In elementary, our teachers briefly introduced us to Baybayin or Alibata as part of our Civics subject. Apart from that, we’ve never really encountered that form of traditional Filipino script in our everyday lives. And some people are trying to change that, including calligraphy artist Taipan Lucero.
As part of his graphic design work in a Japanese company, he was required to learn about Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) “to understand its artistic aesthetics and philosophies.” Japan’s appreciation of its own culture inspired Taipan to do the same with our own culture. In 2016, he started teaching himself Baybayin and came up with his own style of calligraphy, which he calls CalligraFilipino.
He has collaborated on multiple projects with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to heighten his advocacy. Young STAR got to talk with him about the importance of keeping Baybayin alive and his opinions on national font arguments.
YOUNG STAR: We don’t see Baybayin in calligraphy as a form of visual art that often. What were people’s reactions to your early renditions?
Before transitioning into fine art, I used my background in branding and graphic design to create modern Baybayin designs. My first digital artwork, “Adarna,” used Baybayin letters formed into the shape of a bird. By creating an entry point that intersects common knowledge (Adarna) and obscure knowledge (Baybayin), a lot of people were intrigued.
In that sense, because Baybayin is still quite obscure, the only chance I have to attract attention is by creating striking visuals. That is why I try to make designs that might be considered aesthetically “cool.” Thankfully, people were very receptive. This is something new that they can rally behind because it is part of who they are.
Artist Taipan Lucero created his own style of calligraphy called CalligraFilipino to spread awareness about Baybayin.
Can you describe where and how you get inspiration for your work?
I get inspiration from our culture. One of my main aesthetic influences comes from intricate precolonial jewelry designs. I first saw them in “Gold of Our Ancestors,” a permanent exhibit in the Ayala Museum that showcases how our ancestors lived in a rich — because of the abundance in gold and because of our diverse culture — society.
Other major influences include the Ifugao fertility charm called Lingling-o, the curvilinear motif of the Maranao called Okir, the Sarimanok, our rich weaving traditions, the Kulintang, basically anything of cultural significance that I may incorporate into my work. CalligraFilipino artworks promote Baybayin and, at the same time, promote our rich culture.
Some argue that Baybayin shouldn’t be our national “font” since there are other Filipino scripts out there. What’s your opinion on that?
This is why I refer to my art and advocacy as “CalligraFilipino,” instead of “Baybayin Calligraphy.” I want it to be inclusive and open, instead of promoting what some call “Tagalog imperialism” or “Manila imperialism.” This is because some say Baybayin is primarily for and from the Tagalogs. It is a complex and touchy subject. If we are to implement a national writing system, we need a consensus that promotes inclusion and unity.
One of Taipan’s influences comes from intricate pre-colonial jewelry designs.
Baybayin seems to be slowly finding its way into our everyday lives, i.e. movie posters, street signs, Instagram shops selling Baybayin necklaces, etc. Why is it important to keep it alive?
Our writing scripts are important because they are part of our culture and identity. They complement our language. They serve as proof of the literacy of our ancestors. They are a medium for connection.
By keeping our scripts alive, we are celebrating who we are.
August is Buwan ng Wika, which is usually celebrated by students in schools. How do you think young adults can celebrate Buwan ng Wika in the real world?
A good way to celebrate is to participate in Buwan ng Wika events. This year, I personally organized a CalligraFilipino talk and workshop to spread my art and advocacy. Last year, I had my very first CalligraFilipino art exhibit at the NCCA in Intramuros.
Follow @taipanlucero on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.