Baybayin is dead, long live Baybayin!

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I’m back on the Blog after a couple of years to discuss death and disruption. I’ve always been fascinated with death. One of my early childhood memories was watching a VHS tape of Faces of Death. I was a compilation of clips of people getting into accidents, beheadings, etc. You know, normal stuff you see on the internet now. Back then, it was more of a shock factor.

As I got older, I became interested in dying cultures in Africa and Asia. It was natural I would somehow connect death with Philippine cultural practices. My first instance was a section of my Intro to Baybayin book in 2009, where I had a section titled “The Death of Baybayin.” About four years later, I was taking part in a Super Bowl street fair. After talking to about 50 people and explaining the basic script history, it wasn’t resonating. Maybe it was my voice or lack of eye contact. Maybe it was the story I was telling. It was then; I decided to experiment with using a strong absolute term like DEATH. Death is a bulldozer that forces conversations. I learned when you use strong terms; you get strong reactions with strong emotions. Strong emotions cause action. Action kicks Idea’s ass all day long. Death = Action

Even though this was only a few years ago, much has changed in the “Baybayin scene.” Interest has increased every year. This is measurable with data from my FB Baybayin page and private group.

Facebook Page
Facebook Discussion Group

Scripts have frequent exposure in news programs, social media, and even movies. New advocates have popped-up in the Philippines to expose scripts to a new generation.

For years, I, along with others, have championed the term Baybayin kill the erroneous Alibata term. Now it’s time to kill the term Baybayin. This will be a much more difficult task because there isn’t an obvious replacement…yet but maybe there shouldn’t be. As a refresher, Baybayin is a term that means to spell. It’s not a name but a description of an action. Maybe there shouldn’t be a name, and it should be called whatever the term is for writing/spelling in someone’s local language. More on this on another article. The timing of this also coincides with the recent activity around the National Script Act AKA the Baybayin Bill.

As I mentioned above, Action beats Ideas. Here are my action items:
– Move the blog domain under I’ll keep the domain as a landing page because people will still use the search term. I did something similar with an Alibata domain landing page.
– Acknowledging the issues with the term when conducting lectures similar to what I’ve done with prePhilippine and preFilipino.
– Get rid of the Baybayin School branding in my upcoming project.

Baybayin is dead, long live Baybayin

The roots of Alibata on the internet

Why are there so many crappy posts about  Alibata on the internet? 2 words: SEO Philippines. SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines. – Wikipedia

In 2007, there was a contest to see who could get their website to rank the highest in search engine page results if someone searched for Alibata. This resulted many posts with duplicate content that didn’t provide much context.

“I think at that time I was going with the bayanihan flavor, so the contest keyword had to be definitely Filipino with a low SERP footprint. I wanted to indirectly help put focus also on the subject.” Marc Hil Macalua of SEO Philippines

While the spirit of the contest was good, most of the authors didn’t care about educating the public on the script and frankly don’t know much of it. These websites were abandoned right after the contest was over but the damage was done. If you search for Alibata, these sites still come up.

Here’s a sample post entry that polluted the internet around 2007-2008.
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A post about the mechanics of the contest
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Here’s another example with a bit more detail. Mostly copy and pasted info from Wikipedia. Notice the category “SEO Contest”.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 3.52.43 PMBecause this post showed up high in search engine results and has more content compared to the others, people started asking for assistance and commenting. Nowhere else on his website does he write about the script. People don’t see a response and try to figure it out themselves leading to errors.

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Finally! Alibata may soon be dead….sort of


Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (Commission of Filipino Language) posted this viral image on their educational FB page Wikapedia. Basically, it says that Alibata isn’t true. It was invented by a teacher who thought it came from the Arabs. Baybayin is the native alphabet of the country. The root is Baybay meaning spelling. It’s ours and not borrowed.

There’s a few issues with image:
1) Hindi totoo ang Alibata (Alibata isn’t true) is a bit weird and misleading because it’s vague. What’s not true? Alibata the word or the writing? Why isn’t it true?
2) Bata isn’t the 2nd character. It’s Ba
3) Baybayin isn’t an alphabet but an alphasyllabary (Abugida)
4) Hindi hiniram (not borrowed) is weird wording as well. Baybayin along with most of South East Asian scripts have roots in India. Is that considered borrowed? Are they insinuating that Baybayin was 100% created in the Philippines without any outside influence?

