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The Eskaya Script

by Hector Santos
© 1996 by Hector Santos
All rights reserved.


The Eskaya of Bohol is an interesting group of people who claim to have direct connections to ancient kingdoms in Butuan, the island of Sumatra, and the Middle East. Although they appear to have very little cultural and physical differences with their neighbors, they still claim to be different. Inasmuch as there is a dearth of reliable information pertaining to this group I will summarize what is known about them— data that has come from only one man and which has not been verified against any other source for the simple reason that I have not found other sources.

Our source of information is Jes B. Tirol, who is affiliated with the University of Bohol in Tagbilaran, Bohol. Tirol had been able to get information because his father, Victoriano Tirol, Sr., was a trusted lawyer of one of the late leaders of the Eskaya society. In spite of his access to informants, Tirol acknowledges that some information is only made available via oral tradition to a few chosen people within the group. What we will be dealing with is "public" or open information that, while not necessarily secret, is not widely disseminated either.

Eskaya Books

What the Eskaya consider to be an official record of their civilization is contained in a few books (notebooks) which include Unang Katawhan sa Bohol (First People of Bohol) also known as Pinay, Rangman (encyclopedia), Simplet (dictionary), Abadeha (Origin of the Alphabet), Cuadra (Mechanics of the Alphabet), Atekesis (Botanical Knowledge), Daylinda (Romantic story of one chief), and Aritmetica (Arithmetic). The books are not dated so they could be anywhere from a few decades to a few centuries old. The Eskaya claim an ancient date for the books but the publishing date has not been verified. Suffice to say, everything we discuss has the attribute of “deniability.”

In view of the tremendous amount of fantastic information that can be gleaned from these Eskaya “books,” we have to limit ourselves mostly to the subject of the Eskaya script and their number system so we can have a mangeable topic. We will also discuss briefly how the Eskaya purportedly got into Bohol.

Eskaya roots

The first Eskaya to settle in Bohol was a certain soldier-king named Dangko. He was originally from Sumatra-Manselis. Dangko, his followers and his twelve children (eleven boys and one girl) left Sumatra for unknown reasons. They first settled in Hindangan, Lanao which is now Sindangan Bay, Zamboanga. Eventually, they moved on to Tambo, Talibon in Bohol. Succeeding generations settled other parts of Bohol.

The only daughter of Dangko married a chieftain of Butuan and spread Eskaya influence in that region according to their accounts.

No dates are given for any of these important Eskaya milestones. Whenever dates are mentioned, it is not clear what calendrical system they are referring to because the dates are inconsistent with any other calendar that we know of. They are also inconsistent relative to other dated events in their accounts. For instance, Jesus Christ was supposed to have been born in 677 and the reign of Sikatuna was supposed to have began in 1272. These dates are obviously inconsistent with everything we know about Sikatuna and Jesus Christ.

Writing system

The Eskaya writing system was devised by one man named Pinay. Again, there are no dates available for when this invention was developed. We reproduce on another page a chart showing a subset of the complete list of characters/symbols which is reported to number close to one thousand. This is what they look like:

Sample Script

What is obvious is that many symbols represent sounds which do not exist in Philippine languages or even most Austronesian languages. Consonant clusters within syllables are especially interesting as they are not natural sounds in any of the languages spoken in the region. Of course, this is what the Eskaya claim— their language is totally unrelated to other Philippine languages. However, we know that all languages (except Basque?) are related to and have cognates with others in their family. Someday, somebody might be able to say for sure whether Eskaya is really a unique language or if, like their script, was invented by one man.

I will now try to make a few general comments on the structure of the Eskaya script. This is, of course, the view of an outsider who was never taught the script. This is the best that I can do and will have to suffice until the time comes when somebody who was initiated into the secrets of the script decides to write about it.

The basic structure of the script is that of a syllabary. Like Indic scripts, basic value of certain symbols are modified by ligatures, although only to add a final consonant. There are symbols for V, CV, CVC, CCV, CCVC, VC, VCC, CVCC, CCVCC (C=consonant, V=vowel), and diphthongs. This is why there are so many different symbols in the Eskaya scrirpt (estimated to be around one thousand). However, if composite symbols are not counted, the number will be a lot less.

If you examine the Eskaya symbol chart on another page, you will notice that the shapes for ba, bi, and be are completely unrelated. The same can be said for ba, bla, and bra. This would show that Eskaya is a “pure” syllabary much like Japanese Katakana. Going to the subchart on the lower right-hand corner note that in sa, sa’, sab, sak, sad, sag, sal, sam, san, sao, sap, sar, sas, sat, say, and sang, (not all shown) the basic CV symbol sa is modified into the other values by the addition of a ligature. The ligature defines the value of the final consonant in the resulting CVC syllable.

But that is not all. The script is also reported to have the characteristics of logograms, with some symbols doubling as representations for words and ideas at the same time they represent sounds. This characteristic is similar to a characteristic of Chinese, Egyptian, and Mayan writing systems.

According to Tirol, the Eskaya symbols represent different positions of Man’s head, body, arms, and legs. He adds, “The symbols were derived from ‘As Pormos Minimi’ which is translated in Bisayan as ‘gikan sa lawas sa tawo (taken from the body of man).’ Upon closer analysis, ‘As Pormos Minimi’ is actually a corruption of the Latin phrase ‘ad formus hominem (from the body of men)’.”

Number system

There is nothing extraordinary about the Eskaya number system. It is the same decimal system that we use. What is unusual is that they have symbols for the numbers, something missing from the classic Philippine scripts. They have a symbol but not a name for zero (0) and use a positional system for notation.

Their names for the numbers (0=no name, 1=oy, 2=tre, 3=koy, 4=pan, 5=sing, 6=nom, 7=pin, 8=wal, 9=sem and 10=pon), except for wal and pon, are not close to the names used in other Philippine languages. They have unique names corresponding to twenty (kaw), thirty (krat), hundred (ten), and thousand (man). Their names for the other numbers are formed from a combination of these uniqque names so that eleven is pon oy (ten=pon plus one=oy) and twenty-two is kaw tre (twenty=kaw plus two=tre).

Symbols for the numerals are also shown in the chart on the separate page. Their shapes make it easy to believe that the Eskaya script was invented by one man.

The Eskaya have names for four mathematical operation but their symbols for the operations are suspiciously out of character when you consider their other written symbols:

addition=as
subtractionTton
multiplication%bret
division/pen

The symbol for subtraction cannot be shown as type here; it looks like an upsilon, or a cross between a "T"and a "Y." Note that their name for division (pen) is close enough to their name for seven (pin) to cause confusion.

Calendar system

Whereas the names for the numbers are very different in Eskaya from other languages, their names for the days of the week and the months are not very different from Spanish names. Why is this so?

Days of the week:
LeniLunesMonday
MimatiMartesTuesday
MibolMiercolesWednesday
HubirJuevesThursday
?ViernesFriday
SanubiSabadoSaturday
LlongoDomingoSunday
?not shown by Tirol

Months:
E-mi-oEneroJanuary
Hebi-oFebreroFebruary
MasoMarsoMarch
KabirAbrilApril
Ma-oMayoMay
HubiJunioJune
Hubi-onJulioJuly
TatubiAgostoAugust
SitibiSeptiembreSeptember
OktubiOctobreOctober
NobiNoviembreNovember
DibiDiciembreDecember

Eskaya society in hiatus?

According to Tirol, the Eskayas do not have a system for electing leaders. They wait for someone to rise and say that he has received a mandate from God and will lead them. They call this recurring messiah “Ay Sono.” He may be a soldier-king or a prophet-teacher, and the Eskayas have had both kinds of leaders off-and-on throught their history.

At this time they are without a leader. Their last leader was Mariano Datahan, who died at the age of 107 on January 6, 1949.

Additional Reading

  1. Santos, Hector. "Butuan silver strip deciphered?" in Sulat sa Tansô, 2:5 (June 1995), 6-7.
  2. Tirol, Jes B. "Bohol: a new Jerusalem?" in The Bohol Chronicle XXXV: 44 (1988), 1 ff.
  3. -----. "Bohol: a new Jerusalem?" (Last Installment) in The Bohol Chronicle XXXV: 46 (1988), 7 ff.
  4. -----. "Butuan paleograph deciphered using eskaya script," in UB Update 1:4 (1990): 6 ff. (Note: A University of Bohol publication.)
  5. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Its Revered Leaders" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 8 (June 22, 1993), 3 ff.
  6. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Its System of Writing" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 9 (July 4, 1993), 3 ff.
  7. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Origin of Its System of Writing" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 10 (July 11, 1993), 3 ff.
  8. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Its Numerals and Symbols" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 11 (July 18, 1993), 4 ff.
  9. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Its Abstruse Literature" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 12 (July 25, 1993), 3 ff.
  10. -----. "ESKAYA OF BOHOL: Instilling Discipline" in The Bohol Chronicle XL: 13 (August 1, 1993), 3 ff.

Other Mysterious Philippine Scripts

To cite:
Santos, Hector. "The Eskaya Script" in A Philippine Leaf at http://www.bibingka.com/dahon/mystery/eskaya.htm. US, January 25, 1997.
Sushi Dog
Please send me your comments. I would love to hear from you.
Hector Santos <hectorsan@bibingka.com> Los Angeles
Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 1999