Tolentino and Paterno in the arts and politics are irrelevant in the field of historical research. The fact is, both of these men promoted their own Tagalog-centric fantasies as fact, totally unsupported by any evidence. Now, if you don’t like hearing that coming from a white man, that’s fine. Ignore me. You can find the truth in the same place that I did – from serious Filipino historians such as Resil Mojares, Ambeth Ocampo and even Jose Rizal, who knew Paterno personally.

      For those who say that using my fonts on Philippine currency (and now also on Philippine passports) is another example of “colonial mentality,” I say, where is your evidence?

      I don’t know who made those designs or who chose my fonts or where they found them. If you simply Google search “baybayin font,” you can find them on font downloading web sites and on a certain page of my own web site, but it is not immediately apparent who made the fonts, unless you do a little more research.

      I know that if I need a font, the first thing that comes to my mind is not, “I’d better make sure the creator of this font is the ‘correct’ race.” Likewise, I doubt that the designers of the peso bills and the passport made any effort to find out who made the baybayin fonts. And I really doubt that they laid out all the available baybayin fonts and said, “Let’s use Paul Morrow’s fonts. They must be the best because he’s a white foreigner.” In all probability, they didn’t even know who made the fonts that they chose.

  11. grrrrr. o-o nga! prang masyadong na-i-idolise si Mr. Puti ng mga Pinoy. dahil lang na puti siya at siya ang isa sa na-una nag sulats sa internet tungkol sa ating baybayin. colonyal mentalidad talaga! ngeks.

  12. Dear Kristian,
    I`m so pleased having found your website. I`m a 70 years old German living with my wife (Cebuana) in Cebu City since 2 years. When my daughter (living in Germany) was here to research and to write her thesis for her Bachelor diploma I learned so much about the Philippine history, especially about the pre-colonial times. My daughter`s thesis “The colonial effect to the Philippine education system and the loss of knowledge and tradition” is written in German language because, she is studying “Cultural Science” at a German university and for her thesis she did her research here in the Philippines. I came to know that already 600 years before the Spanish conquistadores entered the Philippines the Filipino people knew how to read and to write ( see the “copper plate of Laguna”). In the 16th century when the Spaniards started to occupy the filipino Islands Baybayin already was well known al least in Luzon and almost everybody of the native Filipinos there at that time knew how to read and to write. (see Pedro Chirino) In Europe in the 16th century about 90% of the population were still analphabets. How far the Philippines could be developed nowadays without colonization ? Think if the Filipino population could have built on their abalities in writing and reading since that time until today……..A trimendous devastation of cultural knowledge occured through colonization (Spain, Japan, USA). To my surprise, what even the most of Filipinos don`t know is that the ancient Filipino people in pre-colonial times aleady were living in a high developed civilization and they were not uneducated and primitive tribes as the Spaniards said.. In this context I higly recommend to read the books of Filipino writer Pedro Paterno.
    With best regards
    Horst I. Decker

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