Logographing Magtipan at Kaanyuan

Exploratory study with Baybayin script calligraphy: logographing “magtipan” (covenant, ᜋᜆᜒᜉ) (© 2017 Henry Del Rosario)
Baybayin script calligraphy: logographing “kaanyuan” (creation, condition of being, form; ᜃᜀᜌᜓᜀ) (© 2017 Henry Del Rosario)

Ambahan about old age

As I research more about Baybayin script (ancient Filipino script) I come across more and more Filipino poetry. I am currently praising this poem about old age (Ambahan number 237 from Postma’s “Treasure of a Minority”):

Hanunoo-Mangyan: Tagalog: English (Antoon Postma’s translation):
Katpungan pagsudungan
Kita una magkaban
Babaw apnig bariwan
Saruray no humagan
Kiblagan yi kuramwan
Sulbadan yi suudan
Magkabta araw uman
Pamidkan dimlisig wan
Patlay saghaya yi man
Sa sandaling karimlan
Kahit kita magtipan
Sa banig na higaan
Pagsikat nitong araw
Talang maghihiwalay;
Buklod nati’y bibigay;
Pagkikita’y daratal
Paningi’y mapawi man
May bagong kaanyuan.
At this hour of the dark night
we are still together now
on the woven sleeping-mat.
But when the sun rises soon,
and the stars become detached,
our bond might break up too.
When we’ll ever meet again,
it is not with mortal eyes,
but the eye-sight of the soul.

An ambahan is an indigineous Filipino poetic form of heptasyllable lines. Ambahans may be difficult to translate due to the constricting poetic form, dialect, and allegorical imagery. As in my previous post, I mentioned that there were a few very fascinating words of this poem in Tagalog:

  • Magtipan (ᜋᜆᜒᜉ): translates to “covenant;” similar to “tipan” (ᜆᜒᜉ)
  • Mapawi (ᜋᜉᜏᜒ): can mean “vanish”; in addition to “disappear, die, pass”
  • Kaanyuan (ᜃᜀᜌᜓᜀ): can mean “condition of being, manner of being”; in addition to “form, structure, appearance”

I could never read and enjoy poetry quickly. So as I sat and let this particular poem sink in me I became drawn to the words “magtipan” and “kaanyuan.” Calligraphy and ink drawings in the same way require a similar mindful attitude and thus I had this idea to create calligraphy pieces of those words.

‘Logographing’ Filipino Graphemes

Kristian Kabuay is a Filipino artist from San Francisco whose focuses on Filipino decolonization through Baybayin script artwork of ink and calligraphy. Norman de los Santos (aka Nordenx) is another Filipino researcher and graphic designer from California whose works include highly technical Baybayin typeface design and scholarly script activity. These artists have done great work with popularizing Baybayin and standardizing the script.

Their works as well as many Filipino artists on Instagram (links below) do well in inspiring me of the many aesthetics Filipinos are using with Baybayin script. In particular, when I saw de los Santos’ creative graphic design of “mahal” I looked into more ways one could aesthetically combine the syllabic script of Baybayin into something new.

The aesthetics of combining parts to create a word or phrase immediately recalls logogram writing systems like the Chinese hànzì or the Japanese kanji. I started exploring how to combine the alphasyllabic letters of Baybayin into aesthetic units. Since I do not know what this process is called, I am going to coin this neologism: logographing!

Another example of Logographing: “mahal” (love, ᜋᜑᜎ᜴) in Baybayin script (Calligraphy © 2017 Henry Del Rosario)

These are not true logographs or ideograms, because they are still made up of the alphasyllabic graphemes (not radicals) to create a single word, however, the aesthetic whole is pleasing to me, so I will be making more.


Bonus Images

The following are some scans of my aesthetic process of letters to logograph.

Magtipan (covenant, ᜋᜆᜒᜉ) transformation.
Mahal (love, ᜋᜑ) transformation.


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