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(Sining at Agham ng Palapantigan)

Bonifacio F. Comandante Jr, Ph.D.
Consultant, Distinctive Excellence Program
College of Arts and Sciences
University of the Philippines Los Baos
Paper presentation as speaker in The First Philippine Conference on Ticao Stone held on
August 5-6, 2011 at Monreal, Masbate, Philippines.

This Paper will deal on the Arts and Science of Baybayin (Palapantigan1). Baybayin as
an Art in this context teaches people how to move using the forms of the Baybayin syllabary.
The adaptation of the script forms through movements has provided an easy way of learning
primarily because of muscle memory. It is similar to the phenomenon of using the bicycle- you
simply dont loose the ability once gained. In our experience, children who started dancing the
Baybayin forms automatically developed abilities in writing and reading the scripts in just two
As a Science, the origins and development of forms through time will be shown and
more importantly, it will give a glimpse on the confusion that went with the studies and
pronouncements of early researchers that perhaps contributed to its way-out progression and
almost total obscurity. The use of kudlits and the introduction of one method to make the
Baybayin scripts conform to the Spanish orthography or Latinized Tagalog will be highlighted.
In 2008, I decided to copyright my work entitled Movements Inspired by the Filipino
Script Baybayin: Unang Galaw (First Move//copyright no. O2008478). This started my journey
to Baybayin and our ancient culture.

Palapantigan as used by Sevilla & Alvero in the book, Sinupan ng Wikang Pilipino (1939).

Baybayin Dance was first rendered by students of Lucban Elementary School (PEL 5) at
the Bagong Kasaysayan 2009 Conference held in Don Bosco Makati Auditorium. It was
followed by demonstrations of Baybayin Martial Arts as well as the Baybayin Wellness dance.
Succeeding presentations were done in UP Diliman Sunken Garden, SEARCA Auditorium in UP
Los Baos and other venues. One gauge to measure the success of this teaching style is when the
dance is taught in as many schools in the country; then we will know that more and more
Filipinos are re-learning the lost Syllabary.
Baybayin Forms: Origin Theories
Guilermo Tolentino was one of the very few individuals who tried to put forward the
possible origins of the Filipino Script. In his book, A Wika at Baybayi Tagalog,2 consist of
several parts: a thesis of the origin of the Tagalog people and language, which refutes commonly
accepted findings on astronomy, geology, flora and fauna, anthropology, ethnology & philology;
the ancient Tagalog writing and its characteristics, history, nature and ways of use; Tagalog
accent and euphony (Sevilla & Alvero 1939). Tolentinos work on the origins of Baybayin script
based on pictograms and ideograms are shown below:

Tolentino (1937), A Wika at Baybayi Tagalog. m. 74.

An interesting commentary of Tolentinos book had this to say, His entire discussion
of the ancient Tagalog writing has gone beyond other works on the same subject; his
predecessors and contemporaries have taken paleographic specimens as they have been found
and recorded; he has parallelisms in the study of origins and development of human writing,
starting with pictography and ideography and dwelling largely on the significance of our ancient
syllabary. While there may be those who would discard his theory and reasoning for lack of
documentary evidence, his real contribution lies in the plausibility of his explanations with
reference to the origin and transformation of the ancient Tagalog Syllabary, the significance of
their characters and their pronunciation, (Herald Mid-week Magazine 1938).

The form is equivalent to ng.

In addition, Guilermo Tolentino put up his study on the Filipino Numerals known as
Bulila. Similar to the script, he listed the meanings of each form but its origins were missing.
These are listed as follows:

Mga Bulila (Bilang) ng Tagalog: Tolentino 1937 (English insertions: Sevilla & Alvero 1939).
Large Filipino Numbers (below) were listed in two early books: Arte y Reglas de la
Lengua Tagala by San Joseph (1610) and Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by San Buenaventura
(1613). Unfortunately, the numeric forms were missing in the said books. It was surmised that
the early Filipinos counted and used huge numbers that were simply written in Baybayin script.

Baybayin Script from Giant Clams

In an effort to present the origins of the script (including numerals) coming from one
cohesive source, I made a phenomenological study as part of my PhD dissertation in Anthropology. Unlike the earlier Baybayin origin work of Tolentino which lacks cohesiveness, this new
theory has based the origins of all forms of scripts from the Taklobo or Giant Clams. Shells of
the Tridacninae family have been pervading in the consciousness of Filipinos as evidenced by
artifacts found in Palawan as early as 48,000 years ago (Fox 1978). Midden heaps or shell
garbage deposits from 10,000 years ago (Szabo et al 2004) and various artifacts proved to the
consumption of shell meat and use of shells in many ways: tools, containers, utensils, source of
lime for Betel Chew (Zumbroich 2008), body ornaments and as burial goods (National Museum
Artifacts). The collective evidences from archaeology, vocabularies and language (place-names)
should be able to give light to this new theory. Details of the evidences vis--vis the Syllabary
can be seen in the Annex A while the summary of forms from Taklobo can be seen below:

