When the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, they found the natives already had a set of characters that formed the alphabet for the local dialects. This alphabet was called Baybayin (pronounced bye - bye -in) in Tagalog.

The Baybayin was a system of characters with 14 consonants and 3 vowels. The 3 vowel characters represented a, i, and u. The i character was pronounced either "i" or "e" depending on a marking called Kudlit. The u character was similarly pronounced "u" or "o" depending on whether the kudlit was placed on top or at the bottom of the character.

Interestingly enough, many Filipinos still pronounce e and i, and o and u interchangeably. During the Spanish period however, the Spaniards romanized the Baybayin using their own alphabet, the abecedario.

In 1937, a national language based on Tagalog was created, and Lope K. Santos created the Abakada, where one sound in the Tagalog language was represented by a letter. The new alphabet was a set of 20 characters: A B K D E G H I L M N NG O P R S T U W Y.

In 1976, the Department of Education Culture and Sports issued a memo that added 11 foreign characters to the Abakada to enable the alphabet to handle foreign words that had also become common Filipino words. These characters were: c, ch, f, j, ll, ñ, q, rr, v, x, and z. However, confusion arose as to how these characters were to be employed, and thus the new alphabet was never widely used.

In 1987, a saner Alpabetong Filipino was created based on the English alphabet, with two additional characters, Ñ and NG in the mix. The Alpabetong Filipino is now: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N Ñ NG O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.

Reference: Gugol, Maria Victoria, Orthography (Evolution). http://www.ncca.gov.ph/phil._culture/other_cultural_info/language/language_orthography.htm

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