Our Regional Uniqueness

When it comes to language, we Pinoys never seem to have an issue with our multi-lingualism. We have been quite tolerant and accommodating with our regional language uniqueness because most of us had accepted that a national language, Tagalog or Pilipino rules us all and as long as we are able to communicate, we don’t bicker and compete as to whose language is better. Nope, we don’t have language wars in Pinas unlike other countries. Our multi-lingualism is part of the richness of our diverse culture and certainly not one that negatively affects our unity as a people in my opinion.

In my last post, I had a light-hearted exchange of comments with blogger Rhodora on her mother tongue, the Pangasinan dialect. I’m not a language expert (except sharing a part of my love life with someone from Pangasinan once upon a time which gave me the compulsion to baby talk in the dialect) but of all the major Pinoy dialects, the Pangasinan dialect appears decidedly an odd man out when it comes to similarity of words to Tagalog. Likewise, there aren’t many Spanish words, unlike Hiligaynon or Ilonggo which had integrated an abundance of Kastila words in the dialect. The first shocker would be the supreme antonym, the word “wala” which in Pangasinan means “there is” so when someone tells you “wala”, it means “meron” ! This is one of the words you need to get right the first time. Misinterpret this and your relationship would go nowhere 🙂

We make fun of our dialects and it can be quite hilarious sometimes. We crack up when a Cebuano calls bird as “langgam” which in Tagalog means ant. The word “titi” ( male genital in Tagalog) is “suso” or woman’s breast in Ilonggo. Now that’s a pretty serious anatomical error, don’t you think ? What were our forefathers thinking ! We hear of the proverbial joke of the egg turning into a bird – Tagalog calls egg “itlog” and a few kilometers up north in Pampanga, they would call it “ebon” but not many people know that if you travel a hundred kilometers further north to Pangasinan, the “ebon” turns into a “manok” or chicken. Yes, their generic term for bird is manok !

There are also words that you need to speak a little slowly. The Tagalog phrase “ano yan” is spoken as “ anto tan ?” There appears to be a preferential treatment of the letter t here but if you speak the Pangasinan variant to an unsuspecting Talagog quite fast, it can be misinterpreted as an indecent proposal 🙂 The small rat is called “utot” which literally means the poor, dimunitive creature is no more than a whiff from one’s behind 🙂 The word slow is “bayag” so in Pangasinan if you are slow, they’d say “ ma-bayag ka” hehe. Tagalog words such as “libag” becomes a strange 4 syllable “karakokab” and the “bolate” becomes the longer “alumbayar”. Strangely enough, the word “kalabaw” becomes the shorter “dweg” and with the trademark Pangasinan diphthong accent in the pronunciation of e , one would argue if the letter w should be there in the first place 🙂 The Pangasinan dialect is truly unique and quite original in my opinion.

We can talk and laugh the whole day about Pinoy dialects and their uniqueness but what about names that don’t sound too appealing in another dialect? We all know that even in the English language, a person with the last name Hunt would think twice naming his son Mike. Speaking the full name Mike Hunt fast enough can be quite disconcerting 🙂 How did we get our Spanish sounding last names? It was said that the Spaniards took our ancestors to the town plaza and had had every head of the family pick a surname. Some declined and preferred to stick to their Pinoy aboriginal surnames hence the Katigbaks and Makalintals , talking of familiar political names. Everyone wanted a good surname and took one that sounded acceptable to the local ear but never considered how it would sound if he went to another region. A guy with the last name Poque would be well advised to think twice of going to a Tagalog speaking region 🙂 Someone with the last name Cobeta or C*ntutan ( yes, it exists) would be well advised to stay in the Visayan speaking provinces for the rest of his life. If he were to apply for a visa to the U.S., better take it in the Cebu embassy. In the same light, foreign names such as Suphot Voratsaya is totally innocuous in Thailand but would be a riot in Manila 🙂

Now here’s a true story a Pinoy officemate of mine told me. As he was waiting for his immigrant visa at the Canadian embassy in Makati, the visa clerk wanted to announce the name of an applicant to collect her passport but didn’t have the guts to say her last name ! So she called the security guard who confronted the crowd one by one until the owner was identified whereupon he said “ Miss, I’d be willing to spend the money to change your last name – please do it as soon as possible”. It turned out that the girl’s last name was Mastorbacion 🙂 Now that’s deadly and I won’t risk flying to Canada with that name !


