Posted by: annpeace | May 1, 2009

Kudlit-kabadlit: Ancient Visayan script

Back in college, I discovered about the so called Visayan script when I read the book Suhot by multi-awarded Cebuano artist and writer, Nyor Leonilo Estimo.  Such script was called the Kudlit-kabadlit and is similar to the ancient Filipino writing, alibata.

It so happened then that the theme for the magazine where I used to write was “looking back to our roots”.  Timely enough, I and another publication writer set an interview with Dr. Warfe Engracia who wrote the Kudlit-kabadlit inscriptions on Nyor Estimo’s book.

Dr. Engracia is a radiologist and Visayan historian who has made extensive researches about the Malay race and Cebuano heritage.

An article about the Cebuano language and featuring the Visayan script was eventually published in the 2006 issue of the magazine.  At that time, the study on the accuracy of the kudlit-kabadlit was still on-going.

Just recently, I had a conversation with Ms. Eleanor Valeros, The Freeman editor and fellow member of SineBuano.  She is also a writer who specializes in the Cebuano language and from her, I heard of kudlit-kabadlit once again.

She said that she has read the book Suhot too and saw what Dr. Warfe inscribed.  She also said that the group Kadangyan taught her the ancient script and it was different from that she had learned from Suhot. This leads me to review and make other researches on the ancient Visayan script.

Kudlit-kabadlit: ancient Visayan way of writing.

Kudlit-kabadlit: ancient Visayan way of writing.

On the photo is the Kudlit-kabadlit which was taught to us by Dr. Warfe Engracia. The vowel sounds on words are represented by the dots.  Without the dot the sound is the normal Visayan pronunciation of “a”. One dot above the letter is the softer “e” and two dots above the prolonged “e” “i”.  A dot below the letter is the softer “o” and two dots the harder “o” or the “u”.

Just a disclaimer, this was still based on Dr. Warfe Engracia’s study as of 2006. That’s three years ago and we have not communicated since then.


  1. Awesome way of thinking. I like it. Thanks for sharing


    • Dear Dr. Engracia, daghang salamat nga gihatagan mi nimo ug higayon nga makahibalo sa atong gigikanan. I feel the book is interesting to discover our route. How can I get a copy???

    • To Miss Emma Alcoseba,

      If you are from Cebu please come to my clinic at the second floor of Elizabeth Mall. You can get xerox copy of the History, Calendar and the ancient alphabet “Kudlit-Kabadlit..
      Ang Kudlit-Kabadlit ako kining kinutlo sa History Book nga sinulat ni Anhing Jovito Abellana. Akong gitun-an ug gihinayhinay og “decipher” aron mahimong tumdanang Alphabet.. Na’lecture kini sa Kuala Lumpur niadtong 2001 during the Annual Malay Convention.
      Kini ang mga ebidensya nga civilized na kita dinhi sa wala pa moabot ang mga langyawng katsila niadtong 1521 nga gipangulohan ni Fernando Magallanes(Fernao Magalhaez).
      I can be contacted thru this Phone Number (+6332) 4177887. or cell: +639236946162 or +639264093564

      Kanunay moalagad para sa kalamboan sa atong matam-is nga kasaysayan,
      Inyong higala, Dr Warfe Tupas Engracia, MD FPCR
      Makita ko ninyo sa CCTN-INTV ch 47 every tuesday, wednesday & thursday at 8:30 AM and you can hear my Radioprogram at DYRC every sunday fro 8 – 10 PM website: (Philippine Time)

  3. mag binisaya kita kay aron makakat-on kita sa atong kaugalingong pinulongan. matud pa sa usa ka amerikano nga ‘expert in language’, nga ang Visayan Language is the most perfect language, mas original ug mas kompleto pa! no comparison sa filipino tagalog language .. ang ENGLISH? borowed language. ang atong sugboanon? ORIGINAL! busa atong KAYKAYON, KAWUTON, UGKATON ug TUKBILON. Tun-an!Hashasan ug gamiton kanunay..

