Tagbanwa, also known as Apurahuano, is one of the writing systems of the Philippines used by the Tagbanwa people of as their ethnic writing system and script. The Tagbanwa languages, with about 8,000-25,000 total speakers in the central and northern regions of Palawan, are dying out as the younger generations of Tagbanwa are learning and using non-traditional languages, such as Cuyonon and Tagalog, thus becoming less knowledgeable of their own indigenous cultural heritage.
James Aljed Gonzales wrote to the Endangered Alphabets: “I am the facilitator of the Katutubo Exchange School of living Traditions for Surat Tagbanwa. I am a mixed of Tagbanwa and Dewan (or non-Tagbanwa). My interest in our ancient writing started when I was a kid but I did not observed [the script] in our community. In year 2015, Mrs. Jasmin Tito Llavan and I learned the Surat Tagbanwa from Sergio Sangpet, the only remaining script practitioner that we know in our community. Since then, we keep on studying the Surat Tagbanwa. The writing is no longer being taught today, so with the initiative of the Katutubo Exchange founder Dr. Edwin Antonio we hope that our ancient writing will be revitalized.”
Other traditional scripts of the Philippines, he pointed out, have their advocates and ambassadors, but “The Surat Tagbanwa is lesser known and left behind in terms of revitalizing the ancient writing. A formal instruction on basic writing of the Surat Tagbanwa is one of the immediate solutions that must be given prior attention and support. Thus, the support from community and concerned agencies are vital in revitalizing the ancient writing. We aim that the community might be able to restore the use of script, to use it in writing the “uyman” (the Tagbanwa chant), to use the script in local signage, printings, etc. that is why, a support in making a primer for Surat Tagbanwa is also needed.
In July 2023 he added, “I conducted writing workshops for Indigenous youth, elders, and university students. Although my activities have been stopped for a while, there are some few developments in terms of awareness and promotion, primarily upon talking with our local culture and arts committee. Recently, the local government together with the national government representatives installed a national marker in our municipality citing the 1997 presidential proclamation of the ancient script as one of the national cultural treasures.
“Also, I am happy to say that some local artists and a tutee of mine also incorporated the script into their artworks. Many have become more aware of the ancient script, especially our local government unit. They are promoting the script by incorporating it into our local booth and float parade during the provincial festival. Also, they print it into some items such as lanyards, and sports attire.”
“Right now, I am planning to have more consultative meetings with the community, local leaders, elders, and the youth. Also, I plan to talk to the principal of our elementary and secondary public schools here so I could teach more students, especially the Tagbanwa learners. I developed a simple coloring book, entitled Buluntung or `Rainbow,’ with a writing worksheet for young and old. I plan to reproduce more copies, once I do more consultations about it.“
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