The Baybayin Class
Baybayin is an ancient script used by Filipinos long before the Spaniards came. Known to many as alibata, which was then a misnomer, Baybayin is the evidence of literacy of ancient Filipinos even before learning the Roman alphabet. Like our Asian counterparts, we have our own writing system, only we forgot using them. Recently, some groups have been engaged in reviving this culture of writing. A study on its origin was conducted by Boni Commandante, and the flowing strokes of Baybayin letters were found to be inspired by taklobo or giant clams.
I had my first Baybayin class more than a week ago. Although I was introduced to Baybayin through a fellow meditator in a retreat two years ago, I had never been taught of it until recently. In the first part of the lecture, Reimon Cosare, our Baybayin teacher, gave us a brief history of Baybayin and interesting information never mentioned on my high school and college history classes. In the latter part of the class, Mini Gavino facilitated the activity and asked us to meditate for a few minutes, allowing the Filipino word to emerge as an insight and write them in Baybayin symbols. I closed my eyes for a while. I saw the word, but I was quite surprised. Why this word?, I asked. I hesitated at first, because the word has heavy connotations. Nonetheless, I was intuitively inspired and eventually shared my insights to the group.
In English, when you say “fresh” it means something new, cool and alive, at least for food or any other stuff. But in Tagalog, the word sariwa has a different impact, aside from its original meaning. The moment I said this word, my fellow participants laughed out loud. Well, for most Filipinos the word means a bit sexual, particularly on virginity, and this has something to do with the 1990s erotic films and tabloid erotica which popularized this word in their titles and narratives. And this is why I initially hesitated. But the word has revealed itself in a fresher way.
Above are the Baybayin symbols of the word sariwa. Each symbol represents a syllable, so the script reads SA-RI-WA. When I saw this in my mind’s eye, I heard the shift of the sound RI into DI. As a common rule, the sounds ra and da are commonly interchanged, similar to the Filipino words such as “marami” or “madami” (many) and “rinig” or “dinig” (hear). Hence, sariwa becomes SA-DI-WA. What is the important significance of this change? When the syllables RI-WA becomes DI-WA, it tells me a new story.
Whatever comes from the true source is always fresh. Whatever comes from Love is always anew and renewed.
Diwa is a word that denotes spirit or soul. It comes from deva, a Sanskrit word early Indians ascribed to any god or deity. In Filipino it has a plethora of meanings, and may be associated with terms such as consciousness and life. What is divine is something invisible, yet an energy that animates all in the universe. Essentially, this is what diwa reveals. Diwa is the source of energy and life, and it has been associated with the invisible beingness like God, a source of blessing and truth. Whereas the prefix sa- denotes a prepositional meaning, which could either be from, with or to. But since sariwa often describes something freshly harvested, from maybe the most appropriate. Therefore, sariwa gives a new meaning through that process of intuitive decoding. Anything this word describes literally means “fresh from the source”.
From the Source
“What comes to your mind when you hear the word sariwa?” This is an appropriately Filipino question, and as people of the islands and the seas there is one thing that all of us unanimously agree: sariwa always describes a fish. Why fish? A fresh catch comes directly from the source, the sea or the ocean. It is the staple food of coastal people, the life-giving matter that sustains their everyday lives. A freshly caught fish is highly valuable and seen as a sought-after edible treasure. The ocean is the provider of the fish, and thus, presumably, it is the ocean that symbolizes the diwa, the god, the source. The powerful inspiring rabbi of the whole Christendom, long before associated with a cross, had once symbolized by a fish. I would always see Christ as a symbol of Love, and the fish, as a symbol of Christ, can also symbolize Love.
I am grateful for Baybayin as a new word intuitive tool and a reminder of my cultural roots. And more importantly, I am grateful for the word sariwa for bringing me its new meaning. As remarked by a fellow participant, the meaning of sariwa jumps from the profane to the profound. The word sariwa brings us now a new meaning of Love, fresh from the source. Whatever comes from the true source is always fresh. Whatever comes from Love is always anew and renewed.