House Committee Approval of BAYBAYIN as Writing System Meets CRITICISM

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In olden-time days, before Ferdinand Magellan found his way in 1521, the ethnic tribes that comprised the future Filipino people lived in their respective lands throughout the Philippine archipelago. Some of these tribes have gone on to develop their own writing systems for their dialects. One of them, the Tagalog people, adapted the Brahmic script of their trade contacts with India to create Baybayin, which they used from the 13th to 18th Centuries. Baybayin is remembered today in the occasional use of their characters in government agency seals and in pop culture, but a House Bill plans to go further.

ABS-CBN News tells us that the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture has given its stamp of approval for House Bill 1022. Conceived by Pangasinan 2nd District Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, the “National Writing System Act” seeks to promote Baybayin as an official writing system for the country. The proposal hopes to instill a national appreciation and pride for the classic writing system, as well as to preserve its knowledge and history by encouraging its renewed usage in everyday life. The Department of Education (DepEd), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and “Baybayin, Buhayin” advocacy supported the bill.

Practical applications for re-establishing Baybayin as a writing system have been laid down by HB1022. First, the proposal legally requires Philippine processed food manufacturers to use Baybayin for their labels, with translations in the modern alphabet. The bill also mandates LGUs to write Baybayin on signage for street names, public facilities, government halls, community centers and even emergency service. Even publications will be obliged to include a Baybayin rendition of their names. Rep. Bataoil has remarked that the importance of Baybayin is incalculable in terms of its part in the preservation and progress of Filipino civilization and must be fostered.

If certain government agencies and lobby groups were ecstatic at the approval of HB1022 at the House Committee, some voices according to CNN Philippines were confused, dismayed, or annoyed at the proposal. Filipino Twitter users have been particularly harsh in their assessment of using Baybayin in modern life to such a degree as laid out by the bill. The most pointed criticism to the implementation of Baybayin is the fact that it was used for the Tagalog dialect only, and is incompatible with other major regional dialects like Kapampangan, which also happens to have its own old-style writing system, Kulitan.

One of the objectives of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts is to preserve antiquated writing systems like Baybayin as cultural treasures, by means of including their history in basic education. Detractors of HB1022 opine that Baybayin, for its historical importance, is mere aesthetics in the modern day.

Photo courtesy of Coconuts Media

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