Baybayin is a pre-Filipino writing system from the islands known as the “Philippines”. Baybayin comes from the word “baybay”, which literally means “spell”. You may know the script by the incorrect term of Alibata that was coined by Paul Versoza in the 1920’s. It was named after the first 3 characters of the Arabic alphabet, Alif, Ba and Ta. Our indigenous scripts have roots in India, not the Middle East. It’s speculated that Versoza wanted something that sounded like alphabet (Alpha-Beta) even though he knew it was called Baybayin. While Alibata is just a misnomer of the term, there’s a practical reason why you should stay away from using it and educate others. When you Google Alibata, the results are old, lacking information, provide no context and sometimes incorrect. There are no authorities that use the term.
Today, this ancient script is being resurrected thanks to young soul searching Filipinos.
Most Baybayin art on this website is by me unless noted. Since it’s my own handwriting, it will be different from what has become the standard Baybayin fonts created by Paul Morrow. Just like any writing system, learn the basics then make it your own style.
Any contributions, rants, corrections and etc can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Two goals of this website are:
1) Help educate and reeducate Filipinos everyone about this writing system.
2) It’s also my wish that once one becomes familiar with Baybayin, they also dig deeper into other aspects of our pre-Spanish history and ACT on what was learned.
From the media? Here’s something you can copy-n-paste:
Christian’s art is focused on the ancient writing system from the Philippines called Baybayin. It was nearly extinct due to colonization and is being brought back by Christian and a few other young Filipino-Americans. As a leading authority for the propagation and instruction of the script, he developed a modern style of the writing system called Tulang Kalis (Poetry of the Sword) and recently introduced it as Filipino Calligraphy with a series of live demonstrations and lectures at the Asian Art Museum this past October 2012. He has spoken at Stanford, Berkeley, SF State, Davis, Sonoma State and the University of the Philippines.
The story of Baybayin and I
My 1st exposure to Baybayin was during my junior year in high school in the US. I remember finding an old pamphlet and encyclopedia entry about the Katipunan and the revolution. In it, there were photos of all the revolution flags. It tripped me out that we had a KKK flag (during that time I was studying Black Nationalism concepts). The 3 symbols that were engraved in my brain were 1) The black pirate looking flag with a skull, 2) The sun with 8 rays and 3) A strange looking capital “I”. When I learned that it represented “K” in our very own indigenous alphabet, I made it my personal goal to learn how to read and write Baybayin.
The Philippine years
After high school, I left the US and moved back to the Philippines to try something different. My intention was only to stay for a few years but ended up staying for nearly a decade. During that time, I was exposed to a lot of different art forms from graphic/web design, fashion, music, and photography that changed my thought process and attitude. When I 1st got to Manila, I was the typical Hip Hop Amboy. Meeting all these Filipinos from all over the world really opened my eyes. In relation to Baybayin, I didn’t really practice the script while I was living in the Philippines due to the lack of interest and literature. However, I did get to check out some of the old Spanish era books with Baybayin at a museum when I was in college. Since this was before the internet, I only had 1 “xerox” copy of a Baybayin chart I got from a schoolbook. I think my most important lesson was getting proper historical and cultural context of the script. That was more challenging than learning how to write it.
Even though I was studying the script for a while, I pretty much forgot it in the Philippines. Maybe it was all the San Miguel beer I drank and the constant partying. It wasn’t until after I got on the internet and discovered that I wasn’t the only one with a passion for the dead script. When I got back to the states, met Aleks Figueroa who helped rekindle my interest even more. After that, I started writing again and got back into the groove. As a web guru by trade and a life long Entrepreneur, it made sense to start PinoyTattoos.com and Baybayin.com to fill much needed holes in the online Filipino community. After posting my Baybayin tattoo on PinoyTattoos, a few people have asked me to tell them more about it and help them translate. I guess you can call that the light bulb moment.
My Style and art background
My Baybayin art is influenced by brush styles, Asian writing systems, abstract painting and graffiti. Some may say that my style is sloppy and inconsistent. I agree, my handwriting has always been like that probably due to a slight case of dyslexia. In fact, I remember getting a C grade in Calligraphy class.
I used to mess with spaypaint in the mid 80’s on the walls separating homes from the railroad tracks in my neighborhood. One of my graffiti idols was Dream. I didn’t even know that he was Filipino until he was murdered in 2000.
Growing up as a hip hop head and doing a little skating, I was into street styles like tagged up backpacks/hats and “Hello My Name Is” stickers. The Bomb magainze was one of my favs. After high school, I moved back to Manila, Philippines and teach some of my new friends who were just getting into tagging. We experimented with home made fatcaps, Pilot markers from National Bookstore and shoe polish. It was fun times, I remember getting shot at by cops as we sped away after tagging up a wall in a fancy sub-division. I was all about art, writingand music back then. As the internet came around, I “studied” art more than atually doing. Being able to see/read things from all over the world blew my mind.
I put the spraypaint and markers away for a while and shifted to digital. Over the past few years, I’ve picked up markers and pens again along with brushes to incorporate with Baybayin.
You could catch me at Filipino Festivals in the Spring/Summer around the San Francisco Bay Area. Check the EVENTS section. I’m also available for workshops and speaking engagements.
Questions? Check out the FAQ
More about me on my portfolio site