A Philippine Leaf
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Mystery Scripts of the Philippines

by Hector Santos
© 1996 by Hector Santos
All rights reserved.

Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has very few artifacts that show evidence of writing. While literacy was widespread in Luzon when the Spaniards came in 1571, no examples of the kind of writing that they came upon is known to exist today except for the records that were later required by the colonial system. Such Spanish records are the only evidence we have of the writing system that was called baybayin. No pre-Hispanic baybayin artifacts exist today.

Furthermore, no artifact, not even the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI), was found under archeological conditions. They were all found by treasure hunters so that their authenticities can be subject to question.

There are artifacts with writing that are in private hands. One example is a a gold leaf with a prayer in Sanskrit meant to bring good health to a woman who was carrying a child. However, artifacts like this may simply have been obtained from outside the Philippines. Another gold leaf with similar writing is in the Southwestern University Museum in Cebu City.

One frustrating aspect about the few available artifacts is that they are all different and are all one-of-a-kind. This makes it difficult to study them because they are not examples of known scripts and there are not enough samples of each type to do a proper study. There can also be a gnawing suspicion in one's mind that these artifacts may have come from outside the Philippines, that the scripts may have been artificially devised by man (secret script), or even that some of them may not be authentic.

Be that as it may, I will discuss on these pages three mysterious artifacts owned by the Philippine National Museum. They are the Calatagan pot, the Butuan silver strip, and the Butuan ivory seal. I will also discuss the controversial Eskaya script, the one used by a secret Bohol group which claims connections to the ancient kingdom of Butuan as well as to ancient Middle Eastern empires.

Many thanks to the following people who provided me with information: Jesus T. Peralta of the Philippine National Museum, Antoon Postma of Mindoro, Jean-Paul Potet of Paris, and Robert Urich of New Zealand.

Other Mysterious Philippine Scripts

To cite:
Santos, Hector. "Mystery Scripts of the Philippines" in A Philippine Leaf at http://www.bibingka.com/dahon/mystery/mystery.htm. US, October 26, 1996.
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Please send me your comments. I would love to hear from you.
Hector Santos <hectorsan@bibingka.com> Los Angeles
Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 1999