For us western and westernized/colonized people, the concept that a symbol within an alphabet as having a deeper meaning may be beyond our usual understanding of what we considered to be the alphabet’s only purpose—to convey various sounds of language.
In order to recognize that the Philippine baybayin symbols may in fact contain deeper meanings we have to become aware of how our Westernized thinking gets in the way of thinking like an ancient pre-colonial native of the islands now known as the Philippines. We can come close to that if we change our perceptions in some of the following ways:
- Let go of our linear, sequential way of thinking(linear and sequential is how we arrange and read writing)
- Let go of our reliance on books and other written records of knowledge
- Use a metaphorical approach in understanding things (talinghaga)
- Perceive the symbols in a wholistic, multi-dimensional manner
- Become familiar with animism and Filipino indigenous knowledge system and practice of giving all things in nature and existence meaning, diwa, soul.
- Understand what are Filipino values, being Filipino (pagka-pilipino) and personhood (pagkatao)
Don’t let the term fool you. The Filipino spirituality movement isn’t happening because of cultists trying to start a new religion. Rather it is made up of people who are establishing that Filipinos are and always have been a spiritual people, and that they didn’t need the coming of European colonizers to bring religion for them to experience spirituality (see Institute of Spirituality in Asia). These people are PhDs, scholars, researchers, artists that explore not only the anthropological and cultural identity of the Filipino, but also the psychological and spiritual aspects of identity. Many of them are proponents of Pamamathalaan, Sikolohiyang Pilipino, the process of Pamamaraan and decolonization.
As I began to meet more people within this movement they too have shared their own insights to the baybayin meanings. These meanings have been shared and discussed many times not only amongst their peers but also with ordinary people in the Philippines, in both formal and informal settings. And I will be sharing their ideas and interpretations in future blog posts.
After all, one of the traits of the Filipino personality, going back into our heritage and ancestry, as per Sikolohiyang Pilipino studies, is talinghaga, that is, metaphorical sight, understanding and communication. That said, the deeper meanings of baybayin could very well have existed in times way beyond then when they were first written about and they could also have been widespread among Filipinos and not just the ponderings of only the few men who first wrote about them.
In addition to talinghaga, our Filipino ancestors’ spirituality was animistic, that is, they believe that all things in the Cosmos had a soul or spirit — from trees and animals, houses and bangkas, to the seas, mountains and stars, and they spoke to these “things” and honored their existence in their own lives. To understand this kind of spirituality in our Filipino ancestors and even in our beliefs that still exist today, is to also uncover another beautiful aspect of our culture in the Philippines.
Suffice to say, many ordinary Filipinos(non-scholars, non-artists) don’t need any book at all to get the meanings of the baybayin symbols of Ba and La. They can look at those symbols and tell the meaning right off the cuff, that is, BA is for “babae”(female) and LA is for “lalaki” (male). Ongoing examples of everyday Filipinos and the inherent trait of making metaphorical connections between inner understanding, inner sight and the outside world—talinghaga.
After all, the ability to gain access to any symbolism’s meanings comes from both natural human tacit knowing (Tacit Perceptions of Symbolism, Baybayin Alive) and inherent human ability of the psyche to interpret artforms, symbols and dreams (Psyche, Maker of Symbols. Symbols, Keys to the Psyche, Baybayin Alive). And for Filipinos there is such a knowing as katutubong kaalaman or indigenous knowledge in getting to the deeper meanings of baybayin.
Thus, the Baybayin Alive blog is for those of us who are willing to step out of the realm of our western thinking or even our programmed thought processes.
Here we can create a wholistic process of understanding baybayin. We will go back into history and explore how writing systems might have developed. We will explore how other cultures throughout history and even into modern times also have writing symbols with deeper meanings and even spiritual aspects or magical power. We’ll explore the relationship between tacit knowing and imagery—art and sculpture, pictographs, icons and symbols of not only the pre-colonial Filipinos, but also of neighboring Southeast Asian countries and around the world.
Be sure to read Intro 1 | Key’s to Filipino Personhood
Next please read Holistic Approach: Returning to Ancestral Thinking
Also see Thinking in Metaphors—Talinghaga
- Other Holistic Approach articles at this site
- Institute of Spirituality in Asia
- “Katutubong Kaalaman (Indigenous Knowledge)” by Teresita B. O, in Pamamaraan: Indigenous Knowledge and Evolving Research Paradigms, ed. by Teresita B. Obusan, Angelina R. Eniquez.
- Roots of Filipino Spirituality, by Teresita B. Obusan
- Institute of Spirituality in Asia
- Babaylan Files: Conversations – Signs and Symptoms of Decolonized Filipinas in the US
- The Filipino Mind (Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change Series III Asia)
by Leonardo N. Mercado
- Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans
by Leny Strobel
- Kapwa, The Self in the Other. Worldviews and Lifestyles of Filipino Culture Bearers. by Katrin De Guia, PhD.
- A History of the Philippines: From the Spanish Colonization to the Second World War
by Renato Constantino. Amazon Description: Unlike other conventional histories, the unifying thread of A History of the Philippines is the struggle of the peoples themselves against various forms of oppression, from Spanish conquest and colonization to U.S. imperialism. Constantino provides a penetrating analysis of the productive relations and class structure in the Philippines, and how these have shaped—and been shaped by—the role of the Filipino people in the making of their own history. Additionally, he challenges the dominant views of Spanish and U.S. historians by exposing the myths and prejudices propagated in their work, and, in doing so, makes a major breakthrough toward intellectual decolonization. This book is an indispensible key to the history of conquest and resistance in the Philippines.