Pangilinan, Michael R. M. [Siuala ding Meangubie]. (2012). An introduction to Kulitan, the indigenous Kapampangan script. Angeles City: Center for Kapampangan Studies. ISBN 978-971-0546-23-7.
It is probably safe to say that the Philippines today is a state whose citizens are confused about their identity, ignorant of their history and unmindful of their heritage. Despite the advancement in archaeology and scholarly research into her pre-colonial past, the average student still learns in class that Philippine history began only with the coming of the Europeans in the early 16th century. This implies that the people of these islands would never have become part of the ‘civilized world’ had it not been ‘discovered’ by Western adventurers, namely by the Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães who ‘discovered’ these islands for Spain in 1521. It is no surprise then why the average citizen of these islands proudly wears the brand of a 16th century foreign monarch in whose name his ancestors were tyrannized and his country raped and plundered for more than three hundred years. Philippines and Filipino are alien words that hold no indigenous significance in any of the ethnic languages of the archipelago. They are names derived from Philip II, the 16th century Spanish king.
These non-native names, Philippines and Filipino, have for generations now been used to promote a new form of colonialism among the indigenous inhabitants of this archipelago (Martinez, 2004; DILA, 2007). By law, the term Filipino now stands for the nationality, citizenship and national language of all the ethnolinguistic groups within these islands (Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, 1987). Since then, all the indigenous languages and cultures of the various ethnolinguistic groups within the archipelago have been politically reduced to the status of mere “regional dialects”. They are now being sacrificed and pushed to the brink of extinction in the name of a contrived “national” unity. To be Filipino is to speak Filipino, which is actually just another form of the Tagalog language in a clever disguise. In reality, Filipino nationalism is just an alternative word for Manila-Tagalog Imperialism. National unity is a convenient excuse to a new form of non-violent ethnic cleansing (Mantawe, 1998; Avila, 2007; DILA, 2007 and Dacudao, pers. comm., 2012 April 13-15). How Tagalog became synonymous to Filipino is discussed in detail in the community website of the Save Our Languages Through Federalism Foundation, Inc. (SOLFED) and Defenders of the Indigenous Languages of the Archipelago (DILA), and in the book Filipino is NOT Our Language published by DILA in 2007.
Long before the idea of a Filipino nation was even conceived, the Kapampangan, Butuanon, Tausug, Magindanau, Hiligaynon, Sugbuanon, Waray, Iloko, Sambal and many other ethnolinguistic groups within the archipelago, already existed as bangsâ or nations in their own right. Many of these nations formed their own states and principalities centuries before the Spaniards created the Philippines in the late 16th century. The oldest of these states include Butuan (蒲端) which existed on Chinese records as early as 1001 C.E., Sulu (蘇祿) in 1368 C.E. and the Kingdom of Luzon (呂宋国) in 1373 C.E. These three sovereign states were ruled by kings (國王) and not by chieftains according to Chinese historical records (Zhang, 1617; Scott 1984; Wang 1989; Wade, 2005 and Wang, 2008).
The Kapampangan nation was once a part of the Kingdom of Luzon [Fig. 1]. They were one of the Luçoes, ‘people of Luzon’, encountered by Portuguese explorers during their initial ventures into Southeast Asia in the early 16th century (Scott, 1994). The Kapampangan homeland, Indûng Kapampángan (Pampanga), became the first province carved out of the Kingdom of Luzon when the Spaniards conquered it in 1571 C.E. (Cavada, 1876 and Henson, 1965). Indûng Kapampángan’s political boundaries once encompassed a large portion of the central plains of Luzon, stretching from the eastern coastline of the Bataan Peninsula in the Southwest, all the way to Casiguran Bay in the Northeast (Murillo Velarde, 1744; San Antonio, 1744; Beyer, 1918; Henson, 1965; Larkin, 1972 and Tayag, 1985) [Fig 2.]. It was said to be the most populated region in Luzon at that time, with an established agricultural base that can support a huge population (Loarca, 1583; San Agustin, 1699; Mallat, 1846; B&R, 1905; Henson, 1965 and Larkin, 1972). It also has a highly advanced material culture where Chinese porcelain is used extensively and where firearms and bronze cannons were manufactured (Morga, 1609; Mas, 1843; B&R, 1905; Beyer, 1947; Larkin, 1972; Santiago, 1990b and Dizon, 1999). The old capital of the Kingdom of Luzon, Tondo (東都: “Eastern Capital”), once spoke one language with the rest of Indûng Kapampángan that is different from the language spoken in Manila (Loarca, 1583; B&R, 1905 and Tayag, 1985). Jose Villa Panganiban, the former commissioner of the Institute of National Language, once thought the Pasig River that divides Tondo and Manila to be the same dividing line between Kapampangan and Tagalog (Tayag, 1985). The descendants of the old rulers of the Kingdom of Luzon, namely those of Salalílâ, Lakandúlâ and Suliman, can still be found all over Indûng Kapampángan (Beyer, 1918; Beyer, 1943; Henson, 1965 and Santiago, 1990a).
If the Kapampangan nation made up the bulk of the population of the Kingdom of Luzon, then perhaps the oldest evidence of Kapampangan writing can be found in the jars (呂宋壺) exported to Japan prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century C.E. [Fig. 3]. In his book Tokiko (陶器考) or “Investigations of Pottery” published in 1853 C.E., Tauchi Yonesaburo (田内米三郎) presents several jars marked with the ruson koku ji (呂宋國字) or the “writing of the Kingdom of Luzon” (Tauchi [田内], 1853 and Cole, 1912). The marks that looked like the Chinese character ting (丁) found in several Luzon jars might have been the indigenous Kapampangan script la (), the first syllable in the name “Luzon” [Fig. 4].
Writing has always been a testament to civilization among the great nations. The Chinese write ‘civilization’ as wénmíng (文明) or ‘enlightenment through writing’, combining the characters wén (文) ‘writing’ and míng (明) ‘brightness’. Sadly, the Kapampangan nation, a once proud civilization with a long established literature has now become a tribe of confused barbarians. Although many Kapampangans can read and write fluently in foreign languages, namely Filipino and English, they are strangely illiterate in their own native Kapampangan language.
The Kapampangan language currently does not possess a standard written orthography. The dispute on which orthography to use when writing the Kapampangan language in the Latin Script ~ whether to retain the old Spanish style orthography a.k.a. Súlat Bacúlud or implement the indigenized Súlat Wáwâ which replaced the Q and C with the letter K, remains unsettled. This unending battle on orthography has taken its toll on the development of Kapampangan literature and the literacy of the Kapampangan speaking majority (Pangilinan, 2006a and 2009b). No written masterpiece that could rival the works of the Kapampangan literary giants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has yet been written. The few poems that earned a number of contemporary poets the title of Poet Laureate no longer have the same impact that would immortalize them in the people’s collective memory. Worse, the Kapampangan language is now even showing signs of decay and endangerment (Del Corro, 2000 and Pangilinan, 2009b).
While the old literary elite continue to bicker endlessly which Latinized attitudinal procedure to follow, a small yet growing number of Kapampangan youth have become frustrated and disillusioned with the current state of Kapampangan language and culture. They see the old Spanish style orthography that still uses the letters C & Q as a perpetuation of Spain’s hold into the intellectual expressions of the Kapampangan people. The new orthography that has replaced the letters C and Q with K is also viewed to be foreign since they identify it with the Tagalog abakada. Instead of being forced to choose which orthography to use in writing Kapampangan, they chose to forego the use of the Latin script altogether. They decided instead to go back to writing in the indigenous Súlat Kapampángan or Kulitan.
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