How do I write my name in baybayin?
I often get e-mail from visitors to this web site who, in spite of all the information presented here about the history and the method of baybayin writing, have difficulty applying it to modern words. Their most frequently asked question is, “How do I write my name in baybayin?” This simple question requires a rather complex answer because the baybayin was never adapted to write English or Spanish words. It was not even fully capable of accurately representing Filipino words 500 years ago.
The aim of this page is to help you to write non-Filipino names and words while using only the characters and symbols that ancient Filipinos actually used in the 1500s and 1600s. And by “non-Filipino” words, I am referring to all non-native words, even Hispanic names that are common in the Philippines today, like Dela Cruz and Santos.
There are several ways to deal with non-Filipino words, but first you need to know the basics of baybayin writing. This is explained on the page entitled, How to Write the Ancient Script of the Philippines. I encourage you to read it. Learn how to write simple Filipino words first (words in which every consonant is followed by a vowel) before you move on to words that have several consonants clustered together.
Now let’s tackle foreign words. The most important thing to remember is: DO NOT transcribe words letter for letter. That is to say, do not simply substitute alphabet characters with baybayin characters. For example, if we write the name Dela Cruz, we DO NOT write it like this:
As you already know, (if you read the “How to” page) each baybayin consonant letter is a syllable that is pronounced with the vowel A. So, in the example above, what we have written is meaningless. It reads:
DA E LA A KA RA U SA
Unfortunately, I have seen organizations with logos and people who have been tattooed like this, but what they are displaying is really just senseless gobbledygook. Even the Commision on the Filipino Language has commited this blunder with several titles on their official web site at www. komfil.gov.ph. (The baybayin font they used just happens to be my own "Tagalog Doctrina 1593".)
The vowels and the kudlit marks must be used properly. So, to review briefly, a kudlit mark is placed above a letter to change its A sound into an I or an E. If the kudlit is placed below the letter, the sound is changed to O or U. It is not necessary to write out all the vowels as individual letters. The vowel letters are only used when they are alone in a syllable. And if a consonant letter has no vowel sound, then it should not be written at all. Here is how to write the name Dela Cruz:
Here the baybayin characters DA and E have become DE. The letters LA and A are now LA. There is no letter C in the baybayin so it has been changed to KA. Then, KA, RA and U have been reduced to KU RU, (I will explain that later.) And the letter SA (for Z) has been dropped because Cruz is not pronounced with an A at the end.
Spell it the way it sounds...
Aside from knowing how to use the kudlits correctly, writing foreign words in baybayin is easier if you ignore the way they are spelled in the alphabet. Just spell them the way they sound and ignore the silent letters. Even with Filipino words like ng and mga, write them as they sound; not as they are spelled. That is: nang and manga.
This rule applies to English vowels sounds too. For example, in a name like Ryan, the Y is pronounced starting with an A sound. So, it should be written: RA YA. The letter I often starts with an A sound too in words like diamond, DA YA MO.
Many foreign words have letters that do not exist in the baybayin. If you are familiar with the abakada, which was the official Filipino alphabet up until the 1980s, you can use the ordinary letter substitutions that were common back then, b for v, p for f, k or s for c, etc. If you don’t know the abakada, don’t worry. Just use the chart on the right side of this page. It shows which baybayin letters can be used to approximate the sounds of Spanish and English letters.
Consonants without Vowels
The biggest problem with the baybayin is writing consonants without vowels. Usually those letters are just omitted. But if you feel that certain consonants are vital to understanding a word, there are some solutions.
In our example above, the word Cruz was spelled KU RU, even though there was no vowel between the letters C and R. This was how the word was written in the Doctrina Christiana of 1593, which is the oldest surviving example of baybayin writing today. This is similar to the way the Japanese spell English words in their syllabic alphabet; consonants are separated by inserting a vowel between them. Usually it is the same vowel that immediately follows the consonant pair. In this case it was the vowel U.
In another case, the word Christo was written KI RI TO in the Doctrina. This technique may be extended to many other words. For example the name Francisco could be written PA RA SI KO. Perhaps Japanese writing could be emulated for final consonants too. For example, the Z in Cruz could be represented by adding a weakly pronounced U to the letter S, like this: KU RU SU. However, there is no precedent for this in historical baybayin writing. I recommend using it in moderation – only in consonant clusters within a single syllable, as in Cruz, Christo and Francisco.
The Lopez Method
A Spanish priest named Francisco Lopez developed another way to write consonants without vowels in 1620. It is recognizable by its use of a distinctive + shaped symbol, which cancels the vowel sounds of letters and allows them to be used like the letters in western alphabets. Ancient Filipinos never actually adopted Lopez’s method of writing but it has become popular in modern times among people who are unaware of its history. It is explained on the “How to” page and on the baybayin history page.
Some English words are very difficult to write in the baybayin script. So, you may want to consider translating them into Filipino first, or some other Philippine language, before you write them in baybayin. For example, lakas is much easier to write than strength and sampalataya is easier than faith (or you could opt for the Spanish word, fe). And instead of trying to write a name like Francisco, consider a nickname like Kiko.
Other Baybayin Pages
You can test your baybayin skills with Victor Quimson's online baybayin translator at Ating Baybayin. Just type any word you wish and it will show you how it is written in the baybayin script and provide tips for adapting it to non-Filipino words.