Reimon Cosare: I am currently a “career volunteer”, engaging in NGO work. I am part of three NGOs, namely, Peacemaker’s Circle Foundation, Inc., Sanghabi, Inc. (an NGO involved in teaching and sharing Filipino culture through music and the arts), and Integral Art Metta.
I also give Baybayin workshops to people of all ages, either as part of the Pamana Raan program of the Bahay Nakpil Bautista or as a stand-alone workshop.. Along with the history of this ancient Filipino writing system, the participants are taught how to write their names in Baybayin. The last part of the workshop involves letting the participants use ink and brush to render their own names and other words in calligraphic form.
Baybayin Alive: Please describe other research and scholarly work, and community work that you’d like to share (past and present).
Cosare: I have written a paper on the Lakaran sa Quiapo as a Model for Cultural Rediscovery, co-wrote a paper on Adaptive Use of Bahay na Bato Houses in Quiapo (both published in journals of the Far Eastern University Institute of Arts and Sciences), and served as a research assistant for Dr. Teresita Obusan’s research on Quiapo devotees, which was eventually became the book entitled “Mystic or Mistake: Exploring Filipino Mysticism in Quiapo” (Institute of Spirituality in Asia, 2008).
Along with members of Integral Art Metta, Sanghabi, Inc. and other NGOs, I have been active in outreach programs for communities in and around Metro Manila. Just last April, I was a facilitator in the first Bantayan Arts Festival held in Bantayan Island in Cebu.
Baybayin Alive: Please tell us how you became interested in baybayin and when.
Cosare: I can say I was one of the fortunate ones, as I learned about the Baybayin in high school. I started using it around that time, specifically for writing on my diaries. I was using it less and less during college until I stopped writing in Baybayin until late 2000, when Dr. Tessie Obusan encouraged me to develop Baybayin calligraphy.
Baybayin Alive: Please tell us about some concepts of baybayin that you have learned from others.
Tess and Reimon. Bahay Nakpil.
Behind them are exhibits on
Grace Nono, Bing Veloso,
Ann Ubaldo and m.
Mary Ann Ubaldo was one of the first people whom I got to know who had as much, if not a greater, interest in Baybayin. Through her, I learned that more Filipinos living overseas were involved in research on the topic than her in the Philippines. Still, I got to learn about concepts of the Baybayin (like the significance of the word Bathala when written in the ancient script) from Filipino authors like Bayani Mendoza de Leon, and particularly Guillermo Tolentino, and they resonated more with me than the linguistics aspect of the research on the script.
I am not downplaying the significance of western-oriented research on Baybayin; I am just saying I find the “spiritual” dimension of reading and writing the Baybayin more meaningful and relevant to me. [Me too, Reimon!]
Baybayin Alive: Please tell us about some concepts of the baybayin that you have discovered on your own and would like to share.
Ama, Ina, Anak (Father, Mother, Child) focuses on how the three words for the members of a family are connected in such a way that half of the Tagalog words for “father” and “mother” (as written in baybayin) are needed to write the Tagalog word for “child”, prefiguring western scientific findings having to do with genetics (i.e., the human individual gets one half of his/her genetic inheritance from the mother, and the other half from the father. The “union” of these syllables is made concrete by the syllable KA, which is found in words that have to do with relating, connecting, or unifying.
Pinuno came out of a Values Education class I took in Miriam College Graduate School, where I took my master’s degree in Instructional Management. Frustrated with leadership concepts discussed in the class (all of which were western-based), I then wondered if there was an indigenous concept of leadership, or at the very least, the traits desired of a leader. Starting with “pinuno”, the Tagalog word for leader, I was able to identify certain of these traits, first by using the root word (puno – “tree”; “to fill”) and the last two syllables of the word (nuno – “ancestor”), then through writing the word in Baybayin and relating it to verses written by artist Bing Veloso. What came out of the exercise was the enumeration of certain traits (e.g., a wide vision, wisdom) that we desire of a leader in the local context. I see this as a beginning of an greater exploration of what we consider as essential in a Filipino leader, and such forays are needed now more than ever.
