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Say It Like A Filipino: Useful Words, Phrases and Cultural Notes

A Quick Guide to Filipino: Useful Words, Phrases and Cultural Notes.


The Filipino flagIt’s easy to get lost in a new place, and it’s almost inevitable that you will get confused with street names, train stations and the like when you travel abroad.

During times like this, even your Google Earth map may not be of much help to you and you will need to ask one of the passing locals the directions to the place you want to go to.


Now, in some countries you will have difficulty finding someone who speaks English well enough to point you in the right direction. In the Philippines, however, you will encounter no such problem.

A good chunk of the population speaks, writes and understands English like natives.
Even if the local English grammar or sentence structure (commonly called ‘carabao’ English because it has been butchered to adapt to the local tongue) isn’t exactly what you were taught at home, at least you will not get lost further and spend more time going around and around in circles.


Friendly People

The people are friendly too—the cops, the street vendors, the security guards and just about anyone you can meet on the road are only too willing to help you out with your predicament about directions.

In Manila you will find the biggest concentration of English-speaking natives, but most Filipinos know enough of the language to communicate with you anywhere you go.

It might be useful to learn some common Filipino words and phrases in case you need to express yourself more emphatically. There might also be moments when your guide lapses into Filipino, and you need to know common words and phrases in order to understand him better.


Speak like a local

The national language is Filipino or Tagalog, which is spoken in Manila and many parts of Luzon, but it is not the only language Filipinos know. There are more than 170 distinct dialects spoken in different parts of the country. It’s not uncommon to find someone who speaks two or three dialects, but for strictly travel purposes it’s a good idea to stick to Filipino.

The Filipino language isn’t hard to learn—we say it like you read it—so memorizing a few phrases should be a breeze.


A Quick Tip: The Filipinos use the word ‘po’ in their sentences to show respect and deference to a particular person, usually an elder or someone who is in authority. You might want to try doing the same thing to earn a smile from your Filipino guide and get yourself a new local friend.

Here are a few colloquial phrases you might want to practice saying aloud before you head to the Philippines:



Good morning Magandang umaga (po)

Good noon Magandang tanghali (po)

Good afternoon Magandang hapon (po)

Good evening Magandang gabi (po)

Getting Around

How do you go to…, Saan (po) papuntang…,

Which way to…, Paano (po) pumunta sa…,

Where is…, Saan (po) ang…,

How long to…, Gaano (po) katagal papuntang…,

Here’s my fare/payment Bayad (po)

Where? Saan

What time does the bus/boat/plane leave?
Anong oras (po) aalis ‘yung bus/boat/plane?

How much to…, Magkano (po) papuntang…,

Can you help me? Pwede (po) magtanong?

I don’t know Hindi ko alam

Straight ahead Diretso

Left Kaliwa

Right Kanan

In front Sa tapat

Beside Katabi

Near Malapit

Around the corner Sa kanto

Making Purchases


How much? Magkano (po)?

How many? Ilan (po)?

Never mind or No, I don’t want any Huwag na lang (po)

Okay or Yes Sige (po) or Oo/opo

Thank you Salamat (po)

Thanks a lot or Thank you very much Maraming salamat (po)

You’re welcome Walang anuman (po)

Can you lower the price a little? Pwede (po) bang tumawad?*

*Cultural side note: Haggling for purchases is something that Filipinos usually do when they buy merchandise in places other than shopping malls, where the prices are fixed. There are certain stores where you can haggle your way to a lower price, especially if you buy in bulk: markets, souvenir shops, street stalls, etc.

Be careful about using this phrase and listen carefully if other buyers are haggling with the vendor before you ask him/her about it. This is a useful phrase to know, but you have to use it wisely.

Want to learn more?
Filipino Pod is the easiest way to learn the language
FilipinoPod101.com – Learn Filipino with Free Podcasts

Enjoy your stay in The Philippines!