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An Easy Guide to Writing the Filipino Ancient Script

Due to social media and people desiring to reconnect with their roots, the Baybayin script has grown in popularity. Many people now use Baybayin as a tattoo, on their social media accounts, or even as vandalism. However, some erroneous uses exist, which means that even if you know how to read Baybayin correctly, the words or phrases are typed incorrectly and awkwardly. So, in order to address this issue, here is a helpful instruction on how to learn about the Baybayin and how to properly write it.

Baybayin, also known as Alibata, is one of the several writing systems that existed in the Philippines prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. The Tagalog Baybayin script is the contemporary script used by the majority of Filipinos. However, scripts from other places, such as Badlit for Visayans and Kulitan for Kapampangans, are known to exist. Other indigenous tribes’ sister scripts, such as Tagbanwa, Hanuno’o, and Buhid, are still in use today.

Baybayin is said to have various variances throughout different areas, not only due to language differences, but also due to the people’s personal handwriting.  So, if you want to write in Baybayin, it’s fine if you don’t follow the’standard,’ if there is one, because people used to just write the script however they learnt it as long as the symbols were identifiable.

How to Write
The traditional pre-Hispanic method and the modernized form, which has been somewhat modified by the Spanish friars, are the two ways to write Baybayin. We’ll start with the original version and then move on to the modified version to learn the writing system.

Version before the arrival of the Spaniards
Baybayin is classed as an Abugida, which implies it can only be written in syllables with a consonant and a vowel.

As an example:

To make an E/I sound, add kudlit (little mark) above, and kudlit (small mark) below to generate an O/U sound.

For ancient Filipinos, this was the conventional manner of writing words; they did not write stand-alone consonants.

ADLAW (sun/day) is written as A-LA, BULAN (moon/month) is written as BU-LA, and DAGAT (sea) is written as DA-GA.

Furthermore, there were only three vowels in the old version, contrasted to the majority of five vowel sounds in Philippine languages nowadays.

Because there were no spaces between words, they ran together in a similar way to Japanese.

Two lines were used to separate sentences, similar to how we use periods today.

Unlike now, when we use the letters N and G together, the symbols for D and R were the same, and the NG sound had its own sign.

As a result, the script served as a mnemonic technique for reading and was ineffective in capturing the many sounds found in Philippine languages.


Notes for the Pre-Hispanic version:

  1. One syllable equals one symbol.
  2. The last consonants of syllables were not transcribed.
  3. There are no spaces between the words.
  4. As a period, use a double line.
  5. The characters DA and RA are the same.
  6. NG has a distinct personality.
  7. Version that has been changed

The Spanish Friars updated the version by adding stand-alone consonants and the ability to write spaces between words.

To negate the vowel sound, a cross was placed beneath the symbol, resulting in ADLAW becoming A-D-LA-W, BULAN becoming BU-LA-N, and DAGAT becoming DA-GA-T.

Characters without vowels:


Script that has been updated
There are now various variations of the alphabet that adapt the script to the current state of Philippine languages; for example, a distinction between D and R was added, as well as symbols for additional sounds not included in the classic version.

Here are a few specifics:

Because writing sentences in the original version is challenging, I prefer to write Baybayin in the modified version. Because there are so many contemporary approaches, I like to stick with the original version recorded by the Spaniards. So, to avoid making mistakes, take the time to understand how to write our own Traditional Script.

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