The Passion of Baybayin

Received this statement as a comment on my Rizal Stone: What’s Next post:


Press Statement
June 22, 2011

UP professors studying the Rizal stone have responded to critics by asserting that long distance speculations will not help in determining the artifact’s authenticity or antiquity.

Critics have claimed that the inscriptions on the Rizal stone are “modern” or that it could be a hoax, on the basis of the absence of kudlits and the alleged similarity of the inscriptions to the type fonts in the baybayin version of the Doctrina Christiana. The Doctrina Christiana is the oldest book published in the Philippines.

Dr. Francisco A. Datar of the UP Anthropology Department said that issues regarding the diacritical marks and the symbols can only be resolved by undertaking a definitive transcription of the inscriptions. This still has to be carried out in a more rigorous and scientific way by actual examination of the specimen under the direction of the National Museum.“We cannot overemphasize the need for situating the find within its specific social and cultural context. This means among others conducting more interviews among the residents and locating the stone’s origins. We urge all scholars and interested parties to refrain from passing judgment about its age or its other characteristics without concrete facts, “ Datar added.

You heard that, Paul Morrow and Christopher Miller! Shut up and let the professors do their job. I knew this would happen. Right when this hit our radar, the passionate Baybayin fans people over on the nearly 6K member page on Facebook began speculating. That’s what the passionate do when there’s news like this. Eventually, the press reached out to some us asking for our opinions. GMA did a good job in capturing what we thought the stone is but we still kept an open mind because it could be “real”. Nobody said that it’s a hoax as a fact. That would be stupid.

On the flip side, the Bureau Chief of Gulf News, Barbara Mae Dacanay, did a horrible job in her article titled “Foreign scholars debunk stone tablet with old Philippine script as modern-day hoax“. The headline looked to strengthen a Foreign vs Pinoy underlining issue. Nobody was out to debunk any hoax. I don’t believe anyone intentionally carved the stone and placed it in the school.

It’s said that the stone was found about 10 years ago. If that’s the case, then the way the words were “written” matches how some people wrote Baybayin during that time due to a lack of educational materials and misread “Alibata” charts. There were only 2 Baybayin websites out that that time belonging to Paul Morrow and Hector Santos. I’ve seen incorrect tattoos from that time that use each character as a letter rather than a syllable.

Let’s breakdown this Press Statement from UP Profs

UP professors studying the Rizal stone have responded to critics by asserting that long distance speculations will not help in determining the artifact’s authenticity or antiquity.

If the stone was right next to me, I would still speculate as would most Baybayin aficionados. It’s natural human curiosity. If I ran a car website and there’s news that Toyota invented a car that runs on chocolate, I’m going to speculate. Is “Long distance” code for outsiders? Non-Filipino?

We urge all scholars and interested parties to refrain from passing judgment about its age or its other characteristics without concrete facts

Nobody in the Baybayin community passing judgement. A few of us want it to be real (pre-colonial). It’s OK for a professor to speculate that it could be pre-colonial, but we cannot speculate the opposite? You should be able to say right away what kind of stone it is and if it’s indigenous to the area it was found. I’m no expert on rocks but I would expect a professor of anthropology should be able to.

Renante Tomas from the Baybayin Facebook page comments:

There seems to be a serious lack of scholarship regarding Baybayin among Pilipinas-based Pinoys. The few I’ve seen on the web seem more concerned with the mystical–almost like they want a babaylan’s mantle–that could explain why no Pinoy professor is calling out the obvious.

Who are the Baybayin experts in the Philippines that will help?

I would like to know who they will consult with in the Philippines. I hope it is someone who has the depth of knowledge of say, Antoon Postma who lives in Mindoro.

asks Paul Morrow

Ray Haguisan of Malaya Designs, an active Baybayin practitioner for over 15 years commented about the statement on Paul Morrow’s Facebook page:

Somebody is a bit miffed with people, of varied backgrounds outside of Philippine academia, who have been studying, practicing and propagating Baybayin. Our opinions should not be looked upon as passing judgement but rather sharing information. Instead of calling us out, how about extending some consideration?…actually, alot of consideration. After all, we ultimately have the same goals, to preserve and educate. Discounting our efforts as mere interested parties is kinda offensive. If anything, they have passed judgment on us. Good luck I say because in my opinion, any further forensic work on the stones will be very difficult and would require extensive monetary resources. So all they have left is to turn to “other scholars” and “other interested parties.”

If anyone would know if the Baybayin on the stone was made using a machine, Ray would know. He’s been carving, scratching and drilling Baybayin in wood, stone, metal, plastic, paper and pretty much every material out there for over a decade.

I was meaning to post some of my comments on the Rizal Stone post but decided to let it go. However, with the statement from the UP Professors, I have to bring up an issue that I have personally experienced with the academia.

About 2 years ago, I was showing my Baybayin artwork, doing free translations and giving quick lessons on the script at a Filipino festival in San Francisco when a Pinoy professor from SF State questioned why I was teaching. He said that what I was doing was wrong and I wasn’t qualified. We talked for a bit and I found out that he didn’t even know Baybayin. Ray Haguisan has experienced the same as well and told me that we shouldn’t ever stop what we are doing because while the professors are teaching behind a desk, we are at ground zero spreading Baybayin and Filipino culture within the community. No money, with little accolades.

I’ll speculate and give my opinion on ANYTHING Baybayin related. I’m not afraid to be wrong. That’s what you would expect from a site called No BS and full transparency.

“Nothing personal, just doing my job” – Manny Pacquiao

6 thoughts on “The Passion of Baybayin

  1. I don’t like this “Us vs. Them” tone…it is absolutely divisive and casts a dark shadow on the current progress of Baybayin.

    My Baybayin experience has always been about taking risks. The risk of being wrong tops the list; the risk of being told you aren’t Filipino enough, you don’t speak Filipino well enough, not qualified academically, exploitive of Baybayin. These are largely from some academics I’ve encountered and the larger native Filipino speaking community. THAT is BS but there is no BS in what we do as a Baybayin community, as artisans, as scholars, as practitioners. Our work is just as tangible as everyone else and we do have a voice.  Even if that voice spans several thousand miles, several ports of entry and over 7000 islands.

    Transparency? You can’t get any more transparent than being out in the community and doing your part,  You must put yourself out there if you are serious and want to be taken seriously! There is nothing more fulfilling as to engage people in person about Baybayin. The setting is informal to anyone with time to spare.  All that for free, no exceptions nor expectations, how’s that for education?  I don’t think for a minute I will ever stop doing what I do nor will I ever stop taking risks.  Speculate?  What do you think usually happens when someone first learns about Baybayin? Trust me, there are alot of people who still do not know.

    So to those who prefer to hide behind credentials, behind a desk or a computer screen, behind your screenames, behind your wordy rants because you want to sound more important and complain about limited resources, we got your back. You may continue your work in progress to troll our websites, pages and comments. We’ll do all the grunt work in the trenches for you with no expectations using our own limited resources.

  2. There is a HUGE problem among Filipinos where if you’re not a native speaker (Like I am not) or not full blooded, then you cannot possibly understand *anything* Filipino. I’ve encountered it numerous times… a sort of “brushing off” because my citzenship and culture is not Pinoy.

    Anyway, it sounds a lot like sour grapes by a bunch of guilible, sloppy academics who think their credentials means they are experts. Considering how there seems to be a bunch of backpedaling by these people who are clearly trying to save face, I’m going with my own assertion, not theirs.

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