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Twenty-four Words from the Philippines that Show How Beautiful Our Languages Are

So here are 20 words from the Philippines to show off how varied our languages are. It is country gifted with many languages. Check here if you are looking for a travel guide to the Philippines. 


I drew a map of the Philippines on the board (it was a terrible drawing!) and asked my weekday humans where the center was. It was our first meeting in our Philippine literature class; and I found it befitting to start the lecture with a lesson on geography.

How do we define center in the first place? So their answers varied.  Center is where the capital is. Center is where Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao meet.

Center is where home is.

Some months ago, in a small island in Bohol, I met a woman in the process of feeding her brood of native chicken. She was sitting by the threshold of her home. She told me, “Usa ka salmon sa bugas buntag, lain na sang usa ka salmon unyag ka hapon.” One salmon of corngrits in the morning, another one in the afternoon. Salmon here is used as a form of measurement, a can a bit bigger than the usual sardine one. Pretty much like Caltex—a word I grew up with back in my hometown—when neighbors loaned (manibo) a Caltex of rice or corn grits from Mama. Perhaps she could not understand the smile slowly itching in my face, but hearing such word was pure fascination to my ears. How funny, how beautiful the evolution of language and its meanings can be.

I told my weekday humans that there should be no hierarchy of languages, that all, yes, all languages are beautiful—that the beauty of this archipelagic country lies in its plurality.

As a tribute to our many languages, I collated some words from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. This is an ongoing effort. Feel free to pitch in some of the words and their meanings.



Words from the Philippines  Hiligaynon

hiligaynon 3

yuhum Words from the Philippines

T'boli 1 words from the philippines


t'boli 3 words from the philippines

Cebuano 1

cebuano 2cebuano 3waray 1

Waray 3 words from the Philippines Waray 2

words from the Philippines

Filipino 2

words from the Philippines

blaan 1

blaan 3

blaan 2

Kankana-ey 1

Kankana-ey 2 copy

kankana-ey 3


Karay-a Words from the Philippines

karay-a 3 Words from the Philippines

pangasinan 3 Words from the Philippines

Pangasinan 2

Pangasinan 1 words from the philippines

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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