The case against Baybayin as national writing system

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Using Baybayin as the national writing system is not a good way to promote Filipino culture. (Young Star)

A Keyboard app, tattoos and T-shirt designs, the interest in learning the pre-Hispanic Baybayin for artistic use had grown in recent years particularly among millennials.

Soon, it would be inscribed in official communications if the National Writing System Act gets signed.

The bill, authored by Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil (Pangasinan), aims to make Baybayin as the national writing system supposedly for better appreciation of the ancient script and Filipino culture.

This means that the official signage of public facilities, street names, establishments and even local products will be written using Baybayin alphabet with corresponding translations.

Even with some good intention behind the proposed legislation, there are valid arguments against integrating the old writing system into the present lexicon.

An obscure cosmetic and distraction

Riza Pingke, an editor of academic magazines, said that she is not in favor with this move because it would only complicate the present problem of Filipinos not being able to use the national language properly.

“Pagtuunan dapat ng pansin ang pagtuturo sa Filipino na hindi halos priority ngayon sa mga paaralan. Kung gusto nila na maging makabansa ang mga Pilipino, kasaysayan at wikang Filipino ang itaguyod,” Pingke told Interaksyon.

She added that even if we filled the streets with Baybayin signs, this would render useless if people don’t know the corresponding translation in Filipino terms.

“Paglalaruan lang ng marami ang Baybayin sa social media kapag nagkataon,” Pingke said.

Several users on Twitter seemed to echo her argument, urging government to focus on the proper use of the mother tongue.

Headache of making an ancient script adapt to the times

Once the Baybayin law is enacted, it is also expected to pose logistical challenges that will need funding. Government agencies will have to reprint, redesign and reconstruct communications materials from architectural structures to office stationery.

Like Pingke, Twitters user also pointed out a looming problem the law may pose to schools and the education system:

If at all linguists will be tapped for what could be a national redesigning project, many words used today in the Philippines with foreign origins will be rendered nearly incomprehensible when read in Baybayin.

A website called Ating Baybayin can give use a preview of how words like “internet” and “presidente” will be read as “e te ne” and “de se de te,” respectively.

Baybayin belonged to Tagalogs

Baybayin was the original script of Tagalog people originally residing in central Luzon. Tagalog is the national language Filipino is based on.

A Facebook user pointed out that passing the House bill into law will give much preference to Tagalog over other major Philippine languages such as Kapampangan, Hiligaynon and Cebuano.

“If you ask me, I would rather put English as the sole unifying language for the country because it is not [biased] to one language,” the comment goes.

Aside from Baybayin, other existing scripts used today are the Hanunuo and Buhid texts of the Mangyans of Mindoro and the Kulitan of the Kapampangans.

No specific origins

According to an article from The Aswang Project, two prominent figures in history may have pieced together Baybayin’s history.

In the article, the author cited National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino who claimed in his book “Ang Wika at Baybayin Tagalog” that a Tagalog poet named Katalon invented Baybayin as a gift to a woman called Bai.

Pedro Paterno’s claims were also mentioned into which he stated that in his book “La Lingua Civilizacion Tagalog” that the term Baybayin came from the word baibai or babae, as in female in English.