After 6 months of volunteering for an NGO in Tacloban, as well as traveling around the country, we like to think that we have a pretty decent handle on local life in the Philippines. One thing we’ve really enjoyed discovering is all of the phrases and sayings that Filipinos say to each other and foreigners. It’s been a fun journey picking up these interesting Filipino phrases, but it hasn’t always been easy!
As an Australian I can’t really critique other countries too much about strange slang or funny phrases. I mean, even after all these years together Christine still has difficulty understanding me at times. So I’m definitely not having a laugh, but when it comes to Filipino language there are a few key phrases every traveller should get their head around before tackling these gorgeous islands.
Hey my friend!
Everyone is your friend in the Philippines, so you better get used to hearing this. If you get the chance while they’re zooming past in a tricycle or shouting at you from a distant corner you should yell back the same thing and watch their smile stretch from ear to ear.
Sir / Ma’am
We’d heard Filipinos were famous for their politeness, but we could never have imagined just how nice everyone was, all the time. Any time you meet or greet someone you can expect a sir or ma’am added onto the end, without fail. This level of politeness is nation wide, no matter who you’re speaking with. After 6 months around the Philippines I think we’re now officially the politest backpackers going round Southeast Asia.
Taken from the old World War II nickname for US soldiers (G.I Joe), this now accounts to pretty much any male who looks white and foreign. It’s not offensive, so don’t be shocked when strangers on the street pass you by and say…. Hey Joe! Sometimes to confuse them I just yell back… Hey Pinoy!
What do you think of the Philippines?
Filipinos are super proud people and always love to hear what foreigners think of their country. They’re also fairly receptive to constructive feedback, as long as it’s not too mean. They know their traffic in Manila is terrible and they know vegetarian options are slim, but they also want to know how amazing their island are and how they’re literally the most friendly culture ever!
What is yours?
Literally meaning, what would you like? Expect to hear this phrase when you visit a sari-sari store, market stall or sometimes other places where you need to order. It doesn’t happen all the time, but the first time it did I had no idea what to reply. I just repeated it back to the lady and received some very confused looks as she ushered for her younger English speaking daughter in the back room to come and deal with me.
What is your name? Where are you from?
Most Filipinos speak amazing English, but even if they don’t have the confidence or ability to muster up a conversation, you can be sure they’ll find enough courage to ask you these two questions. It’s also a great way to engage the locals and start up a conversation.
Out of stock
Either Filipinos aren’t restocking their stores very well, or they’re being polite because they don’t understand me, but if you go into any sari-sari, restaurant, grocery, etc. chances are 1 in 5 items will be… out of stock sir.
The best way to explain this is through the following anecdote. One time at a bus station a group of young Filipinos slowly started to crowd around us. One confident teen approached us with a few English phrases and when we replied and engaged him in some conversation he suddenly froze, looked at his mates and then ran away as all the others laughed at him and shouted ‘nose bleed, nose bleed’. Basically meaning, when you have to think so hard that you get a nose bleed, at least that’s what the Filipinos say.
Kind of like that scene from Dude Where’s My Car with the Chinese take-out store: and then? And then? This one pops up more frequently in markets and smaller stores when ordering. Sometimes I end up ordering way too much because I like to see how far they’ll go… they always win!
Welcome to my country
Whether you’ve been in the Philippines a week, or a year, Filipinos love to greet you and welcome you to their country. You’d be surprised how many strangers stopped us in the street or chatted with us in a Jeepney just to welcome us.
When Christine and I came to the Philippines to help with the Yolanda recovery in Tacloban we definitely didn’t come for the praise or the thanks, but the amount of people who have thanked us for helping their country has truly humbled us. Everybody is always curious to know why we’ve stayed in the Philippines for 6 months, and when we tell them our story they almost always say a heart felt thank you for our help. But now we want to use this opportunity to thank everyone in the Philippines who has made this such an incredible journey and a life changing experience. From the bottom of our heart salamat po!
Hey Filipinos and Philippines travelers! Can you think of anything else to add to the unique things Filipinos say to foreigners? Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!