Kulitan or Súlat Kapampángan, the indigenous Kapampangan script, is an abugida or alphasyllabary, where the consonantal characters possess a default vowel sound that can be altered with use of diacritical marks. Kulitan, like other scripts in Southeast Asia, is an Indian-inspired script. The indigenous characters were recorded as culit by the early 17th and 18th century Spanish lexicographers (Benavente, 1699 and Bergaño, 1732) and the whole writing system was therefore called kulitan. The ordinary folks simply called them Súlat Kapampángan to distinguish them from the Latin script.
The oldest specimen of Kulitan were most likely the ruson koku ji (呂宋國字) ‘writing of the Kingdom of Luzon’ found in several 16th century Luzon jars as described by Tauchi Yonesaburo [田内米三郎] (1853) in his book Toukikou [陶器考] ‘Investigations of Pottery’ (See Fig.4 on Pauaga). Several 16th and 17th century specimens of signatures by leading Kapampangan citizens written in Kulitan are preserved in various archives in the Philippines. Kulitan specimens also appear in the notes and abecedaries of several European explorers who visited Pampanga in the 19th century.
Kulitan is basically made up of Indûng Súlat or the “mother” characters and the Anak Súlat or the “offspring” characters (Fig 1). The Indûng Súlat are the base characters with the unaltered inherent vowel sounds. They are the building blocks of Súlat Kapampángan. Indûng súlat gives birth to Anak Súlat or “offspring” characters whenever their inherent vowel sound has been altered by a ligature or a diacritical mark.
The siuálâ or vowels in Kulitan are usually written as garlit (Hilario, 1962) or diacritical marks placed above or below an individual Indûng Súlat or “mother” character. Ligatures are also sometimes used to further lengthen these vowel sounds or represent the monophthongized diphthongs AI (E) and AU (O). A glyph with a diacritical mark or ligature attached to it is an Anak Súlat or “offspring” character.
The recital order of the Indûng Súlat or the basic mother characters are A, I, U, E, O, GA, KA, NGA, TA, DA, NA, LA, SA, MA, PA, BA.
It is currently the only indigenous script in the Philippines that is written vertically from top to bottom and from right to left (Fig. 3 & 4).
Batik Kulitan or Kulitan tattoos were popularized by young Kapampangan tattoo artist and cultural advocate Marlon Jon Maristela y Castro of Angeles City since 2007. Together with the late Kit Tayag of the Ágúman Súlat Kapampángan, they help generate cultural awareness and renewed interest in the indigenous Kapampangan script, especially among Kapampangan expatriates.
The Ágúman Súlat Kapampángan, spearheaded by Eliver Sicat y Tanhueco, Eduardo John Balatbat (林銀龍), Ebbol Rosales, John Manuntag and Bruno Tiotuico, is a group of young Kapampangan advocates who can still read and write in Kulitan. Their aim is to revive and popularize the use and relevance of Kulitan in the current global society through lectures, workshops and exhibits.
Benavente, Alvaro de. (1699). Arte de Lengua Pampanga. [Bilingual ed. 2007: Spanish and English]. Transl. Edliberto V. Santos. Angeles City, Philippines: Juan D. Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies & The Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation.
Bergaño, Diego. (1732). Vocabulario de Pampango en Romance y Diccionario de Romance en Pampango. [Bilingual ed. 2006: Spanish and English]. Transl. Venancio Q. Samson. Angeles City, Philippines: Juan D. Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies & National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Hilario, Zoilo. (1962) Bayung Sunis. [Typescript].
Pangilinan, Michael R.M. (2009). Assessing the current status of the Kapampangan “pre-Hispanic” script. A paper presented at the 11th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, June 21 – 25, 2009, Aussois, France.
Tauchi Yonesaburo (田内米三郎). (1853). Toukikou (陶器考: Investigations of Pottery). English Translation in Cole, Fay-Cooper. (1912) Chinese Pottery in the Philippines. Field Museum of Natural History Anthropological Series,Vol. 12 (1), Chicago.
© Copyright 2012 Siuálâ Ding Meángûbié
Orejas, Tonette. (2012 July 24). Old Kapampangan writing system now in book. In Inquirer News. Retrieved on 2012 July 24 at http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/235737/old-kapampangan-writing-system-now-in-book