  4. I believe that through literature, poetry, music, arts and culture, the world will unite; not only for us Malay. No war! Let us unite and love one another! “One world .. One country”
    The mighty United States started as 13 separate colonies. Europe’s historic are now the European Union. Here in Asean, God gave our Malay roots as the collagen to bind us together!

  5. Adunay gibilin si anhing Professor LINA QUIMAT nga binisayang kalendaryo sa page 17 sa iyang libro . ako kining gipasundayag sa PARKLANE HOTEL last year sa launching sa CEBUANO DICTIONARY ni Atty Jesus B Garcia sa SUNSTAR. Nahipatik kini sa SUPERBALITA, cagayan de oro niadtong October 28, 2009 ni BESERE. Kinahanglan nga masayud kita niining tanan aron ikatudlo sa atong mga kabataan. Usa kini sa pagpaila kung kinsa kita niadtong panahon nga wala pa kita anhia sa mga langyaw nga mga katsila.

  6. Interesting. The letters actually look just like some variants of handwriting from Luzon. The way people actually wrote is quite different from the book printing letter shapes that most people know. Unfortunately information on the way people actually wrote the letters by hand has not become widely known yet, but I hope to publish this relatively soon as part of my study of the origins of Baybayin and its relation to other scripts of Indonesia. My interpretation is that this is an example of the way people wrote throughout the islands: one particular example of handwriting.

  7. sa pahina 17 sa “Glimpses in History of early Cebu” ni Professor Lina Quimat kanhi President sa Cebu Historical Society. Nahipatik ang Kalendaryong Binisaya: 1) January = Ulalong; 2) February = Dagangcahoy; 3) March = Dagangbuwan; 4) April = Quiling; 5) May = Himbabuyan; 6) June = Gobay; 7) July = Hidapdapon; 8) August = Lubodlubod; 9) September = Canggurulsol; 10) October = Bagyobagyo; 11) November = Panglot nga diutay; 12) December = Panglot nga Daku.
    1) Monday = Tingbukad; 2) Tuesday = Dumason; 3)Wednesday = Ducutducut; 4) Thursday=Bailobailo; 5) Friday = Danghus; 6) Saturday=Hingothingot; 7) Sunday = Liguidliguid

  8. Last November 18, there was an article sa Cebu Daily News nga “Calendar in Cebuano?” page 12. Gihatagan ko og kopya ni dr. Silverio Martinez. I was surprised nga gilalisan na man hinoon ang original sa “Binisayang kalendaryo” nga kini ako kining gidistribute diha sa akong clinica dugay na since 2001. Ako usab kining gibalikbalik og singit sa akong “Health Guide” sa Dyla with Mons Binghay matag buntag before 6:00a.m.. Kini nga kalendaryo dili lamang sa mga Cebuano o sa mga Antiqueno kon dili para sa tibuok Visayas; mao nga sagolsagol ang mga pulonng nga gigagamit. Nagpasabut kini nga kita sa Visayas, Federated na or we belong to one Sultanate? Kini nga kalendaryo na-copyright na kini niadtong 1980 sumaa pa sa page 17 sa second edition ni Professor Lina Quimat sa “Glimpses in History of Ancient Cebu”
    Six years ago ang Cebu Malay Society misuway og buhat sa maong “Kalendaryong Bisaya” We tried to forward this to the Governor’s office. Naapil na niini ang “Kudlit-Kabadlit” I dont know what happen? Ang ako sang gisugo naghimo pud siya og Kalendaryo nga iya usang gidistribute sa ilang Breakfast CLUB. My suggestion nga ato kining lingkuran og aninawon og maayo aron makab-ot nato ang tinuoray nga History. dili his story.
    Ang alimaong Tribe miadto sa ako og nangayo niining Kalendaryo ug Kudlit-kabadlit. Ila na kining gisugdan og tudlo sa mga kabataan. Dili na kinaghanglan nga kinsay nakauna og report didto sa National Historical Commission sa Manila. Ang importante nga masubay nato ang tinuoray nga History nga gikan dinhi sa ato.. Dili mga langyaw o mga tagalog nga mosulat.. kita gayud nga mga Bisaya sa Visayas, Mindanao, etc.

