Thanks to social media and the Internet in general, Baybayin is experiencing a modern-day revival and piquing the interest of many people who want to learn the ancient Filipino script. If you’re interested to learn the Baybayin alphabet with its unique letters and words, we have made things easier for you with our comprehensive guide and online translator.
You might think that learning Baybayin is hard. After all, the strange-looking characters of this ancient script may seem like an alien language. However, you will soon realize how easy it is to learn and memorize the Baybayin script and alphabet. Unlike foreign languages such as French or Spanish, you can translate to Baybayin directly, word-for-word, without having to account for grammar, idioms, and other nuances of the language.
As long as you know all the Baybayin characters, as well as some basic writing rules, you can easily translate any Tagalog word to its Baybayin equivalent. And if you have a hard time memorizing the different characters and symbols, you can simply use our free online translator.
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Online Baybayin Translator
Using our online Tagalog to Baybayin translator, you can easily translate Tagalog words and sentences to Baybayin. Just type or paste your Tagalog text below and it will instantly supply the translation in real time.
Online Tagalog to Baybayin Translator
This online translator is a derivative of Learn Baybayin by Orville Labbao, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.
What is Baybayin?
Baybayin is an ancient writing script that was predominantly used by the inhabitants of colonial and pre-colonial Philippines around the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a type of abugida script or alphasyllabary, which is a writing system with characters consisting of consonants followed by vowels. The term Baybayin comes from the Tagalog word “baybay” which means “to spell.”
Many centuries before the arrival of Spanish colonizers, ancient Filipinos didn’t have a common writing system, relying instead on oral communication to record and transmit folklore from one generation to the next. Sometime around the 13th century, people from neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia brought their Brahmic scripts to the islands, leading to the development and proliferation of Baybayin.
During the Spanish colonial period, Baybayin was already being used extensively in Luzon and parts of the Visayas. In fact, the Spanish clergy studied the script and even wrote a catechism book called Doctrina Christiana. The book is believed to be the oldest in Philippine history and was partly written in Baybayin.
Over the years, Baybayin gradually fell out of favor and was eventually replaced by the Latin alphabet. It was only in recent years that Baybayin experienced a resurgence among Filipinos as an expression of national pride and identity. Nowadays, you can see Baybayin written in books, artworks, tattoos, and even Philippine peso bills.
Basic Rules in Writing Baybayin
If you have studied a foreign language in the past, you know that it takes a lot of time and effort to master the fundamentals. You had to make sure that you correctly translated each word, your grammar is spot on, and the words and sentences are structured properly, among other things.
Baybayin, however, is probably the easiest “language” to learn (we put it in quotes because Baybayin is a script, not a language). You only need to remember a few basic writing rules which mostly involve changing or removing vowels from characters.
The Baybayin alphabet is composed of 17 characters (14 consonants and 3 vowels). Each consonant character has the inherent vowel /a/.
To change the vowel to an /e/ or /i/, place a kudlit (dot or slash) above the character. To change the vowel to an /o/ or /u/, place a kudlit below the character.
To remove the vowel /a/ from a consonant character, place a krus-kudlit (cross sign) below it. You can also use a pamudpod (curved line) to mute the vowel.
Write the words based on how you pronounce them. For example, to write “Juan” in Baybayin, you can write “Huwan” instead.
You might also notice that some characters in the English alphabet don’t have a Baybayin equivalent, such as “F” and “V”. What you can do is to substitute these characters with similar-sounding consonants such as “P” and “B” before translating them.
That’s about it for the basic rules in writing Baybayin. Easy as pie, right? The next step is to memorize the different characters or symbols so that you can apply these rules the next time you’re reading or writing Baybayin.
Baybayin Alphabet and Characters
Once you have mastered the basic rules of writing, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the Baybayin alphabet and characters. Take the time to learn each character by heart, starting with the vowels a, e/i and o/u and ending with punctuation.
The font used for this alphabet is Tagalog Stylized by Paul Morrow. Don’t worry if it looks a little different from other Baybayin text you see online. Each font has a slightly different style and appearance, but the characters are still the same. In the next section of this article, you will learn how to download and install your preferred font on your computer.
Don’t forget the basic writing rules which are as follows:
- Each consonant character has the inherent vowel /a/.
- To change the vowel /a/ to an /e/ or /i/, place a kudlit (dot or slash) above the character.
- To change the vowel /a/ to an /o/ or /u/, place a kudlit (dot or slash) below the character.
- To remove the vowel /a/ from a consonant character, place a krus-kudlit (cross sign) below the character.
It’s so easy to learn the Baybayin alphabet as long as you know the basic writing rules and have memorized each letter or character. All it takes is a little practice and patience, and you will soon know how to write and read Baybayin like the back of your hand.
How to Download and Install a Baybayin Font
You might notice that, after copying Baybayin text and pasting it to your Word document, you can’t replicate the style and appearance of the original script. What you see instead is a bunch of strange, unreadable characters. This happens if your computer doesn’t have the appropriate font installed.
To be able to read and write Baybayin on your computer, you will need to install a font that supports the script. Here are some free fonts that you can download and install on your PC or laptop:
- Paul Morrow’s Baybayin Fonts
- Niwang Uno (Windows and Mac)
- Baybayin Sisil by Lloyd Zapanta (Windows and Mac)
There are other Baybayin fonts that are created by individual designers and are available for download on font library sites, so feel free to search for them online.
After downloading the font, extract the contents using file compression software like WinRAR or 7-Zip. Install the font by doing the following:
- If you are using a Windows PC, copy the extracted files to the C:\Windows\Fonts folder to install the font. You can also double-click the font file and click Install.
- If you’re using a Mac computer, double-click the font in the Finder, and then click Install Font in the preview window.
Once the font is installed on your computer, you can type Baybayin in any software program or application such as Microsoft Word. Just select your preferred font (e.g. Tagalog Doctrina 1593) and you’re good to go.
How to Write Baybayin on Your Mobile Phone
Do you want to write Baybayin using your mobile phone? You don’t need to install anything because the default Android keyboard Gboard has native support for this script. All you have to do is to enable Baybayin for your virtual keyboard and then choose it as your language when typing.
Follow these steps to enable Baybayin for your Android device:
- Open the Settings application on your phone.
- Select System or System settings.
- Select Keyboard and input method or Language and input.
- On the list of keyboards, choose Gboard.
- Tap Languages.
- Press Add Keyboard or Add Language.
- Scroll down the list of languages and select Filipino (Baybayin).
- Click Done.
To start typing, just tap the globe icon before the space bar and the Baybayin keyboard will be activated.
If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, you can type in Baybayin by installing a third-party application such as this one. As of this writing, iOS doesn’t have native support for the script yet.
Learning how to read and write Baybayin may seem daunting at first, but with some practice, patience and effort, it will soon become second nature to you. Baybayin is far from going mainstream, but by learning and studying it, you help to preserve a piece of ancient Filipino culture and history. Plus, your knowledge will definitely come handy when you need to interpret Baybayin text, make decorative designs, or simply impress your friends.
We hope that our guide is a big help in your desire to learn the traditional Filipino writing system. Feel free to share this article with your friends who might also be interested to learn Baybayin.
Nice article! Btw, I wrote the original “Learn Baybayin” translator. Glad you can use it.
Just like to point out that the translator works on fonts that are unicode compatible, but not all user-made fonts follow the same convention. For example, all Paul Morrow’s fonts are compatible but Niwang Uno isn’t. For these incompatible fonts, additional pre-processing needs to be done in the translator.
Thanks! And thank you for making the translator available for public use.