Ancient Philippine scripts are systems of writing that developed and flourished in the Philippine islands in about 300 BC. These scripts are related to other Southeast Asian systems of writing that developed from South Indian Brahmi scripts used in Asoka Inscriptions and Pallava Grantha, a type of writing used in the writing of palm leaf books called grantha during the ascendancy of the Pallava dynasty about the 5th century.
Isaac Taylor sought to show that the system of writing, particularly the Baybayin script, was introduced into the Philippines from the Coast of Bengal sometime before the 8th century. In attempting to show such relationship, Taylor presented graphic representations of Kistna and Assam letters like g, k, ng, t, m, h, and u, which resemble the same letters in Baybayin.
Fletcher Gardner argued that the Philippine scripts have “very great similarity” with the Asoka alphabets. T. H. Pardo de Tavera supported Gardner’s view, and he also wrote that “the ancient Filipino alphabets have resemblance with the characters of the Asokan inscriptions.” David Diringer, accepting the view that the alphabets of the Indonesian archipelago have their origins from India, opined that these, particularly that which is used in the Ci-Aruton inscriptions of the West Javan rajah, King Purnavarman, constituted the earliest types of Philippine syllabic writing. These according to Diringer were brought to the Islands through the Buginese characters in Celebes. The script would fall within the middle of the 5th century.
The Dravidian influence on the ancient Filipino scripts was obviously of Tamil origin,” wrote V. A. Makarenko, in proposing another view on the origin of Philippine scripts. Based primarily on the work of H. Otley Beyer, this theory argues that these scripts reached the Philippines via the last of the “six waves of migration that passed through the Philippine archipelago from the Asian continent about 200 BC,” constituting the Malayans and Dravidians, “primarily the Tamil from Malaya and the adjacent territories and from Indonesia and South India as well.”
The early Filipinos wrote on many different materials; leaves, palm fronds, tree bark and fruit rinds, but the most common material was bamboo. The writing tools or panulat were the points of daggers or small pieces of iron. Once the letters were carved into the bamboo, it was wiped with ash to make the characters stand out more. Sharpened splits of bamboo were used with coloured plant saps to write on more delicate materials such as leaves.
Much earlier writing techniques were also devised by early Filipinos, dating 900 AD. The Philippine copperplate was inscribed by hammering the letters onto the metal using a sharp instrument. The letters show closely joined and overlapping dots from the hammering.