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

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.

Learn Baybayin at Folklorama, Winnipeg

Paul Morrow will be at Folklorama, Winnipeg 8/1-14 teaching Baybayin and doing name translations. From his Facebook page:

It’s the largest and longest running multicultural event in the world. The Pilipino Express is organizing the cultural display at the Nayong Pilipino pavilion. I’ll be explaining the baybayin script and transcribing names for the visitors.

Interview: Paul Morrow

Paul Morrow runs one of the most informative sites on Baybayin. Below is my interview with him.

Christian Cabuay
What got you interested in Baybayin? I assume you studied the script on your own, what was the most challenging part?

Paul Morrow
It’s a bit ironic. I became interested in Filipino/Tagalog many years ago when I discovered that Filipinos used the Roman alphabet. At the time I thought Filipinos probably wrote in Chinese or some “bizarre” script like Tibetan. That’s how little I knew. But when I happened to see a dictionary at a friend’s house, I thought, “Hey, I can read this. I think I’ll try to learn the language.” Then, a few years later, I came across an article by Lope K. Santos about the baybayin in a book for students of Tagalog. I was surprised because none of my friends had ever mentioned to me that Filipinos once had their own writing system. When I asked them I about it, they didn’t know what I was talking about. This made me very curious so I tried to find every scrap of information I could about the baybayin.

Learning the baybayin was the easy part; the challenge was finding reliable information about its history and usage. All I had in the beginning were second and third hand sources, like school textbooks. This was the dark ages before the Internet.

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