I'm not really all that mysterious


Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa ang amoy sa bulok at mabahong isda — Jose Rizal (Anyone who doesn’t know how to love their own language is worse than the smell of a rotten, stinky fish)

Alibata (or, for a more indigenous term, baybayin) is a name for the ancient writing system used in the Philippines before the Spanish Conquest, and is related to the various abugida systems used in much of Southeast Asia at the time.

Before I was introduced to alibata, I had been trying to learn J.R.R. Tolkien’s tengwar, which is an abjad system, and thus is quite similar to an abugida in that diacritical marks are used to indicate (certain) vowels. The only difference is that an individual grapheme in an abjad without diacritics stands for a single consonant phoneme, whereas an individual grapheme in an abugida without diacritics stands for a consonant-vowel syllable.

tengwar “b”</td>

baybayin “ba”</td> </tr>

tengwar “ba”</td>

baybayin “be”</td> </tr> </table>

So when my girlfriend-at-the-time found this old Filipino History textbook by Gregorio Zaide (whose references were quite suspect, seeing as how it referred to the Code of Kalantiaw as historical fact, and apparently teaching that the Creation Myth in Genesis is also historical fact), I was completely enthralled by alibata, and quickly learned how to use it.

Baybayin was the rage in college amongst us Filipino Americans, and I found myself eventually giving workshops, and teaching other people how to use it. I would even end up coming up with mock-ups of tatoos that people wanted of alibata. Those were fun times.

In my senior year in college, I took a linguistics class on ancient writing systems, and so I ended up writing my final paper on alibata, which I eventually transcribed to a website.

Eventually, I was invited to a Yahoo Group whose topic was supposedly the discussion of Baybayin and other aspects of indigenous Filipino culture. Neat. I don’t remember when I first signed up, but my first post was in January 2003, regarding the meaning and origin of the word diwa.

Initially, it was pretty stimulating, and it was neat to meet people who have a scholarly background in linguistics such as Professor Lawrence Reid and Paul Morrow. There used to be a lot of people in the group, and we touched upon a lot of subjects, such as the continued colonial mentality that seems to prevail in both Filipino and Filipino American culture, and the end-result of the imperial subjugation of the Philippines. It is disturbing to see how the American colonization of the Philippines has quite a bit in common with the U.S. misadventure in Vietnam, and with the current debacle in Iraq. They weren’t kidding about history repeating itself.

And then there were the trolls.

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