Baybayin Alive: Please tell us what inspired you to create the baybayin art and other teachings? Kindly include what other influences from around the world or in the Philippines affected the creation of your baybayin efforts and creativity.
Cosare: My main influences in coming up with my baybayin art was Asian calligraphy (Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese), with its flowing lines, oftentimes revealing the artist’s creative spontaneity, and even his/her emotional state or mood at the time. The concepts that I realized were definitely influenced by people like Tolentino and Dr. Obusan, who developed “Buhay, Bahay, Bathala” about a decade ago. I have also been exploring whether other syllabaries (especially Hebrew) may have something that can help us with exploring the meanings behind the baybayin symbols. This part of my efforts are still in its embryonic stage, but it remains an ongoing (but for now peripheral) interest.
Baybayin Alive: Please share with us how baybayin is alive for you today.
Cosare: It’s been alive for me since I was a teenager, and I’m turning 42 this year. Baybayin has been alive for me for quite a while now. It’s still a source of joy to teach baybayin to different individuals, and what I’ve realized is that for many people, learning is a source of great satisfaction and joy. Just last Tuesday (August 3), I gave a quick lesson to crew and staff members of an ABS-CBN program that will feature the Bahay Nakpil‘s efforts to teach the baybayin in an interview segment that will be shown on the third Saturday of August. The director himself was so happy he learned something new that day. Another crew member chimed in, saying that this was so far their most enjoyable experience they have had. In my chosen academic field of expertise (psychology), what is often mentioned is that learning can be facilitated by giving rewards. What is rarely, if ever, realized is that learning is a reward in itself.
Baybayin Alive: Please share with us how you have witnessed baybayin become alive or more alive for others today because of your work.
Cosare: About a few years back, I taught a friend of mine, Shirley Gao Ay-Libre, how to write the Baybayin out. [She had previously learned Surat Mangyan in Mindoro when she was working there with the Mangyans. See feature.] A few months after, she was incorporating it in her pottery designs, and later, in her terra cotta jewellery, which she eventually christened Baybayin Craft. In the last few years she made it into a business. Although she recently decided to go back to NGO work, she has decided to continue with her baybayin craft, at least for exhibit purposes.
The UP Tomokai (Japanese-Filipino Friendship Society) has been inviting me to their annual Interactive Exhibit since 2002. This is proof that our writing system is something our countrymen ought to be proud of; and in the course of participating in the exhibit for the past few years, quite a few Japanese (and recently Korean) nationals who have attended the exhibit have asked me to write their names in baybayin; it’s not just the walk-in participants; even the exhibitors (including the people at the Japanese calligraphy booth) have asked me to render their names in the Pinoy ancient script. More often than not they are amazed, getting wide-eyed (and that’s saying a lot, knowing that we’re talking about Japanese citizens), surprised that we have our own writing system, and an ancient one at that. More than quite a few of them have asked me about the history of our writing system. Just last July, during the most recent UP Tomokai exhibit (they are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year), I was asked about the baybayin by Japanese college students in UP Diliman who were taking up Philippine Studies. How interesting is that?
Baybayin Alive: Please share with us other instances of how you have witnessed baybayin become alive for others beyond your own work.
Cosare: What is beginning to occur now is an interest from other sectors, such as the media. ABS-CBN has interviewed me about the baybayin for two of their programs, and this in just the past 4 months. Both of these programs more or less target the youth, so my feeling is that eventually the next generation would show greater interest in baybayin than their more jaded adult counterparts. Just a few months ago, I saw graffiti scrawled on a wall of a building along Taft Avenue, near Julio Nakpil St. It was in Baybayin.
There may now be about a couple of people out there (at least) who are beginning to explore baybayin as a viable means of expression in graffiti art. Not that I condone vandalism, but I can’t help BUT be excited.
Again, Perla, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my longest standing love affair.