Bay • ba • yin

[ baybay + in ]

According to the University of the Philippines Filipino Dictionary, Baybayin is
  1. A collection of all letters in one language
  2. To spell
  3. Shore
  4. The ancient Filipino alphabet system

Before foreigners arrived in the Philippines, our ancestors already had an established system of writing in place used in their everyday lives. This is not only limited to their speech, but also a way to share and publish their thoughts and ideas.

Apart from baybayin, there were 16 other official forms of writing; proof that our culture was constantly molded and cultivated for the next generation of Filipinos to use and promulgate.

Baybayin is a form of writing that is expressed using 17 symbols. Compared to other forms of writing that uses letters, each symbol of the baybayin is represented by one “pantig” or syllable.

Not only did the Spaniards invade the Philippines, but they also invaded the country's culture and identity; leading us Filipinos to lose our own system of writing.

The Spaniards forced their own identity and culture. But nevertheless, our ancestors continued to use baybayin secretly, using it to track their personal properties, for trade, and as a way to write what they've learned from the church.

According to the University of Santo Tomas Central Library, there were two ancient real estate documents discovered that was completely written in baybayin.

There were also books published by friars and churches wherein baybayin can be traced. One example is Doctrina Christiana, en Lengua Española y Tagala which was published in 1593.

Katipuneros, Filipinos who fought for our country’s independence against Spain, used baybayin as their flag’s symbol. This was how they were guided by our ancestors’ intellect.

There were also tribes and communities in the Philippines that continued to use baybayin even during the Spanish occupation, such as the Hanunoo and Mangyan tribes in Mindoro, and the Tagbanua and Pala’wan tribes in Palawan.


The English alphabet was introduced during the American occupation, but Filipinos like Lope K. Santos urged his fellow countrymen to use the Abakada system instead.

Baybayin can be traced in the Abakada system because of the similarities in pronunciation. It is also syllabic, unlike the English language where each letter is pronounced independently.

A Ba Ka Da E Ga Ha
I La Ma Na Nga
Pa Ra Sa Ta U Wa Ya

It can also be noted that some government branches still use baybayin for their official emblems and seals. Examples are the National Museum of the Philippines, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, National Library, National Commission For Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Records Management and Archives Office, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

During the 1980s, the Abakada was replaced by the Filipino alphabet. Like the English alphabet, each letter is now pronounced independently.

Because of the continuous use of the Mangyan, Northern-Buhid, and Palawan scripts, the National Museum declared them as National Cultural Treasures in 1997.

There are several movements and non-government organizations that strive to keep the Mindoro and Palawan scripts alive, like the Mangyan Assistance & Research Center in Mindoro lead by Antoon Postma, and the Palawan State University Tagbanwa Script Project aided by Dr. Jesus Peralta Jr. of the Philippine National Museum.

In 1994, Hector Santos created several computer fonts for the Hanunòo, Buhid and Tagbanuwa scripts. He also created fonts for the old baybayin.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines), the word “Pilipino” written in baybayin can be seen in the newest Philippine currency.

Currently, technology plays a big role in spreading the information about our ancient writing systems. Filipinos around the world can easily access and learn about our culture and identity using the Internet.

More and more Filipinos are finally gaining interest when it comes to our country's culture and identity, and baybayin is just the first thing that comes to mind. Baybayin is used in countless website, shirt, jewelry, and multimedia designs.

The existence of baybayin in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving world clearly proves that we Filipinos didn’t forget our country’s origin, culture, and identity; that we recognize the intellect of our ancestors who paved the way for us and the intellect of our race as Filipinos.