Virgilio S. Almario, of KWF wrote a blog post with additional details (some incorrect) about why it’s not Alibata along with challenges in changing all the textbooks. What was interesting was that he also mentioned that mass media is also a reason why Alibata spread. The root of that is that they learned it in school through incorrect textbooks.

At the end of the day, if it’s called Alibata, Baybayin or Super Pinoy Power Writing, they haven’t provided any value other than a sense of “cultural pride” to students who want to be lawyers, entertainers or call center agents. It unfortunately is all about economics. That’s the challenge for any endangered writing system/language in the so-called Philippines, Indonesia, Malayasia, etc. So what if DeafEd changes Alibata to Baybayin in textbooks? Will there be new surrounding content to give proper historical, cultural and modern context? What is their value proposition other than passing a test, writing the national anthem and feeling good about yourself for a couple days? Rather than sensationalizing the ancientness of Baybayin and unproven stones, the government should be more focus on living scripts such Surat Mangyan, Kulitan, and save Surat Buhid and Tagbanwa from really becoming extinct.

As expected, there was an ocean of comments about this ranging from stupid, interesting and weird…

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Alibata scripture shirt?

Was tipped by Khalil at the Baybayin FB Group that Kultura Filipino at SM Malls in the Philippines might be selling a shirts with using my font incorrectly. Above is a photo of the shirt in question. It indeed is my Baybayin font.

Couple issues with this:

1) I clearly state in the downloads section of this site “All downloads are for personal use only. Please contact me at christian(at) for any commercial inquiries.” I did not receive any email from Kultura Filipino asking permission.  Sure, my font could’ve been downloaded form another site that stole it.

2) The use of the incorrect term Alibata.

3) The incorrect spelling. Alibata is written  A-Li-Ba-A-Ta-A along with the other text below.

4) The incorrect use of “Scripture”. It’s common to hear people mention scripture when talking about Baybayin/Alibata. Scripture is defined as sacred religious writings. Baybayin alone isn’t a scripture. If you write a verse from the Koran in Baybayin, the verse is scripture not Baybayin. I see most of the people using this incorrect description are from the Philippines who mix up (or don’t know the difference) Script vs Scripture. They are different

Kultura is a great store in general but for something as visible as a writing system, it’s IRRESPONSIBLE for them to put out missinformation for profit.

Any businesses or government institutions out there looking to use Baybayin correctly, contact me for a FREE consultation. christian(at)

PS: Let’s see if there are comments saying it’s “Nice” without reading the article. Don’t be lazy

Alibata still rules

I ran a query on Google search traffic trends for Alibata vs Baybayin over the last 5 years. As you can see, Alibata (red) is searched more than double Baybayin (blue).

– What’s interesting is that the term Baybayin only started trending late 2007 around the same time was launched.

– The peaks are around the month of June/July. I suspect that the increase is due to Filams searching for Alibata tattoos in the summer. These trends follow summer traffic patters on my Filipino Tattoo site.

– Around 2008-2009, there was a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) contest in the Philippines that used Alibata as their keyword. Basically, whoever could get their website at the top of the search engines when typing the keyword  won the prize. This caused a lot of crap sites that are still out there. All of them were just copies of Wikipedia.

– I think within the next 2 years, we should see the Alibata vs Baybayin gap lessen.

Here’s a December 2010 graph. See how close it is at the end of the year? It could be because of the new Philippine bank notes that were released with Baybayin and reported by the news as Baybayin (bravo).

WTF: Bench Alibata stamps

Musa snapped some photos of “Alibata” stamps by Philippine mega clothing retailer BENCH for their PinoyLab line. I didn’t see them for sale on their site but I assume they are real and are on display in their store. While I applaud their intention, it misguided in my opinion. Besides the misnomer of Alibata and calling it an alphabet, they added additional characters outside the base 17. I don’t have a problem with the + cancellation kudlit. I do have an issue with the expanded set (C, J, Q, Z, X) made popular by Bayani Mendoza. What’s bad about this is that it will confuse people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for modernizing the script but we have to get the basics 1st. Walk before running. This is flying before crawling. You don’t learn Baybayin just by looking at a chart. You also need context.

