FFE Magazine

Filipino Alphabet (Alpabetong Filipino)

The Filipino alphabet is the alphabet of the Filipino language. It consists of 28 letters including the 26-letter set of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) basic Latin alphabet. Due to 300 years of colonial rule under the Spanish, the Spanish Ñ and the Ng have also been embedded in the Filipino alphabet.




Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century, the natives of the Philippine islands were already using Alibata or baybayin (Read our Alibata tutorial here), an ancient writing script. The natives used this to communicate and document their laws and legends.



When the Spaniards arrived, they were actually impressed with the natives. They considered the pre-colonial Filipinos highly civilized due to their literacy rate since almost all natives knew how to read and write in Alibata or baybayin. Some of the Spaniards learned Alibata to communicate with the natives but in time, it was deemed unnecessary.



Although the Spanish friars were decreed to teachSpanish to the natives, the friars did not implement this as they saw an opportunity to maintain power. By leaving the natives in the dark – clueless about the Spanish language – the friars could keep them subservient.



The natives easily adopted and learned the foreign tongue and the Roman alphabet though as the Filipinos became more assimilated intoSpanish culture. They also found that reading and writing in Spanish was a way to climb the economic and social ladder of that era. Because of this, the Filipinos became neglectful of their own alphabet and writing script. Eventually, Alibata was forgotten.



When the Americans arrived in the Philippines, Spanish was replaced with the English language. This affected the Filipino way of reading and writing mainly because English was then used as the official medium of instruction in all schools. The Roman alphabet then became norm.



During the 1930s, the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status and the Abakada was developed. The Abakada was a local alphabet that represented the sounds in the Tagalog language. It consisted of five vowels and fifteen consonants (twenty letters).



ABAKADA = a, ba, ka, da, e, ga, ha, i, la, ma, na, nga, o, pa, ra, sa, ta




a, b, k, d, e, g, h, i, l, m,  n, ng, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y



In 1976, the Philippine government revised the alphabet and added the letters c, ch, f, j, ll, ñ, q, rr, v, x and z. The addition of these letters acknowledged the influence and existence of many English and Spanish derived words in the Filipino vocabulary.



They called this Pinagyamang Alpabeto (Enriched Alphabet). In 1987, the official Filipino alphabet totaled to twenty-eight letters and was instituted as Ang Makabagong Alpabetong Filipino (The Modern Filipino Alphabet)



Ang Makabagong Alpabetong Filipino (The Modern Filipino Alphabet)

  20 letters of the abakada + 8 letters from the Spanish alphabet (c, f, j,  ñ, q, v,  x, z)

= a,  b,  c,  d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ñ, ng, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, x, y, z



Today, the Filipino alphabet is used as one of the official medium of instruction at schools and Universities as well as businesses.







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