Arte y Reglas de la Lengua Tagala (San Joseph 1610) and Vocabulario de la Lengua
Tagala (San Buenaventura 1613) both made distinctions of Castillian and Latinized Tagalog
b/ba. For the letter to correspond to the Baybayin Syllabary, it has to be spelt as baba and not
simply ba (SB 1613; page 99). This goes with all the consonants kaka, dara, gaga, haha, lala,
mama, nana, nganga, papa, sasa, tata, wawa & yaya. With these on hand, it means that each
Baybayin syllabary is a word by itself and may have evolved from a ritual related to giant clams.
This can be validated since up to this date, ethnolinguistic groups in Agusan (Mamanua) and
Palawan (Tagbanua) would eat these giant clams as the very last part of a meal ritual. With the
Kankaneys of Mountain Province, the word papa means eating and sharing of the meat in a
sacred ritual.

A summary of the Baybayin word meanings from Vocabulario San Buenaventura 1613
is listed below. Multiple word meanings/synonyms were condensed to compose the meal ritual:

Details can be found in the PhD dissertation, The Role of Giant Clams in the
Development of the Filipino Script Baybayin. (Comandante 2009).

The most significant evidence of the relation of Giant Clams to the Baybayin script is
found in the book, A Lexicographic Study of Tayabas Tagalog of Quezon Province done by
Arsenio Manuel (Faculty of the University of the Philippines) in 1971. On page 133, the word
haha is listed to mean hiwang malaki (open wide) and hahain means bukahin ang manglit (open
the manglit ). On page 249 of the same book, manglit means higanteng kabibe- (giant bivalves
or clams).
In another study and analysis, some Baybayin syllables are reckoned as place-names and
are suggestive of the script form:

Village (Barangay)

Baybayin word sasa as place-names

Davao City
Sasa means to break;
in both locations, one can
find heaps of broken shells
above ground and

Village (Barangay)

Baybayin word wawa as place-names

Batangas City
Wawa means to
(pierce) open;
All locations are
suggestive of either an
opening to the sea, a
San Pablo City
were streams
join as one or a
junction making two
roads meet as one.
Abra de Ilog
Taguig City
Batangas City

Occ. Mindoro


Baybayin Numerals from Giant Clams

Let us now turn to the numerals. Since the scripts may have been influenced by the giant
clams, it maybe possible that the forms of the Filipino numerals were similarly taken from the
shells of giant clams as seen below. Evidences show that giant clams and similar shells were
used as lime containers in the past (Zumbroich 2008). Lime or apog up until now has been the
main ingredient of Betel chew or nganga. The ratio of lime with Areca nut (bunga) while being
pounded with a pestle is important for taste and in preventing mouth inner skin burning when
chewing. The yellow lines and numbers below correspond to the groove of the shell (shell tip
must be flattened) where powdered lime are placed and cleared of excess material by a process
known as palis tingting o kawayan similar to the use of salupan (rice measuring container)
where excess rice are remove to fit exactly one salop (9 cups).

These numerical forms are not very much far-off from the ones proposed by Tolentino.
A table showing both forms can be seen below:

After placing the numerals horizontally and making simple re-orientation while putting a
few short lines in each form (red dash lines), the progression would bring wonders that will show
the numerical shapes we have today that became popular since 1522 or roughly the period when
Spain started colonizing the Philippines. The progressive steps are clearly shown below:

The fact that early researchers and writers failed to find numeral forms in the Philippines
may point to two things. We either did not have any numerical forms (as early writers claimed)
or we were simply using the same numerals brought to Europe by the Arabs who got it from
India in the 1200s. Needless to say, some Indian traders might have brought it to their country
from the Philippines early on. Several things seem to strengthen this proposition: First, Indian
numerals are said to be of Brahmic origins- devoid of any plausible earthly form origins unlike
the Baybayin numeral form giant clam origin theory. Second, majority of Filipinos
unconsciously write numeral number seven with a dash at the middle when the popular form is
written as just 7. Writing number seven with a dash at the middle is a subconscious imprint from
the ancient times when our ancestors started using the post-Neolithic form of the Baybayin
numeral (see listing above of no. 7 with red dash).

Baybayin Forms through Time

A collection of selected Baybayin forms (and possible derivatives) from paleographic
specimens and old books as they have been recorded is seen in below. Some variations can be
seen but in close examination, one could find the possible derivations from other forms along the
same row or between common syllables.

