Cabalen, balu me ba ing Kulitan? (Cabalen, do you know Kulitan?). Kulitan is the way of writing of indigenous Kapampangans in Central Luzon. Aspiring users of different writing systems aside from their own such as Hangul (Korea), Hiragana or Katakana (Japan), and Cyrillic (Russia) know the perplexity of learning a new means of writing because there is still the major fact that you would have to fully learn the language in order to incorporate the writing method. Although Kapampangans speak their language daily, there are only a few nowadays that know and use the Kulitan script and boost in recognition is just necessary to prevent the risk of it just existing in our history.
There is an old folklore that tells the story of how Kulitan originated from Apung Sinukwan, sun god of war and death in Pampanga believed to still live on Mount Arayat until today, and taught it to Kapampangans. The precise origin of Kulitan is unresolved but it resembles some South Asian script and the version that some people use today is actually already a modernized one.
Direction of Writing
Kulitan is read vertically from top to bottom and from right to left. If you are a reader of Japanese manga, then this manner is not a new thing to you and you can easily read the script that way. In the Philippines, Kulitan is currently the only ancient script that is read this way. It is said that its is written this way so that it follows the way that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Relevance in History
When Spanish colonization began in the Philippines, the use of Kulitan was already rapidly declining. But it was revived and was used as a weapon against the colonizers as Kapampangan writers led by Aurelio Tolentino wrote anti-Spanish propaganda in Kulitan during the Philippine Revolution in 1896. Later on, it was also used to make anti-American propaganda in the Philippine-American War.
Institute for Kapampangan studies Executive Director Michael Pangilinan shares that HUKBALAHAP used Kulitan to communicate with each other and send secret messages during the Spanish era.
Recent Efforts for Revival
Since the start of its decline in the 19th century, it is without question that this just continues to drop even with a few efforts for revival. There are still a few others today that recognize the Kulitan Script and promote its existence to prevent it from dying out. To give an opportunity to those who want to learn how to read and write Kulitan, the Institute for Kapampangan research offers free workshops for Advanced Kulitan Classes and accepts enrollees through their email at [email protected].
With a world ran by modern technology and with people needing their devices with them all the time, University of the Philippines Los Banos graduate Keith Liam Manaloto spreads the existence of through people’s devices by his self-developed “Learn Kulitan” app that teaches people how to read and write in Kulitan.
There are other writing systems as well, although Baybayin is the recognized national writing system. Kulitan, among others, is a reminder of the wide cultural diversity in the Philippines but these language systems allow the locals of each area to cultivate and flourish their culture. The dying of a language or a writing system brings with it a huge fraction of their culture as well. Filipinos, especially Kapampangans, must give effort to learn it so that it will still survive for hundreds of years more for future generations to see the rich history of Kapampangans.