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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The legacy of Hector Santos & Bayani Mendoza de Leon

Hector Santos

We lost one of the pioneers of Baybayin the other month. Hector Santos passed away July 30, 2014. Hector along with Paul Morrow were one of the firsts to publish legit information about prePhilippine scripts on the internet back in the mid-90’s. I remember the first time I came across Hector’s website. I was living in the Philippines going to school when the internet came out. I used to buy these month old reggae magazines and started to see websites advertised. I wrote all these down and once we got the internet, I looked them all up. I then came across the Yahoo search engine and searched for things like Filipino History, hip hop, buddhism, and the Philippine script. I was surprised to come across “A Philippine Leaf” by Hector. Blew my mind. I didn’t find any of this info in books for years. This kickstarted my deep interest in prePhilippine culture. At that time, he used to have fonts that were on floppy discs for sale. By the time I was able to order them in the US, he advised me that they were sold out and not sure if he would be making another batch. I’ve bugged him about once a year for an interview either in person (he lived in LA) or via email. Never heard from him. Because his website is so invaluable and we don’t know how long it will last, I’ve downloaded the contents and mirrored them at Here’s a direct link to his bio.

Bayani Mendoza de Leon past away about a year ago and I actually just heard about his death a few months ago while doing a google search. My first exposure to Bayani was his book, Baybayin, the Ancient Script of the Philippines: A Concise Manual in the 90’s I purchased at a festival. It was the first time I thought about modern ways to write the script. This then lead me to look at his resources and even finding a copy of his uncle’s book, from 1972  “Pinadaling Pag-aaral ng Katutubong Abakadang Pilipino by Ricardo Mendoza. Unlike Hector, Bayani was very open to being interviewed. We exchanged several long emails that culminated in what it looks like is his only interview about Baybayin that can be read here. Too bad I didn’t have the opportunity to go down to San Diego to interview him for my upcoming documentary.

The Fundamentals of Baybayin

Fellow Baybayin artist David Lazaro writes about the “Fundamentals of Baybayin” on

The ability to read and to write is the mark of any civilization.  Thus, it should be no surprise that Spanish accounts reveal that when they first landed on the shores of the Philippine islands, the people of the land were already reading and writing to each other through their own script. The accounts even estimate that the native people of the Philippines may have been writing this script for over a century prior to the first Spanish steps on the beaches of Homonhon made by Magellan himself.  This script that seemingly every local was literate in including women and children was found to be called Baybayin.

Check it out

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.

Cesar Montano wants to make a movie featuring Eskaya

Philippine actor/director Cesar Montano is planning to make a movie about the Dagohoy Rebellion and Eskaya.

Cesar is excited about a new project that he is willing to do this year even if he wouldn’t get any support from any big film outfits.

“I’m interested to do the [movie on] Francisco Dagohoy, kasi talagang taga-Bohol ’yun. Si Francisco Dagohoy, led the longest revolt in the Philippines, his story is part of our history. Another one is Eskaya, parang alibata ’yan… Alibata [a pre-Spanish writing system] from Luzon, Eskaya from the south,” Cesar discussed.

Eskaya, which Cesar is very excited about, is actually a name of an indigenous group found in the mountainous area of Bohol. Its language Eskayan interestingly has no clear relationship with any known language.

“Many people think that early Filipinos were illiterate. They didn’t know that Filipinos could communicate, we could write, we could read already, even before, way before the Spanish came to the Philippines. We need to share this to the world. I’m thinking of doing it this year, kahit indie I will do it, the Philippines has to do it,” the determined actor said.


An example of the Eskaya script

eskaya script