Calligraphy

Taipan Lucero and his quest to introduce CalligraFilipino to the world —

Taipan Lucero with one of his masterpieces. | Photo by @taipanlucero/Instagram

Taipan Lucero is a man on a mission.

Calligrapher and visual artist, George Ian “Taipan” Lucero wants the world to know the beauty of Filipino calligraphy as an art form.

He is the man behind CalligraFilipino, a portmanteau of calligraphy and Filipino for which he received a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Her art and advocacy celebrates the art of pre-colonial writing and Filipino culture and her work focuses on the artistic interpretation of baybayin combined with elements of traditional art and jewelry across the archipelago, such as the colorful curvilinear pattern of the Maranao called Okir, the Sarimanok, the radial design pattern of the Kulintangs, and the Lingling-o fertility charm of the Cordilleras, among others.

Lucero with Vice Consul General Arman Talbo after his talk and workshop at the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York to promote CalligraFilipino.
AJPress photo by Momar G. Visaya

“It is an honor and a privilege to be able to communicate to our Filipino compatriots about this type of culture and I think Marami ang can be delighted to know it and witness it first hand,” Lucero told the Asian Journal after delivering a talk and a short workshop to the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York to promote its upcoming exhibition CalligraFilipino VI in San Francisco.

Whether it’s a trend or not, more and more Filipinos are talking about baybayin in recent years. From tattoos to t-shirt and tote bag designs, baybayin characters are becoming more and more ubiquitous in public.

In his presentation, Lucero explained why it became his advocacy to promote Baybayin and CalligraFilipino.

Lucero’s works seamlessly blend art and calligraphy with the preservation of the ancient native script of the Philippines called Baybayin. His presentation highlighted the importance of preserving Filipino culture and the traditional writing system, especially in the digital age.

“This is my first exhibition and my first conversation outside the country. I hope I want to have conferences and exhibitions in Europe, especially in Spain, so that we can show how beautiful our culture is,” said explained Lucero: “So we can say to Spain, this is our culture before they arrived, this is what we had. I want to show that this is where our culture could have gone uninterrupted.

Mr. George Ian “Taipan” Lucero (front) shares the background and purpose of his CalligraFilipino project and the value of Baybayin in today’s Filipino society.

He briefly explained how the ancient Filipino ancestral script had not become an art form like its Asian neighbors due to colonization and how he hopes to change this in his own way.

“I don’t know if I’m going to sound my own horn here if I say this, but I think I’m the first to do it as a fine art type calligraphy. I’m trying to elevate it as the main art form for our country, for our culture,” he added.

Lucero, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, explained the two aspects of his CalligraFilipino project which are sinulat (written) and ginuhit (drawn). He also shared his view on the visual etymology of Baybayin characters and its connection to the Filipino language.

“It’s a growing process and I think more now, I’m leaning towards this handwritten style because the first few times it was more drawing. It was me as a designer then, but now I’m pushing for real handwriting,” he said, explaining how his art of calligraphy has evolved over the years.

Mr. George Ian “Taipan” Lucero and his collection of works titled “Tapang, Lakas, Talino, Pilipino” as part of his CalligraFilipino VI project

Lucero was a freelance creative industry professional, providing design and marketing services to a long list of clients, including Fortune 500 companies. Working as the only Filipino designer at a firm in Kobe, Japan, he experienced first-hand the immense love and respect Japanese people show for their culture by practicing Japanese calligraphy called shodo. Inspired by this, he quit his job and returned home to launch CalligraFilipino.

Lucero called on Filipinos “to be proud of what is ours” and he is doing just that. He prides himself on drawing inspiration from the rich Filipino culture and said one of his earliest inspirations was the intricate designs of pre-colonial gold and jewelry he saw on display at the Ayala Museum.

Acting Chargé d’Affaires Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. (left) presents a certificate of appreciation to NCCA recipient Mr. George Ian “Taipan” Lucero (right)

At the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, Charge d’Affaires Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. said, “If we are proud of our cultural treasures such as Baybayin, we should also be proud of our living treasures such than Taipan. We hope Taipan will continue to raise the profile of the Filipino people around the world through its CalligraFilipino.

Participants practice writing in ‘Baybayin’ on writing sheets during the workshop led by Taipan. Photos courtesy of the Embassy of the Philippines

The workshops in Washington, DC, and New York were attended by scholars, museum fellows, and members of the Filipino community.

(Taipan Lucero’s CalligraFilipino VI exhibition will take place from September 16 to October 14 at the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco. On October 2 at 1:00 p.m., Lucero will have a presentation at the San Francisco Museum of Art. More information on his works to be found on his Instagram account @taipanlucero) not

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected]