The key to understanding a person’s thoughts and feelings is to understand the language they speak. The Filipino language, alongside its slang and colloquial terms, narrates colorful stories about the culture and history of the Philippines. More importantly, the Filipino language speaks of the kind of people the Filipino people are: diverse yet interconnected.
The Philippines has 7,107 islands that use different languages under the umbrella of the Filipino language. In Luzon, Tagalog predominates over other languages like Ilocano, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense. In Visayas and Mindanao, Bisaya is the main language followed by Ilonggo and Waray. While there are many different colloquial expressions from these languages, let’s first talk about the expressions you will most likely encounter.
Unique Expressions in Tagalog
You know you have entered the colorful world of Luzon if you understand the meaning and context of these expressions.
This famous nickname is a contraction of the phrase “Mare, ito ang latest” which translates to “Girl, this is the latest news”. This nickname, which turned into a local expression, gained its popularity online as comedic relief to the outpour of news on social media. Pinoys refer to a “Marites” as someone who knows the latest gossip all the time. If you have heard of the word “chismosa” or gossiper, then “Marites” is its modern counterpart.
This expression is widely used by the millennial and Gen Z population and it means “just kidding”. “Charot” started as a gay lingo term that is meant to lighten up tense situations. Today, young people came up with playful variations of the word like “Chariz”, “Char”, and “Choz”.
Anyare is a shortened term for “Anong nangyari?” or “What happened?”. Filipinos often use this term to convey curiosity and ask for more details about a situation. “Anyare” is also used in informal conversations as a rhetorical question to know why something happened.
“Chibog” refers to either food or meal time. Filipinos often say this at birthday parties when food is ready and all guests have arrived. To indicate action, the suffix “-an” is added to “chibog” and the resulting word is “chibugan”. You’ll fit right in once you understand the local slang “chibugan na!”.
Filipinos use “jowa” to refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend. The word originally came from “asawa” which means husband or wife. “Jowa” was widely used as a gay lingo expression for one’s significant other until it became a local slang. Additionally, “jowa” is a more serious label for a romantic relationship unlike “shota” which means short-time relationship.
To understand the meaning of “basta”, the context in which it is being used is important. It can mean “as long as” when a conversation is conditional:
“Basta ikaw… okay lang!”
(As long as it’s you, there’s no problem!)
But “basta” can also mean “all I know is” or “just because” if the context implies a situation that needs no further explanation.
“Bakit ko gagawin ito?” “Basta.”
(Why do I have to do this? Just because.)
“Basta ang alam hindi niya kasalanan.”
(All I know is that it’s not his/her fault.)
“Hugot” literally means pulling out something. But the word is also used as slang that implies unleashing one’s true feelings that were hidden deep. When a person shares an emotional story and he or she evokes sadness or happiness, Filipinos responds with “Ang lalim naman ng hugot mo!” (That story is heartwarming!)
If a typical Filipino household ranks the most used expression used by their parents to convey shock or disbelief, then this expression would be first. “Susmariosep” is a contraction of the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph -- the Holy Family. When someone says “Susmariosep!”, it means they heard or saw something outrageous or even blasphemous.
Unique Expressions in Bisaya
The word “kuan” is used to refer to anything that cannot be properly identified or articulated at the moment. To put simply, it functions like a placeholder. The sentence still makes sense as long as the correct context is given. “Kuan” is also used as a substitute for words that a person opts not to say explicitly.
In Bisaya, “laysho” means fancy or elaborately decorated. In informal conversations, “laysho” can be used to describe a socialite who wears expensive clothes or uses expensive things.
As proof that Filipinos still value their superstitions, common expressions like “purya buyag” are said to prevent bad things from happening. This phrase follows after a compliment has been said to someone. For example, a newborn baby can draw attention and be complimented by many people. It is believed that this encounter with other people can also draw the attention of evil spirits. Thus, the mother or guardian utters the expression “purya buyag” to drive away bad things.
“Padayon” is one of the most beautiful Bisaya words which means to keep moving forward. Filipinos use this word to encourage each other to keep going no matter how difficult the path is. “Padayon” is widely used even by non-Bisaya speakers.
Sekreto para Bibo
“Sekreto” means secret while “bibo” means fun. When joined by a preposition, the expression becomes “sekreto para bibo” and it means “keep it a secret for fun”. Filipinos jokingly use this expression to make someone even more curious about a secret he or she will not find out soon.
Commonly used in informal conversations, “choya” refers to someone who looks dashing and handsome. But people also use this expression to compliment something that looks great.
In Bisaya, love means “gugma”. No other interpretation and context is needed to understand this word.
( I love you.)
These are just some of the unique expressions widely used in the Philippines. Naturally, language is just the first step in getting to know the Filipino locals better. To find out more about the Philippines, check out the beautiful places you’ll surely fall in love it. You might even find a place and community you want to call home.