Kulitan is the Kapampángan indigenous writing system, which has been passed down from generation to generation. Kulitan, or Súlat Kapampángan came from the concept of pamagkulit, or engraving. Sadly, only a handful of Kapampángans know about its existence and even fewer know how to write it.
I knew about Kulitan a few years back, looking at some random Facebook posts showcasing the script through some tattoo art. Back then, I just thought that it was… interesting to say the least. So, in my brief digital encounter with it, I believed the “like” reaction on the post would suffice.
Fast forward to today, I’ve attended a total of four basic Kulitan classes, and could understand and write the script with little to no supervision. And more than pride or a newfound sense of confidence over the knowledge of a new script, a feeling of surprise prevailed.
Surprise because of how naturally easy it is to learn the script. The average Kapampángan will be able to learn the script in as little as two hours, and a few weeks (or perhaps even days) to master. This relative “ease” of learning can be due to several reasons. But perhaps the reason why it’s easy for Kapampángans to learn Kulitan is that they’re inherently meant to learn it.
But where is this newfound love of an ancient script leading to? Is there a true benefit to learning a script only a handful of people know? With globalization constantly on the rise and massive improvements on communication technology steadily blurring the lines between countries and cultures, how crucial is it for Kapampángans to learn this supposedly dying script?
Many scholars believe that a civilization has an advanced way of living when it is able to develop a writing system of its own. Kulitan is a manifestation of our advanced way of living in the past. Ironically however, apart from foreign rule, it is the Kapampángans themselves who choose to turn a blind eye to this, saying it has no economic or mental value in the modern world. It is also the Kapampángans themselves who choose not to speak their language, or pass it down to the younger generation.
And yet, the interest for writing Kulitan and learning the language grows daily…
The Sinupan Singsing: Center for Kapampángan Cultural Heritage has been regularly holding basic Kulitan classes since mid-2018, allowing more and more Kapampángans to learn the ancient script.
Perhaps this newfound knowledge of the old world would pave the way for Kapampángans to have a renewed sense of pride and vigor in preserving, not only the endangered Kapampángan language, but also traditions and practices that may have been long forgotten.
Over the years, Kulitan has also been used in several applications. The Newpoint Mall in Angeles City has pillars with the Kulitan script on them. The Clark International Airport also has the words “Luid Ka” (Long Live) written in a rolled parchment hung in one of the walls at the airport’s arrival lounges.
Several t-shirt makers, such as Wear Kapampángan and INDÛ, have integrated the script in several of their shirt designs, while local tattoo artists engrave the Kulitan script to individuals who’d like to embody the tradition and culture permanently on their skins. Clearly, learning Kulitan has its economic benefits. It is up to its people to be creative in its use and application. If the average advertiser or marketing professional can easily use English and the Roman script to sell their products and services, why not use Kulitan? It is OUR script, after all.
Sinupan is also working with the City College of Angeles, in partnership with Smart Communications Inc., to develop a Kulitan app for children, allowing children as young as three, as well as their parents, to learn the basics of writing Kulitan.
The same organization is currently working with the local government to establish Kulitan as an official script that would be seen in the city streets of Angeles. Street signs, directional markers, public facilities, and names of government agencies etched on their building facades will have the Kulitan script written, alongside their usual English names.
On the grander scheme of things, in 2017, the Angeles City Council passed an ordinance establishing Kapampángan as the official language of Angeles City, which aims to institutionalize its use in all sectors.
The Philippine Congress is also working on House Bill 1022, which will soon aim to preserve not only Baybayin, the Tagalog ancient script, but other traditional writings systems, including Kulitan. And yes, before you ask, Kulitan isn’t simply a Kapampángan version of Baybayin. They’re two, different writing systems that come from two completely different languages.
As the interest to preserving and protecting languages and scripts begins to reach the national level, it is up to the Kapampángans to realize the value of their own language and their own traditions, allowing them to enrich their appreciation of their roots, and rediscover their identities as Kapampángans.
Learn more about Kulitan by reading Mike Pangilinan’s blog at http://siuala.com/kulitan-the-indigenous-kapampangan-script/
If you’re interested to learn the Kulitan script, you can follow the Sinupan Singsing Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sinupan.singsing/ for schedules for basic Kulitan classes.