Confusing Accounts on Baybayin Marks

As mentioned earlier, the confusion over the use of Baybayin marks may have
contributed to Baybayins demise over time. The conflicting accounts paved the way for Fr.
Lopez to invent and introduce the cross mark to make Baybayin conform to the Spanish
alphabetic nature. Such introduction was uniquely a stand alone event that was blindly copied by
succeeding writers up until now.
Here are the accounts in early books as compiled by Sevilla and translated to English by
Alvero in the book Sinupan ng Wikang Tagalog (A Regathering of the Tagalog Language)
published in 1939 at Manila.
1. Historians and grammarians admit, the kudlit (,) or the tuldok (.) which were
applied to the consonantal syllable either above or below to change the vocalic
sound to e-i or o-u. This is confirmed by all the historians and all the authorities
on paleography and language, from Fr. Jose Ma. Pavon, 1543, Fr. Pedro Chirino,
1604, Vigil, 1609, Fr. Pedro San Buenaventura, 1613, Fr. Francisco Lopez, 1621,
Fr. Gaspar de San Agustin, 1787, Fr. Mentrida, 1818, Isabelo de los Reyes, 1889,
M. Artigas, 1923, Pedro A. Paterno, 1890, Dr. T Pardo de Tavera, 1884, Ignacio
Villamor, 1922, Norberto Romualdez, 1914 and Guilermo Tolentino, 1937.
(Works of authors are listed at

2. According to Fr. Chirino, 1604: When the tuldok (puntillo) is put on the
consonantal syllable, this sounds an e or i . According to Fr. Gaspar de San
Agustin (1787): When a Tuldok (point) is placed on the consonantal syllable, the
sound is on i, e . (.) which corroborates Fr. Chirinos conclusion.
3. But in the treatise of Fr. Vigil the obscurity is clear, because he said: It is read
with e or i, if a point (punto) is used on the symbol . . . but he uses in his
examples a small comma or kudlit. (). And the obscurity and the confusion
increases as Fr. Vigil continues: It is read with o or u if a punto or comilla is
used below . . . and he continues using commas in his examples.
4. But this darkness gives us the light. From Fr. Vigils writings we deduce this: he
recognized two orthographic signs, the point and the comma, but he gave them
both the same value and power. This is again mentioned in Villamors The
Ancient Filipino Writing p. 4 . . . that which was called corlit which signifies a
point (.) or a comma (,) which is placed on or below the consonant. . . and in
Tolentinos Ang Wika at Baybaying Tagalog: The i and o are not written but are
suggested instead by the use of kudlit. . .
5. But Fr. Toribio Minguella presents another aspect of our study: When the
symbols have a point or virgurilla on top, they sound on i-e, but if below, they
sound on o-u. . but instead of using a point or comma as did the others, he used
a punto or virgurilla which was a small dash (-) which he put on top or below the

Reconciling the Error

The authors went on to say this, Tuldok, kudlit or bawas? If we subject these three
words to the phonology of Tagalog, we would come to the conclusion that the first is a whole,
the second a slight scratch of the pen, and the third a dash similar to the minus sign in arithmetic.
Three signs which in any system of orthography have distinct meanings, and yet, we know not
for what reason, paleographists and historians insist these three have only one meaning, one
value, one effect, when it is perfectly clear in appearance and nature they are three, we refuse to
believe their testimony on this matter. But we are glad that their confusion here has given us an
opportunity to clarify that there is a tuldok, that there is a kudlit, that there is a bawas. Their
existence in ancient writing is admitted by historians and paleographists in the mere fact of using
them, although for unknown reasons, they did not observe their distinction and values, and they
concluded they were the same.
In concluding, Sevilla and Alvero said, The marks required in the formation of
syllables are: the tuldok or point (.) and the bawas or minus sign (-). Details are seen below: For
simplicity, I have omitted the other rules of Tagalog Baybayin orthography, the likwat or
inverted comma (), the kalwit or comma (), but is a must for teachers in the future).

Sevilla & Alvero Tuldok Bawas

Manunggul Jar Kudlit (Comandante 2009)

The bawas or minus sign (-) appears more logical than the cross or plus sign (+) of
Lopez. Repetitions of syllables denoted by dots makes writing simple, a trait inherent in
My discovery of script forms in the Manunggul Jar (890-710 BC) with a notable kudlit
(see figure above) must be exciting for us Filipinos. First it shows the real form on how the
kudlit should be written. A notation for a Baybayin consonant with an e i vocalic sound should
be this kudlit sign ( ) while an o u will have the inverted sign ( ). After all, it was used by our
ancestors based on functionality. Our mouth will simply follow the forms when pronouncing the
vocalic sound e i or o u.
I always say this to myself, Sobrang galing talaga ng Ninunong Pilipino!
References for this article available at