    • Maayong buntag kanimo Dr. Engracia. Ako usa ka estudyante nga nagkinahanglan ug ganahan makakita sa binisayang kalendaryo ni Professor Lina Quimat. Pwede ba?

  9. The Ancient Pre-Hispanic Cebuano Alphabet: “Kudlit-Kabadlit”

    Early year 2001, I discovered something that could link us to the past, a collection of yesterday’s language and alphabets.
    After the blessing of the King Tupas Mobile Clinic last January 7, 2001 I was encouraged to look for the history of the last king of Cebu, Rajah Tupas. While getting information on King Tupas at the SWU museum, a book about strange alphabets ” Aginid Bayok sa atong Tawarik” caught my attention. So I borrowed one of the books, and diligently went through it so i could study and do some research about the history of our beloved Sugbo.
    I found some write -ups about Madjapahit, Sri Visjaya, Raja Humabon, Datu Lapulapu, Raja Tupas, etc.. There are several Cebuano words which are not used now and which are difficult to understand,. But what intrigued me were the alphabets on top of the Cebuano words.. So I studied the strange alphabets since it has stirred a deep interest in me. And I found out that each letter is equivalent to syllables of our present writings/alphabets.
    Therefore, the writing is shortened to approximately 40% to 60%, like shorthand. Further research revealed that these characters are similar to Hindi and arabic,.
    To me, short-writings are not so important. What is important to me is the discovery of these alphabets which I believed were used even before the Magellan expedition came to Cebu in 1521. This is tangible evidence that Sugbo was already civilized before the Spaniards came.
    This is merely a personal discovery, but one that affirms our civilized past, a pride of the Sugboanons. We pride ourselves for having been the center of civilization jn this country. We pride ourselves for already enjoying progress and economic development. We can only hope then that we will continue to do so and make our beloved Sugbo truly deserving of such honor..

    • As much as I wanted to believe the write up by Jovito Abellana, it just does not really add up with what William Henry Scott wrote on his book “Barangay”.

      On the script or Badlit as what Jovito Abellana calls it, I can’t be sure of its accuracy, because the book Barangay says there were no records that Cebuanos did write Badlit, it was not until around the time of Legazpi.

      Another inconsistency of the Aginid book was that it does not add up on Lapu-lapu, who was called as Sri Lapu-lapu Dimantag. It says there that he was a Muslim but it never says in any books that he is except for this oral story and the oral histories of the Tausugs. Lapulapu in the Aginid book became a pirate, raiding on merchant ships. While in the Barangay book it says that Lapulapu was either already serving Humabon or he was the real ruler and was angry at why he had to pay homage to Humabon and I think it says (if my memory serves me right); “that he[Lapulapu] has been paying homage for so long a time”, which was why he[Lapulapu] does not want to go and see Humabon.

      In the Aginid book itself there is an inconsistency it says that Lapulapu fought Magellan and his troops; with 500 plus warriors. While at the end there were fewer than 200 of Lapulapu’s men, about a 100 plus have decided to stay in Cebu while Lapulapu and his family went back to Borneo with around 27 of his close timawas who were half Arabs, three wives and 11 children. Although, if you read between the lines, it seems to suggest that some of Humabon’s men fought with Lapulapu against Magellan. Because Humabon secretly said he won’t fight Lapulapu and has sent feelers to him through a “hindap” (spy, Lapulapu had a spy within the ranks of Humabon), when Lapulapu heard of this it boost his morale up. And why then? Because he had more men, back then anyone can change their loyalties, probably these were angry Cebuanos who hated the Spaniards for raping the women, I think this is the reason why Lapulapu’s ranks swelled up. Humabon on the other hand actually prefer Magellan and Lapulapu dead, or even just Magellan.

