One glance at Filipino social media reveals a recurring set of waves, twists and inverted hearts. They’re not just symbols—they’re part of a 17-character writing system called Baybayin that’s making a comeback centuries later.
Ancient texts can now be found in streetwear and trendy wineexist Card game and tattoo even a filipino american singer her clothing.
When the Spanish established colonies in the Southeast Asian archipelago, they instructed the Filipinos to use the Latin alphabet, and Baybayin, the written component of Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, fell out of use. But over the past two decades, young people, artists and many in the Filipino diaspora have sought to rebuild a sense of cultural pride, and they have embarked on a campaign to revive it.
For Jay Enage, 50, one of the few Baybayin instructors in the country, the language is a key piece of the Filipino identity puzzle.
“Writing is visual. So that’s why it’s powerful. Because when you write something down, what you say becomes a record, becomes a document, and becomes permanent,” he said.
Enage, who has taught and advocated for the language for 13 years, says he has seen real enthusiasm for it among young people. High school student Nyrene Paranga is one of many young people looking for ways to learn Baybayin and make it more accessible to her peers. She said helping organize Baybayin workshops at her school meant a lot to her.
“We want Baybayin to be part of the high school and even elementary school curriculum because it can be integrated into our mother tongue,” she said. “I mean, you’re taking English subjects instead of Baybayin, and recently our school actually adopted Korean instead of Baybayin.”
But finding resources has been an uphill battle, Palanga said, as a state bill to make baybayin a school curriculum requirement remains stalled in the Senate. Ethnic groups who speak their own languages object to the reinforcement of certain aspects of Tagalog in the classroom, rather than their language. Enage is a leading advocate for the bill.
Outside of textbooks, the language has made some progress.Android and Apple users can download a coastal keyboard In the app store and active Facebook group, members can be guided through translation. But it’s creative types that find a visual playground in the script’s fluid curves, nimble loops, and lightning-fast zig-zags, and propel them into the hip parts of pop culture.
However, this raises the question of whether Baybayin was destined to be a purely decorative text, or a means of everyday communication. For artist and calligrapher Taipan Lucero, the two are not mutually exclusive—the artistic component complements efforts to promote fluency in forgotten languages by increasing exposure.
“One of my goals is to get people interested through my art. When people see [Baybayin], they don’t know what that is. Aesthetically, they might just be attracted by its looks. And then once they get there, they get curious about it,” Lucero said.
Chief among these cultural torchbearers are Filipinos abroad.
“Just in San Francisco, you see more scripts in the Sixth Ward and the Mission District, almost more than you see in the Philippines. That’s because the community has realized the need for identity,” says Filipino-American artist Christian · Kabuai (Kristian Kabuay) said.
Kabuay says scripting isn’t just a fad. He believes Baybayin has become so popular among the diaspora that a new chapter in its evolution has begun, and with it a conversation about how the language fits into the 21st century.
“After you identify yourself as Filipino, Filipino or whatever, you know, what is that value, that’s the challenging part. So how do we give value to these cultural assets? Value leads to protection,” he said. explain.
NBC News World News