The Gagarit Abada—the phrase is equivalent to “Gagarit ABC”—was created by Dr. Modh Zakaria Ilyas (or Sian bin Langgoi) in the 1970s as a way of writing his native language, Kadazandusun, spoken in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia.
Omniglot writes: “The word Gagarit comes from the word garit (to scratch, to bruise), and Abada comes from the first three letters of the Kadazandusun alphabet (a, b, d).”
Farouk Azim writes:
My friend, Jilorisa, from the Kadazandusun community, says that only a handful of the Kadazandusun community know of its existence and even lesser know how to read and write it.
Generally people view “recently created” scripts as just waste of time compared to “ancient” scripts that would signify (in their minds) that their culture or community has always been highly intelligent since before modern times.
Especially in Malaysia, we tend to feel very inferior as most of the ancient scripts in Southeast Asia lie in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, etc. In West Malaysia, most people only pride themselves to have the Jawi script (or Malayo-Arabic script) but there’s not really a fully developed unrelated script in the country other than Gangga Malayu and the Iban/Dunging script.
The Sabah Cultural Board recently acknowledged the script in 2021 through a Zoom webinar with the creator, Dr Mohd Zakaria Ilyas about the reality and future of the script: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxQrIqvQBoI
Unfortunately, Dr Mohd Zakaria Ilyas passed away on the 9th of June 2023. Therefore, the future of the script is uncertain.
At the moment, as I am a part of the Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia, I am trying to work with Jilorisa and other members of the Kadazandusun community to hopefully rejuvenate and improve the script as requested by Dr Mohd Zakaria Ilyas in his webinar by making systematic modifications and enhancements as well as making use of Wikimedia’s projects such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary to highlight the script and encourage its use for the future.
For Gagarit Abada, I have devised a newer system that uses mostly the same glyphs but written in a Hangul/Korean style system as they have similar shapes and allows for the long words of the Kadazandusun language to look shorter when written. Currently I am in the process of refining to make it more space-saving and creating a font or mockup of the font to be presented to the community. But my friend Jilorisa is enthusiastic about the script so far. She is part of the teachers’ institute in Sabah for teaching Kadazandusun and is also part of the Wiki Club in the institute, so we will be working together with the club and possibly another university with students studying the language in hopes of reaching an agreement on the script. But everything is still in the early stages so only time will tell.
This is a rough arrangement of the modified version of the script. The title reads “New Gagarit Abada”. For now I’m using it to teach some of my friends to see if they can learn it easily. But I was encouraged to write a full study on developing the script, so maybe it might take some time but hopefully with the study, I could convince the larger community associations to recognize the script and make it official.