      I will have to agree that the script is similar to or even from Sanskrit [Kawi or Devanagari], but not Arabic, and the early friars who commented on it, says that we learned it from Borneo. I’m still not convinced of it.

      If some of you folks here would like to have a look at the book; look it up here on facebook or you can buy the book at 125PhP at the CNU Museum.

      The plausibility of having this system of writing existing before Magellan came, is strong, there is just no real evidence of it because the writings were all written on leaves. Another issue; why was it, not observed by Pigafetta and it even says that one of the Datus were amazed at Pigafetta for writing. They also did not sign their names or do not know how to write or read. If the system of writing did exist before Magellan what contributed to its disappearance then? There is just a lot of conflicting historical documents because some say they know how to write while the Datus in Bohol do not. Maybe they were not used to writing on paper or using pen?

      Furthermore on the plausibility of it existing before the Spaniards came would also be answered by a write up or a book written by Fr. Eugene Verstraelen SVD, here is a page of it it says the the Cebu has been the center of speech for a long time, and the language itself is older than English probably around 6,000 years old or I could be wrong, I can’t find a document that supports my guess though. But nevertheless, it is an old language and we are still using a lot of those words. We should be proud of our language because it is older than the European languages of Spain, France, England and the other territories occupied by Rome. Spanish and French is basically Latin.

      The Aginid book also says that the Visayans here were from Sumatra, which is plausible and were sympathetic to the Sri Vijaya who was displaced by the Majapahit. They all wanted peace and were not accustomed to raiding other towns, and it says they were the ones who were always being raided by the Moors. But not what the Barangay book says, they were not really a peaceful lot, the book says that the economy then was based on sea raiding called “Mangayaw” the purpose of sea raiding was for labor, they needed oripun[notice now it is olipun] or slaves[they were not necessarily slaves per se] to gather the natural resources. And at this point on sea raiding our ancestors did not use small boats called balanghai but a bigger one called “Karakoa” have a look at it here it looked like one of those Viking ships. Everyone in the islands where there was Bisayan influence (and the variant languages thereof) were all sea raiders. The tattoos that they have on their body, was a reflection on how many people you have killed in battle or your accomplishment in battle. Bisayans also wear their hair long an some do not even cut it for 20 years. They call the Tagalogs as ‘inalutan’ someone who had his hair cut and cropped short. Which was basically an insult and a symbol of weakness for the Bisayans. The long hair was symbolic for a warrior, or it defines them.

      Because there is just a lack of historical documents to tell us of our prehistory, I would prefer to look at it on a linguistic point of view. The Aginid book suggested that our forefathers were praying to Ganesh and Shiva and other Indian gods, which is true evidenced by a discovery of an idol of Ganesh found in Opon, aside from the local gods or as they were originally called diwata(god). Because of this heavy influence by India it is impossible to not know how to read and write. Bisayan were also along the northern coasts of Mindanao and to the Eastern coasts. That includes Butuan, have a look at this ivory seal probably this was before 1200 when Badlit or baybayin was around, the script used here is old Javanese.

      I would also like to get back on the word “oripun” Fr. Verstraelen said that languages tend to sound shift from /R/>/L/ which is why we now have it as “olipun”. The word ‘oripun’ was used in the old Cebuano-Spanish dictionary written by Spanish friars for their use on evangelism. Let me also point out that we are not part of the Sri Vijaya, it did not become Bisaya from Vijaya. The sound shift pattern would have made it Bidaya or Biraya. Bisaya was already around before Sri Vijaya. The supposedly Sumatran Humabon also spoke Malay, which increases the plausibility of Humabon’s ancestors are from Sri Vijaya who settled with the Bisaya here. There is also a Bisaya in Indonesia today and in Sabah, but they do not speak our Bisayan anymore but the Malay language, their language must’ve disappeared, but nevertheless they are Bisayan. The Bisayan languages that we have today, developed within the Bisayan sphere of influence or within the archipelago.

