Baybayin Calligraphy

Jimma and I are planning to get tattoos this February. I’m not quite sure she’ll pull through with it considering she’s never had a tattoo before and getting your first tattoo is both overwhelming and filled with pressure. There’s always the doubts:

Will I still love my tattoo after a decade? It’s permanent! Will I regret this later on?

It’s understandable. I went through a similar stage before. Thing is, I still knew I wanted a tattoo and, three years after I got my first one, I still love my tattoos. I can’t imagine having it any other way. I think it helped that I resolved to only have tattoos that I designed myself. That way, it’s more personal and meaningful.

In fact, the more I get tattoos, the more excited I am to design more and look for more design inspirations!

This is how I came to decide I wanted a baybayin tattoo for myself. I’ve always been fascinated by baybayin since it’s a purely Filipino heritage. It’s the traditional form of writing way before the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish. It’s actually considered a dying form of art and writing because it was usually documented on tree barks and leaves in ancient times.

Fortunately, more and more people – especially Filipinos – are learning to appreciate this beautiful form of ancient writing.

Unfortunately, several people wrongly assume that baybayin is called alibata.

I’ve always known that I’ve wanted a baybayin tattoo, I just didn’t have a lot of inspiration back then.

One night, while chatting with friends, I decided to just idly doodle my favorite Filipino word, “Tala” (Star), in baybayin then asked my friends for feedback.

They all loved it!

Pretty soon, Jimma asked me to design a baybayin tattoo for her. She wanted me to design one after the word, “Laya” which meant “freedom”.

Naturally, I felt the pressure of making a baybayin design that could potentially be someone’s tattoo – a lifetime commitment!  I had no problem designing for my body…but for someone else? I didn’t really know if anyone would want my artwork, let alone have it inked. Even if a friend requested for it, there’s the building pressure to create something she’ll appreciate enough to permanently have on her skin.

So, I tried designing one for Jimma.

Then, I had so much fun designing that I went right ahead and redesigned it:

I actually prefer the second one, but Jimma loved the first design and asked me to make a thinner version of it so that it could be inked much smaller and would look more feminine. Also, discreet tattoos are cute.

I even went right ahead and designed one for Myra – “Likha” (Create) which is perfect for her since she’s one of the most creative people I know.

For Jennie, “Ulan” (rain). She’s always loved the rain and has already inked the baybayin on her back. She asked me to design one for her so she could have another artwork for her collection:

And for my brother, “Liwanag” (Light), which is funny since he’s the most gloomy person I know. He even reversed my artwork on his cover photo and titled it “Ang pagbaliktad sa liwanag” (Reversing the brightness).

I event went right ahead and redesigned “Tala” because I felt like it. This design will be what I’ll have inked this February.

I’m on a roll. I’m actually enjoying this and I think I would be making more calligraphy work in the future! It’s so much fun! It’s also a great way to get in touch with our pre-colonial Filipino culture!

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