48 Responses

  1. Even among us Ilongo, there are quite a few words that is way off from the other. like Cebuano for “sabot” (understand) in Hiligaynon “pubic hair”, while “pating”, ‘shark’ in tagalog is ‘dove’ in Hiligaynon.

    Once a peace corp worker boarding in our house was so confused when she found out that hands is “lima”(could also means five) in our dialect, “kamot” in Iloilo city a few miles away and “kamay” in Manila dialect. Now she said her worry was to know the borders of words.

    Congrats to our Raps for winning the division. “One” basketball game at a time.

  2. The Ilonggo with a lot of spanish words is a slang version of the dialect introduced by the “bourgeoise” of the Negros province. Hiligaynon and Kiniray’a in it’s pure form is void of any spanish words. “Te liwat ka pa?”:-)

    “Anto tan?…di puwede kasi wala ako ngayon!”

    A Tagalog pediatrician goes on a health mission to care for the poor families in the rural Iloilo barrios.

    Dr. Tagalog: Misis, ano po ba ang gatas na ginagamit niyo sa anak niyo?

    Nanay Bisaya(in her struggle to relate to the tagalog doctor tells him in “Bis/Tag”): Ay gina pasuso ko siya sa titi ko buong araw pag naga libog na ang ulo ko pag wala ng pambili ng gatas na ibapurada:-)

    Are you familiar with the Cagayan Valley Ibanag dialect?

  3. Here’s another one:

    An Ilonggo priest who was temporarily assigned in the tagalog region, asked his female tagalog assistant to prepare breakfast for him with the eggs he just bought from the talipapa.

    “Paki-bati mo nga itong mga itlog ko para sa pamahaw”.

    Now, could you imagine what the conservative tagalog female church assistant reaction would’ve been?

  4. Not unless her last name is “Mastorbacion” then that would be an appropriate request from the Ilonggo priest!:-)

  5. Vic – I remember that “sabot” thing you are talking about. Little kids who cannot pronounce “sagbot” – meaning dirt tend omit the g to the laughter of the older folks hehe 🙂

    Yep, the RAPS are on tehir way to the playoffs – their first Division title since inception. Bring in the salami and cheese !

  6. NOYPETES – re the Spanish words, it also seems to be disappearing as the older folks have passed. I remember my great grandparents saying words such antiojos
    ( eyeglass), ida y buelta ( return trip), etc.. and no one seems to say these words any longer 🙂 But still Ilonggos count in Spanish 100%.

    LOL on the mother joke hehe 🙂 The priest joke is quite hilarious too !

  7. Ha ha ha. This really made my night.

    What about Dick Gordon or Nick Gordon? Which one sounds good, Dick or Nick?

    Nick is arabic for Dick. ha ha ha.

    Happy easter.

  8. MyePinoy – is NICK the Arabic version of Dick ? I didn’t know that. I would think twice of going to Saudi if I have that name LOL 🙂

  9. Talaga? There’s such a name as “Mastorbacion”? lol
    I knew someone in high school who was named “Paquito Lee.” Turned out that he was a “Jr.” named after his father. So there were even two of them.
    Hey, my mom’s from Pangasinan so I’m a bit familiar with Pangalatok words. Isn’t “utot” the word they use for “daga”?

  10. HAhahaha, great Easter post, bro. About those dialects, growing up, I was only familiar with the Bicol dialect as it was (and still is) widely spoken among my aunts and uncles — and yes, even the maids. I only became acutely aware of the vast (and oftentimes times hilarious) differences of the native dialects when I entered University, having classmates (and drinking mates, hehe) coming from the different parts of the country… 😀

    Have a great Easter, bro. 🙂

  11. Kathy – Didn’t know your parents are from both north and south 🙂 Paquito Lee is quite funny .. same idea as Malou Wang I guess hehe. You are right – it’s for a small rat. Slip of the mind there -the small chick is called siwsiw 🙂 Yes – that last name is real as my buddy swears to the story.. In fact, he just told the story at our cafeteria last Tuesday LOL 🙂

