Guro Inosanto always shared with us that it was the martial artists, the warriors who protected the culture. He once commented that any culture that exists today, only exists because there were warriors there to preserve it. And as long as I have known about Filipino Martial Arts, I knew that somewhere in that culture and history, existed the ancient script. Like anting-anting, like the hidden meanings in the dances and like the tatak tattoos on the warriors, Baybayin was always encoded in the movements of Kali. Guro Inosanto told us about his teachers that had to “write” the characters in the air with their sticks, that became their amara (movements, or combinations). The lines were fluid, with sharp direction changes and dots to represent thrusts. The characters were in Guro’s Filipino Martial Arts emblem, and they were part of the old Atienza Kali logo.
But while this “ancient script” lived through the many years (barely, at times) through Kali teachers, tattoos and scribblings in notebooks, it has only been in the past few years that certain individuals have really brought Baybayin out into the mainstream. While Kristian Kabuay may have almost singlehandedly revived interest in Baybayin here in the States, Jay Enage has been one of those leading the way in the land of it’s origin, The Philippines. His efforts alongside senators (including Manny Pacquiao) to bring Baybayin (sometimes still referred to as Alibata) into the national spotlight.
When he announced on Facebook that he would be selling his teacher’s book, I reached out to inquire how I could purchase here in Baltimore. It just so happened that he was visiting at the time! So after a few messages back and forth, I found myself a guest in his relatives’ home and hospitality to interview.