      Let me also point out that Lapulapu and Humabon maybe blood related, but they were definitely affiliated by marriage. There is also evidence that Cebu is a satellite state of the Kingdom of Butuan, Humabon is also blood related to the ruler of Butuan. Butuan became rich when it traded with Champa (Vietnam) 9th or 10th century officially. With the find of the ivory seal in Butuan with an old Javanese script (a descendant of Baybayin and Badlit??), this means that writing was already here, its just that we were not writing our history yet and perhaps maybe limited to a few. All we can do is infer that. There is just not a lot of concrete proof that survived with the exception of the Laguna copperplate.

      After much all of what I wrote, I hope I did not bore you to death and the others too. I would much prefer to call the country as Bisaya, not Philippines, I would rather be called a Bisayan than a Filipino. Being called after a Spanish monarch symbolizes slavery and subservience to Spain. To be called Bisaya is to be a freeman an honorable warrior. Why should the country be called Bisaya? The rest of the languages here are variants of Bisaya.

  10. Dr. Warfe, thank you very much for all the input. We appreciate he hearing or reading all these information that are helpful to trace our roots.

  11. For anyone who wants to display Baybayin/Badlit on any website go to this site it converts it for you.

    ᜇᜒᜌᜓᜈ᜔ᜇᜒᜌᜒ ᜋᜎᜐ

  12. if you really want to use the baybayin/badlit fonts on your keyboard directly please download the keyboard layouts here

    but FIRST read the instructions here

    below is a sample of my badlit in Cebuano

    ᜃᜓᜅ᜔ ᜄᜓᜐ᜔ᜆᜓ ᜋᜓ ᜋᜓᜄᜋᜒᜆ᜔ ᜂᜄ᜔ ᜊᜇ᜔ᜎᜒᜆ᜔ ᜐ ᜁᜈᜌᜓᜅ᜔ keyboard ᜀᜇ᜔ᜆᜓ ᜎᜅ᜔ ᜐ ᜀᜈᜒ ᜅ ᜐᜁᜆ᜔᜵ ᜂᜈ᜔ᜌ ᜁᜇᜏ᜔ᜈ᜔ᜎᜓᜇ᜔ ᜎᜅ᜔ ᜉᜓᜇ᜔ ᜑ

    ᜂᜐ ᜈᜒᜈ᜔ᜌᜓ ᜁᜈ᜔ᜐ᜔ᜆᜓᜎ᜔ ᜊᜐᜑ ᜉᜓᜇ᜔ ᜀᜅ᜔ ᜁᜈ᜔ᜐ᜔ᜆ᜔ᜍᜃ᜔ᜐᜒᜂᜈ ᜇᜒᜍᜒ

    ᜃᜓᜅ᜔ ᜄᜓᜐ᜔ᜆᜓ ᜉᜓᜇ᜔ ᜋᜓ ᜂᜄ᜔ ᜉ᜔ᜑ᜔ᜂᜈ᜔ᜆ᜔ ᜇᜏ᜔ᜈ᜔ᜎᜓᜇ ᜇᜒᜍᜒ

  13. mabuhi ang mga visaya! nangandoy sa usa ca nasud visayano, ug kini acun guidagnaian ug ” uo’s aguila ” cai cun imong lantauon ang mapa sa filipinas ug coloran ang tibuok tribo visaya guican sa luzon, visayas ug mindanao, mulutau ang usa ca imahe sa aguila, ang ulo niini maoy imo’ng maquita….suwaie aron mapamatud’an….

  14. […] Via Deviantart Source […]

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