http://ping.fm/p/ehrqn – Tagalog “malakas” carved in Mangyan on bamboo tile. Coming straight from the SF Asian Art Museum.
October 4, 2009 was my very first introduction to the SF Aian Art Museum. At the time my colleague Christian Cabuay was invited to hold a Baybayin workshop as part of Filipino Heritage month. I had just stopped by to take in some of the programs slated for the day but ended up assisting during the workshop. Needless to say, Baybayin was a well received. So much so that we were both invited to participate in this years “Pasko”.
I was initially slated to do some woodburning but due to some concerns, I decided to hand carve instead. Now, I have done Baybayin carving in the past and it is what is was back then…a PITA.
I am accustomed to pyrography, it’s fast and easy to control. Ideally, carving on wood or bamboo is best left to electrical power tools, again fast and fairly easy to control. Hand carving on dry bamboo is not as easy as one would think. It’s dry…real dry and hard. Green bamboo is much more desirable, but I don’t harvest green bamboo typically.
As I prepared for today’s endeavor I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off as I seriously did not want to cut myself apart right there in the museum. Armed with a swivel exacto knife, a swivel leather knife and some crude dental tools, I set off to see just what I could do at this venue.
After setting up I began to first write the Baybayin in that cursive handstyle of mine with an extra fine point sharpie, followed by my swivel knife. NOPE. An electric Dremel tool is best for this job as you can cut deeper and wider. Trying to follow curves with a sharp blade is a recipe for disaster. Sure it can be done, I’ve done it, but it takes alot of time and patience to do a cursive handstyle. I had a feeling this day would be challenging.
I decided to go “tribu” instead. The Mangyan writing, while similar to Baybayin is not considered to be Baybayin rather a divergent of Baybayin as it is still used today. The Mangyan are known for their writing of Ambahan, poetry, on bamboo. The style is very angular with hard edges, perfect for carving on hard medium like bamboo. While the bamboo I used would have been better if still green and soft, I nevertheless pulled out a copy of the Mangyan script and gave it a shot.
The pic above is the result, not too shabby eh? Yes, it is a Tagalog word in Mangyan but I don’t know or speak Mangyan. The syllabary is the same so it works regardless of which Philippine language is used. Yes, language as opposed to dialect. Without getting into linguistics, Philippine dialects can be considered as languages.
The Mangyan script is one of three that are still used today. As I was writing in Mangyan, I was mindful of something that Hector Santos mentioned on his website, a point that can’t be overlooked. He writes:
On the other hand, we have living scripts in the Philippines today that have been in continuous use for almost a millennium. The same people who call for the revival of the Tagalog script have not shown any interest in propagating and maintaining the living Philippine scripts used by our “second-class” citizens. These scripts are in danger of disappearing because of cultural contamination.
Yes, perhaps it is also time to bring our living scripts out from the shadows and help to raise an awareness to their existence. Hand carving Mangyan was pretty effen righteous.