EVENT: The Manila Collectible co 3/29 in the Philippines

kristian kabuay baybayin

I’ll be in the Philippines 3/29 at the Manila Collectible co

THE SWITCH!
Right after our final tour of The Manila Collectible Co., you’ll get to meet Kristian Kabuay in his live Calligraphy and Baybayin Exhibit! Can’t wait to see everyone there!

Free Entrance. 3rd Floor Villa Blanca Bldg. (behind Manila Cathedral), Cabildo cor. Beaterio Sts., Intramuros, Manila.
https://www.facebook.com/events/788415011212040/

Team Manila goes Baybayin

One of the Philippines most popular brands, Team Manila, releases a Baybayin collection. I remember living next to these guys back in the day in Ortigas. Now look where the brand is! They’ve got stores all over the country and brought a sense of “Streetwear” to the Philippine masses. In their Baybayin Collection, they use the script as a pattern rather than words. Maybe in order to avoid mistakes? Notice the use of the diacritic markers similar to Arabic calligraphy. Props to Team Manila! This is great for the promotion of prePhilippine scripts. At least they used their own original artwork rather than ripping of artists like Walker Underwear.

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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.

http://philippinesparadise.blogspot.com/2007/12/alibata-2nd-contest-keyword.html
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A post about the mechanics of the contest
http://elmersparadise.blogspot.com/2008/02/final-post-for-alibata.html
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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”. 
http://www.shawie.com/2007/12/16/alibata-ancient-philippine-writing-system/

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

alibata

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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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 www.bibingka.baybayin.com. 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.