Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Eskaya

I first encountered Hector Santos's Philippine Leaf website about 10 or 11 years ago (man does time fly!). I don't remember seeing his page about the Eskaya script, though. Just recently, a fellow Wikipedia editor brought to my attention an article she has been working on about the Eskayas of Bohol and their language.

She also sent me a URL of a blog here on Blogspot with pictures of a person's trip to visit the Eskaya in Bohol. The photos by Perez Sez really caught my interest. They show the Eskayan script being used in everyday Eskaya life. The skeptical side of me wonders if these are real or doctored photographs, but I am leaning towards believing they're real barring any future research on them. The photographs are amazing, though.

According to Santos, the Eskaya claim their language is not related to any other. A look at the script reveals that there are a lot of consonant clusters (ble chda bro cro) which are not characteristic of most other Philippine languages. As a matter of fact, it reminds me of Tboli and Blaan with their unusual clusters in words like sdo (fish), kdaw (day), mkik (cry), and tnilos (to cut meat).

I tried deciphering the script so I can see if there are any relations to other languages, but it was rather confusing. Fortunately, one of the photos have some Romanized Eskaya which reads:

Samnet yo Bantilar
Samnat yo aantilac, Datong con bathala ya abeya chda cloper meboy siewes, menti chdi loning ya moy beresagui samnat eela-bolto, gona yonoy dolerkido.
bentod ya hondo yel moy sebar, chda adniam yel kenampay.
Ediac este mesesabla lo-o ya bac robas cheti ri esto ebitangki chda laraker ???? ya droser ya ?? do-o moy sam tener-go y ?? chda carno ya lacya ya bohol.
Interesting. I cannot make out any words. It does not appear to be related to any of the languages I know. However, it does remind me of Tboli, as I said.

Back to the script. It seems rather random to me. The origins of the script are unknown. Frankly, I believe the script to have been created by someone who happened to look at writing from either Americans or Spaniards and simply stole the letters from there while assigning them totally different phonetic values. I see letters like A, R, d, f, O (which is pronounced the same in Eskaya!), and u. I also see the letters 2, 4, and 8. There are also groups of letters like iss, Das, go, gn, leA, led, Ath, and Aas. Then there are syllabic characters which resemble Greek letters (φ, γ), Cyrillic letters (э), and something that even resembles the Japanese hiragana syllabic character お!

(Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Do you know what this reminds me of? The Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah. He just took random letters from the Roman alphabet and gave them different sounds:

(Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

So was there an Eskayan version of Sequoyah? Hopefully more research can shed more light on this mystery.


jason said...

I am so delighted with your blog. Let me link you.

I am Jason Laxamana, a Kapampangan and language/culture enthusiast.

Right now, I am making a short Kapampangan film - purely kapampangan film from title, lines, and credits. You may take a preview of it here It's only a preview since it's not yet done.

You might also want to view this docu I made. While dealing more with culture and traditions, it also mentions the gradual death of the language (Inati) of the Aeta community in Montalban, Rizal.

Click here

Do you have any Kapampangan stuff that may interest me? Please do email them to me.

More power.

Kapampangan Blog

Anonymous said...


I am very happy to see this faces over the internet. (im referring to folks on the eskaya tribe). I knew all of them....

My name is Eliza Datahan Rodriguez, yes Datahan...sounds familiar to you? one of the grand daughters of the eskayan tribe which i am very proud of....

Right now i am in Australia....and im just so happy of your interest towards our heritage....

Thanks and more power...


Perez said...

Hi Eliza Datahan,
I am an Australian researcher of the Eskaya, now based in Western Australia. My home town is Melbourne. I have digital copies of Eskaya materials that I can make available to you if you would like. I am also building an archive of photos, digitised documents, family trees etc which you may wish to contribute to or access.
You can contact me via my blog at

eskaya said...

Hi Piers,

Just visited my folks in Biabas Guindulman Bohol. The place where eskaya tribe originates.

Just read your reply today on the blog. I am very much interested to share my knowledge about the tribe being one of them.

My residence in Australia is in melbourne. Will try to contact you through your site next week.



Perez said...

Melbourne is my home town too. I'll be there visiting in December '07, and hopefully again in March '08. My email
There is some possibility of depositing the digital Eskaya archive with a university server, but I will find out about that next year. My Boholana friend Kins Aparece is also living in Melbourne (she used to work in Tagbilaran City Hall.)

Anonymous said...

To Piers and Eliza,

I'm jun delos reyes, manager for sales and marketing for a travel agency in Bohol. And I've been searching for someone who can help me put in eskayan letters M.I.C.E as part of our corporate logo. We are featuring Bohol as a meeting and convention destination.

I'll appreciate very much if you can assist me in this.

More power and God Bless!


Perez said...

Hi Jun,
Just contact the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples service center which is at Rm 203 APL Building Belderol St, Cogon district. It's kinda diagonally opposite Marcela. You need to go upstairs. Ask Boy Amplayo to put you in contact with Colonel Datahan. I have the letters but it's an issue of protocol - I don't have permission to pass them on.

Perez said...

Also, I've started a facebook group so that I don't keep hijacking Chris' blog for Eskaya discussion :)
Just go to facebook and search 'Eskaya'. The group is called Eskaya Cultural Heritage. Please join!

Anonymous said...

hi sir, im remy baquisa from Taytay bohol. I am a proud member of eskaya tribe. May i just know if you have any digital copies of eskaya materials/ videos. i really need it as part of my report presentation in our school. if there is any, can i have a copy of it. kindly send it on my account ( im looking forward to it. thank you sir and God bless.