10 Meaningful and Useful Filipino Phrases

Read on to find out ten meaningful and useful Filipino phrases and words that may be helpful if you are visiting the Philippines or learning Tagalog for a loved one.

Reconnecting With My Roots Through Language

Being pregnant has made me really want to get in tune with my Filipino roots. Among the many things I’ve been reflecting on is the importance of passing on my language to my child. My lingua franca is Tagalog, but in many respects, even I have taken this for granted as I found more convenience and comfort in speaking English. It is tragic, and as a non-British mum-to-be, I really hope I’d be able to pass on the beauty of my language to my child.

Useful Filipino Phrases in Tagalog

There are 7107 islands in the Philippines. It is comprised of multiple dialects (180 in fact!)  and is influenced by the different ethnicities and countries that settled in the Philippines. It has evolved and ultimately mirrored our culture, history,  and traditions.

Our national language is called “Tagalog”, which is the language of the capital and the one that I speak personally.

Tagalog is a beautiful dialect even with its roots entrenched in colonialism. Listen closely and you’ll find traces of Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. It is melodic and emotional, and if you dig deep, it is full of prose. It is very phonetic, so it is quite easy to learn and speak.

Magandang Umaga / Mabuhay! – Glee and Hospitality 

These two sentences, to me, represent the Filipinos cheerfulness and glee. 

Magandang Umaga literally means Beautiful Morning, which goes a notch above just wishing someone to have a nice day. This greeting is said in both formal and informal occasions. The word umaga can be changed to hapon for the afternoon and gabi for night.  

Mabuhay literally means “Live!” or “of life” is a more formal greeting for guests (may it be local or foreign), often spoken in a very enthusiastic manner, because we welcome guests with such warmth and excitement.

Po and Opo – Respect

Po and Opo are distinctly Filipino words that ethnicities respect and regard towards the elderly. It is the ultimate show of respect, and is taught to Filipinos from childhood. Po is added to sentences full sentences, even to English ones. For example you can say “Thank you po!” and this is received very well.  The word “Opo” replaces the word “Oo” which means ‘yes’ whenever you are speaking to an older person (may it be your brother, or a stranger). 

Kain tayo! Gusto mo? – Generosity and kindness

Kain tayo! Which means “Let’s eat!”, and Gusto mo? which means “Want some?” represents the Filipino hospitality and kindness best. It is so commonly said that it is actually used as a greeting. 

Filipinos have a long standing love affair with food and this is how we express care and concern towards others. In a lot of poor communities they will not think twice about saying these phrases to you, even when they barely have anything to eat themselves. Filipino food is flavoursome and made for sharing – so dig in! 

Sharing food comes as second nature to Filipinos

Ate, Kuya, Tita, Tito, Lolo, Lola – Everyone is Family

Calling someone a sister (ate), brother (kuya), aunt (tita), uncle(tito), grandfather (lolo) and grandmother (lola) does not stay within the confines of your immediate family. Filipinos tend to call family friends, even strangers, these terms because we receive everyone with respect and acceptance. 

Kaya yan – Optimism and resilience

Translated colloquially as “I/You can do it.” We say it as a means to encourage oneself or others. Being a poor country faced with tribulations daily, I find that these two words make a very powerful sentence. It is a cheery and simple phrase that inspires others to persevere and rise above challenges.

Salamat – Gratitude

As with any other language, expressing gratitude is very important. We say Salamat, which means thank you, whenver fitting. We are a people that truly appreciate kindness and gestures of generosity be it big or small.

Ingat – Concern

It is more common for us to us the word ‘Ingat’ which means “Take Care” instead of “paalam” or “goodbye” as a parting word. To me, this is a beautiful way of sending someone off, placing focus on your well wishes for the person instead of your separation.  

Pasalubong – Thoughtfulness

Pasalubong is a word for the gift/s that you bring back home when you go on a trip. Giving pasalubong to your loved ones or friends is a tradition that shows how much you care. Whether it is an expensive souvenir like a nice box of choclates or a small trinket like a tourist keyring, it shows that you had them with you during your travels – and that is priceless.

Traveling somewhere? Whether you’re going for a quick visit back to your hometown or taking a full year away from the country, buying pasalubong for your loved ones shows them that you care. 

Tulungan natin / tulong-tulong tayo / tulungan kita – Compassion

“Let’s help/let’s help each other/ let me help you” is a charmingly usual gesture for us Filipinos and it is often extended even to strangers. We stop on our tracks and offer help to anyone when needed, because ‘camaraderie’ or ‘bayanihan’ is a culturally ingrained Filipino trait.

Kaibigan – Friend

Kaibigan means “friend”. To me, this is one of the most beautiful words in the Tagalog language. Kaibigan, if you break down its actual meaning, literally translates to “lover” or  “someone you share love with”. It shows how Filipinos place value in friendships. 

2 thoughts on “10 Meaningful and Useful Filipino Phrases

  1. This is such a beautiful post, I don’t think I have ever looked into this language before. I wish I knew how to say these things though as my pronunciations are usually awful.

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