#suliktad #ambigram #danadonajr #imagefoundry
It’s nearly Halloween! And so, this month’s brew is laced thick with Filipino-style mysticism.
Twice a year, in my largely superstitious country of origin, these topics resurface like clockwork – around Lent (especially Holy Friday) and All Saints/All Souls Day. So in keeping with tradition I have conjured these two suliktads (ambigrams)… Tadhana and Kapalaran. Both words are interchangeable translations for Destiny and Fate. Kapalaran tends to be more positive of the two and could be a surrogate for Luck but we use the Spanish lent “Suwerte” more often in the vernacular.
As I am so fascinated with Filipino Mythology, folklore and brand of occult, that I have once again chosen to go that route… although leaning a bit towards our Spanish influenced aesthetics. The first image (Tadhana) was actually intentionally posted upside-down with a clearer general image coming to fro once turned right side up. It incorporates the ancient Tagalog script Baybayin in place of western runes as casted spell. The third image draws inspiration from a scene from the third act of the Constantine movie.
In both cases the suliktads were drawn based on Blackletters. Other letterforms were explored, and while I was consciously hoping for a good serif type turn out for the Kapalaran chain, I saw that going Blackletter would serve these designs better.
I would have produced more skin art related images but other obligations that require greater attention had me setting them aside… til next time maybe.
In honor the ill-fated founder of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, I present two ambigrams inspired by him.
Andres Bonifacio founded the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (High and Honorable Society of the Children of the Motherland) or KKK or simply the Katipunan. Initially a secret society, influenced by freemasonry, it was founded in 1892 in place of the defunct La Liga Filipina, which sought liberation of the (Philippine) islands from Spain. They mostly were lower to middle class in stature, unlike the La Liga with more affluent members. And although this title is largely attributed to him, Bonifacio became (third) Supremo of the Katipunan much later.
The elements of the first ambigram, Supremo, is based on the flags of the Katipunan. The first flag Bonifacio had his wife create, was a triangular red banner with three horizontal K’s on it, which was soon replaced by a rectangular one. Although his flag did not bear the Baybayin glyph for the phoneme “KA” (the glyph at the center of the “r”) some of the documents he signed as president of the society bore this glyph. It is said, however, that Bonifacio has a personal flag that is rectangular in shape with a white sun of undefined number of rays.
Then why use the glyph, at all?
Aside from my affection for this ancient writing and the shape of the “KA” glyph being perfect for an ambigram, it was predominantly used by the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan (led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo) on their banners, it seemed logical that while Bonifacio’s fate was sealed by those in this faction, putting the glyph with the design would serve as a reminder of how things turned out for him. Under the orders of (then recently elected) President Aguinaldo, Bonifacio was executed for treason May 10 1897. The story is very long and complicated to be told here.
(Side note: for more on Baybayin check out my previous post here.)
The second ambigram is Maypagasa. What a name for a man who died before seeing the realization of his hope for the motherland’s liberation. Had he known his fate, would he still have chosen that name?
Bonifacio is largely viewed as a bolo wielding barefooted take-no-prisoner fighter, which is a misconception altogether as he preferred his gun more than his bolo and apparently he dresses up based on his only extant photo available. Still, records show he was also an actor, a writer and a poet.
Here, I used a sheathed bolo with a writing plume as background images for the ambigram as counterpoint to our textbook taught image of Bonifacio we are accustomed to. Which may be interpreted in a variety of ways (the pen is mightier than the sword…; that there is another side to the image we have of Bonifacio… etc..). The ambigram design itself is represented in a script-like font in contrast to the sharper “Supremo” type style.
Initially I just did the two ambs but I though it’d be nice for one last homage. This one is not just for the Supremo but to the countless unsung heroes who bled and fought against invaders; who fought for liberation; who fought against oppression; and those who continue to fight for what is right. Also to those who struggle and fight against the tyranny of poverty; our school teachers, the Filipinos employed overseas, volunteer medical workers, volunteer educators, blood donors, the men and women with thankless jobs on the street, our parents. This is for you.
