Kulitan : The Indigenous Pampango Script

by Rio Sebastian

If you grew up in the Tagalog-speaking regions of the Philippines, chances are, you have only ever heard of Baybayin as the country’s traditional writing script. But in fact, there are a lot more indigenous scripts that existed long before the Spanish occupation. One of them is Kulitan or Sulat Kapampangan, a native script of the people of Pampanga. While Baybayin is used only by the Tagalog-speaking people, Kulitan is only used for Kapampangan Language.

I do not speak Kapampangan at all. But growing up in a nearby province, in the same region (Central Luzon) afforded me the knowledge of a few words and phrases, some of which might have already been a bit bastardized. I have only found out that some of the words that I was speaking were in fact Kapampangan, and not Tagalog at all when I started studying in Manila and some of my classmates would give me quizzical looks when I say such words as matsura (ugly) or mabulok (stinky). I even used to have the Kapampangan accent, and had the habit of adding “neh” at the end of each sentence when I spoke.

What I wrote in the script in the image below is the Kapampangan saying, “Isulak pámû báng ábálû“. When I was a kid, I wrongfully thought I heard people saying, “Sulak pamu para balu“. This is something you say when you are daring somebody to try and have a go with you in some kind of fight (friendly, or not), at least that’s what it meant where I grew up in. But according to Mike Pangilinan, Kulitan expert, the expression translates to “Let’s bring it to a boil and we’ll find out”, which might not actually that far from what I thought it meant. 🙂

Trying my hand at writing in Kulitan — the script is written top-down, right-left. I find the experience very therapeutic.

I have to admit that I have fallen in-love with how beautiful and graceful the script is. In fact, it looks aesthetically more pleasing than Baybayin, in my opinion. I have tried my hand at it using a goat hair calligraphy brush and found the writing experience extremely therapeutic.

If you would like to know more about Kulitan, you can check out the video below, and check out the facebook group containing posts and useful resources.

Also, I find this article about the famous lullaby (at least I thought it was a mere lullaby when I was a kid), Atin Ku Pung Singsing very insightful and enlightening.

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