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Dr. Ramon Guillermo on 3 Baybayin Studies

On November 11, 2017, Dr. Jean-Paul Potet gave Baybayin Foundry members a glimpse of 3 Baybayin Studies. Although he cannot actually remember the contents of the book because of his age, still, he is being honoured as a guiding influence by the four authors, namely Drs. Ramon Guillermo, Maricor Soriano, Vernon Totanes, and Myfel Joseph Paluga.

In our facebook chat, Dr. Potet, who admitted that he wrote the foreword, shared his sentiment that the project started several years ago and here’s a quote from him highlighting its thoroughness:

Ramón Guillermo’s enthusiasm has kindled the interest of the other scholars (Myfel Joseph D. Paluga, Maricor Soriano, and Vernon R. Totanes) who have contributed to this volume. The general approach of this invisible faculty contrasts greatly with the amateurish interpretations tinged with superstitions that have plagued baybáyin studies in the course of the twentieth century, and may have contributed to the general disregard for this field among the majority of Filipino intellectuals. Now that the baybáyin has been recognized as one of the deep components of the Filipino identity, it is a good thing that serious scholars should have endeavored to proceed to a scientifically and historically correct presentation of what should be known about it.

Published by the University of the Philippines Press, the 3 Baybayin Studies book needs to be showcased out there. In order to shed more light on the background of the studies, here’s Dr. Ramon Guillermo’s gist of the whole book:

I can’t say that I have any particular passion for baybayin as a topic of study. My main academic research area is the historical study of political languages in the Philippines using digital tools to analyze various types of text corpora. I have therefore been interested in the digital preservation and analysis of Philippine language texts in general and of baybayin texts in particular, since these are historically among the oldest texts written in Philippine languages. It was just by accident that I realized some years ago that certain techniques in computer-aided text analysis which have been applied to more conventional textual materials could help illuminate a few issues regarding the interpretation of individual texts and the determination of certain traits of the script as a whole. Using some of these techniques, my co-authors and I have proposed some provisional approaches in the interpretation of two baybayin texts and put forward a strong and novel hypothesis on the relationship between the indigenous writing systems in the Philippines and Sulawesi. My main co-researcher Myfel Paluga and I have worked together closely over the years in producing the main bulk of these essays. An anthropologist by training, I believe that he is currently one of the most creatively inspired and critical scholars in the Philippines. Vernon Totanes, one of the few book historians in the Philippines, shared his deep and indispensable knowledge on the history of the Doctrina Christiana to the volume. The physicist Maricor Soriano contributed some results from her advanced and pioneering work on 3D imaging in the analysis of baybayin inscriptions. Many of the assertions in the book may eventually be refuted but the most important lesson to be learned from it should be its methodological insistence on the use and development of the most accurate and transparent transcription techniques possible. Almost everything else stands or falls depending on this step. Sloppy and arbitrary methods are almost as harmful in this field as mysticism, pseudo-science, ultra-nationalism and religion, all of which have no place in the rigorous and strictly philological analysis of such texts. My main guiding influences in this area have been the French linguist Jean-Paul Potet and the late Antoon Postma to whom the book is dedicated. Finally, I am more interested in finding ways to help preserve the living Tagbanua and Mangyans scripts than in reviving or modernizing the baybayin writing system. However, I think it is important that young students should be made more aware of this aspect of their history and culture. On the other hand, researchers and scholars should try to advance the knowledge of Philippine writing systems beyond the present state of affairs.

Now, let’s have a preview of the book’s contents:

  • Chapter 1 Ating Panginoon Sisu Kitu: The Tagalog Baybayin Text of the Doctrina Christiana of 1593 and the Legend of Unreadability
  • Chapter 2 Barang king Banga: A Visayan Language Reading of the Calatagan Pot Inscription
  • Chapter 3 Alampoong Balahala: The Transcription of the Inscriptions on the Ticao Stones

Dr. Ramon Guillermo is available online for your feedback. He can be reached anytime at

Special thanks to the staff of the University of the Philippines Press for making this interview possible: Dr. J. Neil Garcia (director), Prof. Gerry Los Baños (deputy director), the admin of UP Press Facebook Page, and the kind-hearted copy editor of UP Press, Ms. Christine Magpile.

Tim Liwanag
Tim is an active digital citizen, a social innovator contributing various info as a writer/author on Amazon, Blogger, Quora, Facebook, Wattpad, Wikipedia, etc. Outside his intellectual hobbies and his fascination for the ancient script Baybayin, he is definitely interested in Filipino World Records, causes, distance learning, entrepreneurship, and superhero or sci-fi movies. Hey, you're never too old to do something amazing for God's glory and for people of any age to live a fulfilled life!

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