Episode 158 – Baybayin atbp. with Kristian Kabuay

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Baybayin, the pre-colonial written script of the Philippines, is a major foundation of our cultural heritage. The alphasyllabary script consisting of 17 characters was understood and used by communities throughout much of the archipelago prior to colonization. Spanish missionary Pedro Chirino, who lived and studied Philippine society in the early years of Spanish colonization, documented in 1604 that “there is hardly a man, and much less woman, who does not read or write in the letters.” However, as the Spanish expanded its rule over the Philippines, Baybayin fell out of favor among the locals and replaced by the Roman alphabet.

However, Baybayin has experienced a cultural revival over the last few decades largely due to the work of artists, historians, and practitioners based in the diaspora. In fact, the script is relative easy to learn (quick tutorial here). You can see Baybayin on artwork, logos, tattoos, and other branding that serve as a cultural identifier for Filipinos. One of the major cultural workers who has rebranded by my end and brought it back to the forefront of Filipino and Filipino American culture is Kristian Kabuay.

In this TFAL episode, Joe and Kristian discuss his work in promoting Baybayin, how it is used and its functionality in today’s world, and the myths and misconceptions of the script. We also talk about other projects that he’s working on as well as his opinion on cultural appropriation. Hope you enjoy this episode and that it inspires you to do your part in reviving our cultural writing.
Example of increased use of Baybayin on signage in Manila.
Note: I mentioned the use of the danda on the episode refers to the single or double line “punctuation” that locals used in pre-colonial times separate words or phrases. However, Kristian misunderstood my question and it was never addressed. A more deeper discussion of the danda and its function on writing/reading Baybayin can be found on this lecture here:

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