NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE PHILIPPINES
Padre Burgos st., Ermita, Manila
A SEMINAR REPORT ON BAYBAYIN: Ang Baybayin at Babae by Dr. Teresita Obusan;
Maikling Kasaysayan ng Baybayin by Mr. Leo Castro and;
Paraan ng Pagsulat ng Baybayin by Mr. Raymond Cosare
In reference to celebration of women’s month and promotion of the on-going Baybayin exhibit at the National Museum, MFP building, a lecture/seminar on Baybayin syllabary script and its relevance to uplifting and assertion of the role of women in the society was conducted last 20th of March headed by Dr. Teresita Obusan, Mr. Leo Castro and Mr. Raymond Cosare, all from the Museum of Bahay Nakpil. The lecture started with a prayer “Amang Makapangyarihan” accompanied by a musical work played by Mr. Castro and Mr. Cosare. This is prayed at Mt. Banahaw by the people who visit and revere the place. Interestingly, half of the prayer’s woes are entrusted and addressed to Mother Mary who is quintessential of an upright woman.
Mrs. Obusan’s report tackled first the intriguing relation of the Baybayin symbol of syllabary “ba” with other ancient symbols and images, which are referent to several essences of a woman.
Figure 1 Syllabary “ba” symbol
The above symbol either resembles the Sumerian’s cuneiform (seen from cave carvings around 3000 B.C.) of a woman or other Hindu ‘yonic’ images for vulva. On the other hand, a quasi-original representation of a woman and a vulva in Egyptian hieroglyph appears visually similar with its symbol for water. Water in Science is known to be the foundation of life that is why most ancient civilizations thrived where water is accessible such as rivers. Also, ‘yoni’ in Hindu philosophy, according to Tantra is the origin of life. Thus, a woman as a phenomenon is connected to giver of life.
Figure 2 Egyptian Hieroglyph Figure 4 Egyptian Hieroglyph Figure 3 Yoni
symbol for vulva symbol for water
Mrs. Obusan reiterated that the nature of a woman is manifested not only on the symbol of syllabary “ba” but also on the spoken word/language itself. It is known that the oldest name for a woman in Philippine context is ‘bai’ which is still being used in Mindanao. Laguna de Bay, which is a source of water, thus life, has an original name of ‘Laguna de Bai’. From here, it also supports the idea that a woman is somehow referent to ‘source of life’.
Dr. Obusan also discussed that before the coming of Spaniards, women in general were highly revered. These revered qualities of a woman are also embodied in the characters of a few warrior princesses and spiritual leaders (shamans).
The lecture proceeded with the history of Baybayin led by Mr. Leo Castro. To start off, he shared that writing in general was set out and fostered by trade mainly for recording purposes. Around 3,000 B.C. the earliest form of writing was established in Egypt which is hieroglyphs (writing of symbols to refer to a phenomenon or ideas). Also, in Mespotamia, Sumerian script in cuneiform composed of logographs and sound representation to denote things was developed. In 2200 B.C., an Indus Valley script arose and spread out in Southeast Asia. In around 1200 B.C., Phoenicians (Lebanese) who are much known in trade at the time introduced the use of alphabet composed of purely consonant letters representing sounds. This was adopted by the Greeks in around 800 B.C. and developed it by adding vowels. In 300 B.C., Brahmic script (a Sanskrit type), which is an offshoot of the Indus Valley script was introduced. This is where the ‘Baybayin” is believed to have originated from.
From the Indus Valley down to further Southeast Asia, there are 5 presumed sources of Baybayin: 1) Old Sumatran “Malay” scripts, 2) Sulawesi, 3) Old Assamese, 4) Cham and the most accepted one, 5) Kavi/Kawi script. The last one originated from Java which was used across much of Maritime Southeast Asia. This script has archaeological evidences including the Laguna Copperplate dated 900 AD; the Butuan Ivory Seal and; the Calatagan burial pot. Historical accounts such as Pedro Chirino’s and Antonio de Morgas’s also speak of the use of Baybayin by Filipinos then. In fact, a copy of the earliest publication Doctrina Cristiana en lengua Espanola y Tagala is written in Baybayin script.
Before the lecture ends, Mr. Cosare taught us how to write in baybayin. He said that since the syllabaries of baybayin do not include some of foreign letters, words to be written in baybayin shall be spelled out how it is pronounced in Tagalog language. Also the old manner of writing baybayin does not carry “stand alone consonants” which is now improved by the use of additional marks.
And this is how I write my name in baybayin, Jewel D. Mercader, pronounced as Dyiwel Merkader in Filipino.