It is very well possible that some of the symbols that became incorporated in the baybayin system were first used to denote ideas—with no specific sounds or words in mind. Objects and thought forms come before language so it is not unfeasible that the writing symbols of the baybayin evolved from pictographs that initially represented ideas/concepts and objects. That theory is illustrated here on how the BA baybayin symbol very well could have evolved from a Southeast asian fertility symbol called the lingling-o that dates back to 500 B.C. to 100 A.D.
When the Spanish first came to the Philippines to colonize they found that the native population was quite literate—they knew how to read and write. Spanish chroniclers documented (1500-1600 A.D.) the native writing script quite extensively. The native baybayin writing system was found on leaves, bamboo strips, wood and sometimes metal. The origins of the baybayin script cannot be accurately traced, but there has been agreement among scholars and researchers (Fletcher Gardner and Pardo de Tavera) that the script is quite similar to the Brahmic and Indic writings of the Asoka Inscriptions and Pallava Grantha palm leaf books (circa 500 A.D.) (Also see Ancient Philippines Scripts, Wikipedia)
BA has been chronicled by the Spanish as both a clefted circle or as a plain circle (depending on the geographic region in the Philippines):
Both of the above baybayin versions for BA are in fact yonni symbols or fertility symbols.
Some ancient cultures used the circle as a symbol of the sun or moon but many other cultures do use the circle to indicate the yonni too. (And let us not forget the circular donut sample in one of my other posts).
I wanted to share my findings that there exist, in the Philippines and around Southeast Asia, ancient fertility symbols that contain shapes the same as the BA symbol of the clefted version. They are called the lingling-o and the dinumug.
The lingling-o is a common ancient artifact symbolizing fertility found around Southeast Asia and the Philippines(ca. 500 B.C.–100 A.D.); dinumug is a fertility symbol and symbol of prosperity and love found in the Ifugao, Bontoc and other Cordillera regions of the northern Philippines.
Take a look at the negative space formed within the above solid shapes, and you should be able to perceive the shape that can be considered the internal female reproductive system—the womb and the birth canal. (Some archaelogists interpret the shape as that of the uterus and the umbilical cord.)
As fertility symbols, these shapes captured the feminine essence — that which nurtures life within itself and gives birth to it.
Now take a second look at the negative spaces within both the lingling-o and dinumug symbol — they are very similar to the shape of the BA baybayin symbol version that looks like a clefted circle:
The lingling-o was worn by people in various regions of the Philippines but also all around Southeast Asia so it is obvious that this symbol and its meaning of fertility existed beyond words and language — it was worn because of its “magical” or blessing qualities for fertility and prosperity, and at the same time it embodied an abstract concept of the Feminine.
If the current known periods are right or close to the time of the use of the fertility symbols and the development of the baybayin, then the shape of the clefted circle, within the lingling-o and dinumug, has been in the psyche of people in the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) for a long while before the baybayin symbols were in use in the Philippines.
The image to the right is taken from GINTO, History wrought in Gold by Ramon Villegas. It is of 3 different styles of the fertility symbol lingling-o and dinumug. The top piece is another artistic rendering of the lingling-o, different from the preceding ones shown above. (These pieces are not dated in Ginto.) Despite the difference in artistic styles between these three, they all still have the negative space that is of the uterus and birth canal and also that of the baybayin BA rounded shape with the cleft.
I believe that the image of the clefted circle as a fertility symbol evolved to become the symbol for BA and included in the writing system of the baybayin, and that the BA baybayin symbol, not only represents the “ba” sound as a writing symbol, but that its deeper meaning is, in fact, the Feminine principle.
These findings were also shared at the First International Babaylan Conference 2010 on April 17, 2010, during the panel presentation of Baybayin Revival in the U.S. alongside Mary Ann ubaldo, Christian Cabuay, and
Christine Balza. Moderator: letecia layson.
For more info and resources please use the links we share in this site
- Mutya, by Grace Odal (Roots of Filipino Spirituality, ed. by Teresita Obusan), 1998. This article specifically talks about the syllable of BA as relating to the Feminine Principle.
- Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History, by Ian Glover, Peter S. Bellwood. Google Books link.
- GINTO, History wrought in Gold by Ramon Villegas.
- Literacy in Pre-Hispanic Philippines, by Hector Santos. A Philippine Leaf.
- http://www.foto-cd.com/crafts/llo/ or http://www.babaylan.com/aklat/lingling0-page.pdf
- ca. 500 B.C.–100 A.D. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/04/sse/ht04sse.htm
- page 131, Asia’s Maritime Bead Trade: 300 B.C. to the Present, By Peter Francis