The word is Bayani, Filipino for hero. This reflective ambigram is designed with elements inspired by the Philippine flag.
Did you know that the Philippine flag is an ambigraph(?)? The flag in peacetime has the blue field on top (or to the left of the viewer when vertically presented) and with the red side on top (again, viewer’s left when vertical) if the country is at a state of war.
This week, we celebrate the birth of a hero. A patriot as seen in the pages of our history. Yet he is but one man, just like everyone else who lived, dreamed, and hoped. Here’s hoping we and our children do not have to endure what our forefathers bore in their lifetime and for courage to take up action protecting and defending what they gave their lives for.
No, it’s not baybambigram.
Having been a user of Baybayin since third year high school, it has always been my intention to write about it when I started blogging, but I was still pondering on the possibility of creating a second exclusive category for it in this space. And although I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to use it on one of my earlier designs, I never thought that I’d be able to fuse it with ambigram, just as I did with anaglyph (go see). So I guess my earlier pondering is now moot, as I am now rewriting the Baybayin piece in favor of this one.
If you want to move on with the ambigram part you may scroll down to it, but I feel it’d much clearer to any reader once they get an overview at the very least of what Baybayin is. But for a more comprehensive read on said subject you might want to google Hector Santos and Paul Morrow, two of the leading Baybayin authorities. Paul Morrow, who by the way is Canadian, and Mr. Santos has done remarkable research on Baybayin.
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Baybayin is also known as (ancient) Tagalog script as it was the primary system of writing already in place over the central to the southern regions and nearby islands of Luzon when the Spaniard came to what we now call The Philippines. In Tagalog dialect, Baybayin means (to) spell, and this system employs writing phonetically, meaning we write it the way we speak it. According to Spanish chroniclers our ancestors usually write on bamboo strips, on leaves and other indigenous materials which are easily degraded. Extant records of these writings are mostly copies made by spanish friars from the 16th century. Similar forms of writing like the Hanunuo, Buhid and Tagbanwa are still being used today in Mindoro and Palawan provinces.
Believed to have originated from the old Javanese Kavi or Kawi system, prevalent in the Southeast Asian regions, Baybayin is composed of 3 vowel characters (patinig) and 14 sets of consonant phoneme characters (katinig). Wherein all “A” sound as in apple, all “E” sound as in elf, “I” sound as in India, “O” sound as in go, and “U” sound as in super. A much later addition to the system is on the separate row, but later on that.
For a very long time Baybayin was “forgotten”, but recently Filipinos are enjoying its re-discovery.
How does it work.
Writing Baybayin is easy, reading the written characters… now that require a different skill set. When writing you do not spell out the letters of the word as you do with modern alphabet. If I were to write BASA (read) in Baybayin it should be:
All vowels are dropped, since the first character already reads as BA and the second character stands for SA. And if I were to write my full name: DANILO, we use the characters
However, it reads: DANALA. To correct, the use of a special diacritic was employed by our ninuno (ancestors). The mark could be a small dot or a nick over the character to signify the change of vowel sound to either an E or I, or below the character for the O or U sound. This retention of a “base” character with an inclusion of any appendage or mark signifying a change in phoneme is typical to an abugida syllabary alphabet system. So DANILO should be written as:
You may have noticed that the character for DA is the same as the character for RA. Well, in most Tagalog (Filipino) words, DA and RA have a special “connection”. The word for quantity: DAMI is related to the word plenty: MARAMI; DUMI (dirt) becomes MARUMI (dirty). DANGAL (honor/dignity) becomes MARANGAL (honorable/dignified); DUNONG (knowledge) becomes MARUNONG (knowledgeable); DASAL (prayer) becomes PAGDARASAL (praying).
To separate sentences, or paragraphs our ninuno used | and/or ||.
