By Red Constantino
Kristian Kabuay was in town the other week. In fact, he had been around for a while before we had a chance to meet up, and meet up we did, thanks to his aunt, Mitzi Duque Ruiz. A scholar and artist, Kabuay created the cover art for Agam, in fine calligraphy that spelled out in stylized Baybayin the title of the book. Kristian had a full Philippine itinerary when he arrived in March. He did a live painting and exhibit at the Manila Collectible event in Intramuros on the 29th, and from April 9 to 11 he was in Lingayen, Pangasinan to attend the First Baybayin Summit at the Sison Auditorium. We met up for a few drinks at Fred’s – saan pa! – where Kristian talked about his work and the people he met while he was here. He also signed a few copies of the book in gorgeous Baybayin, one of which can be yours if you want it. Baybayin comes from the word “baybay”, which literally means “spell”. Baybayin is a pre-Filipino indigenous system of writing. Kristian is a self-taught artist influenced by calligraphy, graffiti, abstract art, indigenous culture, technology and Asian writing systems. As a leading authority for the propagation and instruction of the Philippine script, he developed a modern performance style of the writing system called Tulang Kalis (Poetry of the Sword) and introduced it as Filipino Calligraphy with a series of live demonstrations and lectures at the Asian Art Museum in October 2012. Kristian has spoken at numerous schools and institutions such as Stanford University, UC Berkeley, SF State University, UC Davis, Sonoma State, University of the Philippines, the National Anthropology Museum of Madrid, Tokyo University, and the San Francisco Philippine Consulate.
For Agam, he writes the book’s title in “modern” calligraphy and in traditional Baybayin. What appears on the cover is actually “A-Ga-M” – a blend of traditional and modern techniques. Traditionally, “Agam” would have been written as “A-Ga”, as generally, consonants without vowels were dropped. For this artwork, Kristian uses a modern vowel cancellation technique by the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe from Mindoro to cancel out the last character, “M”. The more traditional script (“A-Ga”) can be found on the back cover. Thanks for dropping by, Kristian. We hope to see you again when we launch Agam this coming August in Berkeley and Denver.