Baybayin is Alive for Bing Veloso

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 in living, people

This was on site at Bahay Nakpil Museum 2004.

Maria Rhodora Cabayan “Bing” Veloso is a development and community worker and has a diverse background in scholarly research,  grass roots immersion and peacemaking efforts. On the side, Bing is a musician and singer and performs with the world music band called Bailan. She also has sung epic songs and oral history with the tribes of the Cordilleras.

She has lived in Baguio, Manila and the southern Philippines to do her work. See also the post on her work “Saysayin ng Baybayin” here at Baybayin Alive.

Baylan performs.
Photo courtesy of 7017 travel magazine.

Bing has worked with others on bringing the baybayin to Philippine elementary schools through books, cultural fairs and workshops. Here our email interview follows:

Q. Please describe your current work. 
A. I am a culture-education-development worker.

Training and workshop presentation.

Q. Please describe other research and scholarly work, and community work that you’d like to share (past and present). 
A. my other research and scholarly works involve concerns of and for Indigenous Peoples.  i design and run workshops that incorporate and advocate indigenous knowledge, systems and practices both for Indigenous Peoples and those not not officially considered as IP’s.. i wrote a book last year entitled, “Functional Literacy for the Mamanwas of Malimono”. i am involved in ongoing researches on cultural-environmental indigenous knowledge, systems, and practices in the Cordillera.

Q. Please tell us how you became interested in baybayin and when.
A. I became interested in baybayin because i always saw it on history books but i couldn’t connect inwardly with it.  so, i did more focused work on it around 1999.

Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute
(Bing is to the right of the yellow-shirt-man in the center)

Q. Please tell us about some concepts of baybayin that you have learned from others.
A. I read and was told that alibata was baybayin; that it was used only for notes, receipts, short messages; that it was written on bamboos and leaves; that it was used even before the Spaniards came; that there were many derivations of it throughout Central Luzon.

Q. Please tell us about some concepts of the baybayin that you have discovered on your own and would like to share.
A. That the baybayin evolved from everyday oral language; that it was intricately weaved with oral tradition (thus cannot be separated); that it is connected to the Filipino consciousness that it why it has a good accuracy rate as archetypal reference;  that there can be many versions in the same way that we have many versions in terms of penmanship, etc.; that it can be used not just as decoration; that its scope of ethnic representation is more in Central Luzon though can be identified with and owned by uprooted Pinoys;

Q. Please tell us what inspired you to create the baybayin cards? Kindly include what other influences from around the world or in the Philippines affected the creation of the baybayin cards.
A. Curiosity 🙂  it was because i could see the rune working for the english language and the i-ching for the Chinese. so, perhaps, deriving meanings from a writing system (that i presupposed evolved from everyday symbolisms) may not be so far off. plus, “reading” as a skill is crucial for me since the problem of “different readings” of situations have always been an issue in development work.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino event

Q. Describe how the baybayin cards came about. 
A. as i was curious about the efficacy of the baybayin as a living cultural element, i “spoke” to our ancestors that i would give it a try (to “operationalize” the baybayin).  and if i couldn’t, i would leave it on its own and move on to other investigations. so, as there were previous researches presupposing that the symbols Ba, Ha, and La had meanings, i pursued this premise by “intuiting” the meanings of the other symbols. this was done through meditation, focusing on the symbols and accompanying sounds, and choosing the first impressions as the assigned meanings. Along with these were meditations on the “inner workings” of the archetypal babaylan within myself.  after this, the experiment of readings immediately followed. the high rate of accuracy encouraged me to develop the cards through sharing to others, printing, etc.

Q. Please share with us how baybayin is alive for you today. 
A. the baybayin is alive for me today through the continued interest many more people are gaining for this beloved cultural element. it has also been an anchor in my understanding of language and “reading” of social-cultural-economic-political situations since a number of theories and hypotheses have come up for me through the baybayin experiments and readings.

Q. Please share with us how you have witnessed baybayin become alive or more alive for others today because of your work. 
A. i suppose it is people’s interest in the readings (as something they need and/or curious about).  it was designed as an entertaining educational tool.  meaning, a tool that will educate the user but also allow him/her to appreciate the baybayin in as many levels as possible.

Q. Please share with us other instances of how you have witnessed baybayin become alive for others beyond your own work. (optional) 
A. i see the older ones pursuing researches on this, and the younger ones animated by it through jewelries, tattoos, etc.  it seems, too, that learning the baybayin version of one’s name is instilled already in schools.  we may not retrieve the baybayin as an everyday writing system (unless there is an institutional effort to study how this will be transformed to be used for today’s situations, and which will be taken on by a vigilant group) but our appreciation will most probably lead us to more understanding and compassion for each one. I suppose that is more important than anything else.

Bing with Bailan, a World Music Band

Lead Facilitator for Field Officers Training
at Community Volunteers Missioners (CVM.
Work with Indigenous People (IPs)
from Abra, Kalinga and Benguet
with  Tublay, Benguet.

Green Bathala Pendant by
Shirley Libre. Given to me
by Bing around 2005.
Bing resting at the ruins in Galicia
Farm, an organic farm owned and
managed by the Social Development
Group of the Diocese of Abra.
Some respite after her arduous
work battle with Saidi Foundation.
Bing with babaylan pendant here.
Click on pic for details

We met a few years ago in Manila and exchanged baybayin pendants that we each had been wearing for a long time — I gave her my Babaylan pendant and she gave me in turn her Shirley Libre Bathala pendant. 

Bing has been influential in my own connection with baybayin because of her intuitive approach to baybayin that goes beyond the 5 senses and steps into the realm of metaphors and psyche. 

Is baybayin alive for you in any way? Please share by posting at this blog or sending me an email. Mabuhay—LifeLightLove

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