Now, can Baybayin be used with today’s words? What about names with modern letters? Even though our ancestors did not have an X or a J in the system, it’s still possible to write in Baybayin. You write the word for whatever sound it makes.
Thus, MEXICO (ME-HI-KO), TAXI (TAk-SI). (Italics are dropped.)And here are a few more examples.
JAY (DI-YEy), ANTHONY (An-TO-NI), ANTONIO (An-TOn-YO)
CLARA (KA-LA-RA) ALEXANDRA (A-LEk-SAn-DA-RA) CRAIG (KI-REg),
But what about foreign words?
It can be done, but it’s more sensible to get the Tagalog (or Spanish) meaning or translation of the word, then write it in Baybayin. Example:
SCIENCE, (SI-YEn-SI-YA) is acceptable and so is the Tagalog Ag-HAm. JUSTICE, DI-YAs-TIs is hmm (so and so) but, the Tagalog KA-TA-RU-NGAn is better. FAITH (PE-YEt) would be better written as SAm-PA-LA-TA-YA, its Tagalog meaning. The salutation HI (HAy) would be better off written in Filipino as KU-MUs-TA (Sp: como estas). Better to write the Tagalog LAKAs than STRENGTH(Is-TE-REngt), HABA than LENGTH (LEngt), PAg-I-BIg than LOVE (LAb).
Looking back to the chart above, you’ll notice a third column (gray field). It’s an innovation of the Spanish Friar Francisco Lopez as a solution to the confusing dropping of the third letter. He employed a new diacritic (a cross) below a character to signify the loss of its prescribed “A” sound wherein the BA character is now just plain letter B. Where DAN could now be written as:
I will admit that this was what I was accustomed to using in my earlier works with Baybayin even up to the time I designed the record album below. And ‘though a lot of people has accepted this pleasantly helpful innovation, I have “reverted” back to the way it was originally written.
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Now comes the ambigram. Dual script.
I have heard of Kanji or Hanzi characters that can also be read in modern alphabet giving similar meanings, but I have not seen any and I have always held this thought of the possibility of creating something similar with Baybayin. But Baybayin characters looks very difficult to manipulate to come even close to any modern letter, well maybe with the exception of a couple of glyphs.
Seeing the dual script ambs posted by fellow ambigrammists got me to expedite my otherwise slow experimentation with Baybayin. While sketching and trying out new letter-forms I almost spat out my lukewarm coffee. It came to me so quick… even before scribbling down the PE character. I knew I got one. KAPE, that is Filipino for coffee. And if for some reason you read the sketch as Kafe, it’s the same thing.
The process was relatively short, I used the ’60’s-’70’s Baybayin style in logo implementation, very swooshy with sharp points, which was very apt since I wanted the letters to appear like steam over a hot cup. I admit I took some creative licence with the use of Baybayin in the creation of this piece.
It was crucial for me to find a good balance in presenting the Baybayin characters and its counterparts. I thought that the transition from modern alphabet to Baybayin should be subtle yet intentional (if that even make sense!). I decided to alternately color each character with coffee/mocha-like palettes, making the Baybayin characters more prominent when turned 90 degrees clockwise and the “a” and “e” hopefully just be taken as part of the steam forming from the cup.
To a stretch, I also did BARAKO as seen on the sketch. It’s Filipino for strong (when used in referring to any beverage) and stud ( in reference to any male species’ virility). However, I thought it still needed work so I decided not to include it in the final design.
There it is, all done. I am glad that I was, in my own way, able to contribute to the renaissance of a noble heritage. I know the word I came up seems mundane and not many will be interested, but what excited me with this endeavor was the affirmation that Baybayin still has a place in modern times, not just in badly drawn tattoos but in modern commercial design as well. I definitely will continue trying out other possible ways to bring Baybayin and ambigramming together. And this may just very well be the tip of the iceberg, somewhere, somebody else could do a lot better than what I’ve put together. Anything is possible.