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Baybayin (Tagalog pronunciation: [baeˈbaejɪn]; pre-kudlit: ᜊᜊᜌᜒ, post-kudlit: ᜊᜌ᜔ᜊᜌᜒᜈ᜔) (known in Unicode as Tagalog script; see below), known in Visayan as badlit (ᜊᜇ᜔ᜎᜒᜆ᜔), is an ancient pre-colonial Philippine writing system. It is a member of the Brahmic family of India and is recorded as being in use in the 16th century. It continued to be used during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines up until the late 19th century. The script is well known because it was carefully documented by Catholic clergy who lived in the Philippines during the colonial era.

The term baybay literally means "to spell" in Tagalog. Baybayin was extensively documented by the Spanish. Some have attributed it the name Alibata, but this name is incorrect (the term "Alibata" was coined by Paul Rodríguez Verzosa after the arrangement of letters of the Arabic alphabet alif, ba, ta (alibata), "f" having been eliminated for euphony's sake).

Other Brahmic scripts currently among different ethnic groups in the Philippines are Buhid, Hanunó'o, kulitan and Tagbanwa.

Baybayin is one of a number of individual writing systems used in Southeast Asia, nearly all of which are abugidas where any consonant is pronounced with the inherent vowel a following it—diacritical marks being used to express other vowels (this vowel occurs with greatest frequency in Sanskrit, and also probably in all Philippine languages). Many of these writing systems descended from ancient scripts used in India over 2000 years ago. Although the baybayin does share some, there is no evidence that it is this old.

The University of Santo Tomas Archives in Manila, one of the largest archives in the Philippines, currently possesses the biggest collection of extant ancient baybayin scripts in the world.


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