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Kulitan: The Ancient Kapampangan Alphabet

We, Kapampangans, take pride in our dialect so much so that we have even made viral Facebook posts about it. Buwan ng Wika is an occasion that encourages such pride— it is a time when Filipinos get together and celebrate a special aspect of our culture: language.

In line with this, it is important to look back and learn the story behind this aspect as it plays a huge role in our daily communication. In Pampanga, we had a unique way of communicating written messages to people— an ancient text that has long been in use even before the Spanish colonization. It is called “Kulitan”.

An old folklore has it that Apung Sinukwan taught this Kapampangan alphabet to the people but, today, it is hardly being used.

According to Institute for Kapampangan studies Executive Director Michael Pangilinan, Kulitan came from the word ‘Kulit’ which means ‘guhit’. Similarly, the process of writing on the bamboo skin is called ‘Kulit’, hence, the name Kulitan. Compared to the presently-used alphabet, Kulitan has less characters and they were written vertically to follow how the sun rises.

Pangilinan shares that Kulitan was used by the HUKBALAHAP to communicate secret messages to each other and many have also used it for the same reason during the Spanish era.

Unfortunately, like all other ancient texts, there are only a few historical documents about Kulitan left and most of them are preserved in the University of Sto. Thomas. However, many artists still value such writing system as it can still be found in various tattoos, paintings, artworks and even in mall signboards.

“Studying Kulitan is not just for yourself, but to preserve it so it will not be forgotten,” Marcelo Lacap, a young user of Kulitan, said.

Lacap started learning Kulitan when he was just nine years old. He is just one of the many patriotic Kapampangans who yearn to preserve our roots. This buwan ng wika, we must remember the significance of ancient artifacts for, like language, they are a part of we are as a Filipino.

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