Akbayan SJSU & AKO

Last month, Akbayan San Jose State University hosted an “Alibata” workshop “taught” by the brothers of AKO. While I didn’t attend this workshop, I was a bit annoyed by the use of Alibata. I get it if Alibata was used because that’s what people know it as but was explanation about the historical aspect of it? I doubt it. Besides the misdemeanor term, I question the the translation of AKO in the postcard below. I totally understand that it’s A.K.O (Alpha Kappa Omega) but it’s so obviously incorrect. If you use “Fob it”, “Be cool” and provide an wrong translation (isn’t even a loose one) with a backwards A character, you have no business running a workshop. Sorry

My biggest issue is that myself and others, spend a lot of time and money trying to revive Baybayin. When misseducation like this gets out, it makes what we do a whole lot harder.

While I don’t claim to be an expert in Baybayin, I know the basics. Hell, anyone can just by reading a few websites. Even Wikipedia has good info. Yeah, Baybayin (Alibata) is cool but don’t throw crap out there.

Yes, I emailed them and commented on posts but never received a response

incorrect alibata workshop

incorrect alibata

Paul R. Verzosa's Pangbansang Titik nang Pilipinas – How Baybayin was named Alibata

I recently finished reading Paul R. “Verzosa’s Pangbansang Titik nang Pilipinas”. He’s the man responsible for coining the term Alibata. You might have read the quote that’s been re-quoted over and over again from Paul Morrow’s site:

In 1921 I returned from the United States to give public lectures on Tagalog philology, calligraphy, and linguistics. I introduced the word alibata, which found its way into newsprints and often mentioned by many authors in their writings. I coined this word in 1914 in the New York Public Library, Manuscript Research Division, basing it on the Maguindanao (Moro) arrangement of letters of the alphabet after the Arabic: alif, ba, ta (alibata), “f” having been eliminated for euphony’s sake.”

While that quote is accurate, it doesn’t tell the whole story as to why he did it. There wasn’t any explanation why he linked the script to Arabic but there were some interesting points that may give you an idea of his motive.

He writes about the origin of the word “Alphabet” and his seemingly admiration of of other cultures who have names of their alphabet.

The Japanese call theirs the KANA and HIRAGANA SYLLABARIES invented by a Budhist mon in 700 AD which are based on the simple Chinese symbols. The Hindus call their Sandskrit alphabet DEVANGARI meaning “THE CITY OF GOD.” (Pangbansang Titik nang Pilipinas pg 11 – Paul R. Verzosa – 1939)

Maybe one of his goals to rename the script was to uplift it. He does acknowledge that the writing was indeed called Baybayin by the natives.

The first Spanish conquistadores and missionaries who came to the Philippines after the death of Magellan in the Island of Mactan found that the Tagalogs used to write their spoken speech in their native system called BAYBAYIN, and equivalent of Alphabet; but he litteral meaning of Baybayin is TO SPELL OUT or SYLLABICATE.(Pangbansang Titik nang Pilipinas pg 11 – Paul R. Verzosa – 1939)

It looks like he wasn’t content with the generic term equivalent of Alphabet. He wanted something more majestic in order to perhaps give the Filipinos a sense of pride. Putting all that aside, it still doesn’t really explain why he chose Arabic as a base of the script. He does document that Baybayin is a direct descendant of Sanskrit.

Asia adopted the various simplified and popularized Sanskrit alphabet and handwriting, of which the Tagalog handwriting is its distant but direct descendant.(Pangbansang Titik nang Pilipinas pg 17 – Paul R. Verzosa – 1939)

The book is broken down in 3 parts:
Part1: Historical Background
Part2: The Structure of the Language
Part3: How to Read and Write

At the end, there were advertisements. Check out BPI. Mapua also had one as well.