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.