  12. Sngl – my uncle married someone from Bicol and I used to mingle with her relatives and sort of gained an idea of how the Bicol dialect sounds like. Yes, you never quite realize the differences with language until you meet people from the different provinces or have a relationship with someone from another province hehe 🙂 Have a nice Easter too bro:)

  13. Dyosme! dagdag man ko sa bangko pagkabasa ko sang joke ni Noypetes! hehehe

    Tikan…naunahan na ko ni Vic mention about sa “sabot” hahaha

    When I went to Bohol, in my mother’s birthtown…my cousins were all laughing when I said “damo ko ya bulbul sa kamot”. Apparently “bulbul” means pubic hair in Bohol-anun ahhaha…

    uhhhmmmm Happy Easter big bro! (great! after saying all those words hahaha)

  14. lol. This is funny. I thought I stumbled on a linguist blog. 🙂

    lol@ noypetes. 🙂

    Happy Easter!

  15. “Masterbacion” …now that’s a last name. I even heard something much worst… “[Insert name here] Pekpek”

    It’s true. it’s true. =)

  16. Verns – so your mom is from Bohol pala 🙂 Yes, the word “bulbol” is really controversial. Imagine the reaction of a Talalog with a Visayan saying ” ang ganda talaga ng bulbol ng aso “… ibig sabihin yung fur or balahibo.. LOL 🙂

    LOL on Noypete’s joke too.. you better check out his blog.. he’s got some hilarious jokes there 🙂

    Happy Easter to you too.. 🙂

  17. Ipanema – there’s a ton of hilarious stories about our dialects oout there! It’s been a while since I’ve spoken my tig-bato Panggalatok :)I’m glad blogger Kathy read my post early and corrected me on a boo-boo, otherwise it would have quite been embarrasing hehe 🙂

    Happy Easter to you too 🙂

  18. Jeff – LOL ! Is that true ? It’s even more controversial if you put an authentic Pinoy first name like Ligaya or Bulaklak or Mahal as in Mahal Pekpek hahaha..What’s the root of this family name – Chinese perhaps hehe 🙂 Time for a name change for sure !

  19. Hey, I haven’t heard (or read)anyone use the word “diphthong” since I took a linguistics course in college years ago. 😀 anyway, I’m always fascinated by linguistics and it’d be nice to know many languages like the linguistics folks. No, I’m not going to do that joke about wanting to be a _____ linguist. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. hehe. About the many languages/dialects of the Philippines, it’s pretty awesome, don’t you think? It’s part of a region’s heritage and identity. More people should be multi-lingual. Don’t forget to add Taglish which is just spreading like wildfire, if not taken over, the country. 😉

  20. Wil – language does evolve and in my own Ilonggo dialect I have noticed Spanish words slowly disappear, being replaced by the native words. Even Tagalog, it is well known that it was former Manila Mayor Villegas who popularized the word “pogi dehin goli” and even today, English words like salvage and gimmick have been integrated but given a totally different meaning. The word “dedma” wasn’t around then. There’s a bit of renewal of our national language in that schools are increasingly using it which I think is great because it does reinforce our national identity.

  21. I bursted out laughing on that funny name. True, so many dialects. Even Tagalog words similar spellings but different pronunciation. I try to explain this to my hubby and he gets more confused. e.g. Baka (cow or perhaps). Or baba (chin or down) and I’m sure you can think of many others.

    In Ilocano , this word – baket means old lady as oppose to Tagalog – Bakit for Why

    I think this is Capampangan, utong for the burnt part of rice and in Ilocano utong means nipples.

    I did learn a few new words from your post. Hilarious yet educational.

  22. noypetes’ site? the multiply site? 🙂

    Anyway yeah..Mama’s from Bohol that’s why I can understand Cebuano or Bisaya…but hindi naman yung naiintindihan lahat 🙂

  23. Galing! I love this post! How did you collect all those interesting tidbits about our dialects? They are so hilarious! I notice though that whatever our dialect Pinoys have a good ear and they seem to learn the language of the country they migrate to when they go abroad. Here in Cambodia, except for me, the Filipinos here speak Cambodian very fluently.

    Happy Easter BW!

  24. Very interesting. I nvere thought that a dialect could be so “hazardly” different than others, especially on genital terms. I bet there’d be a lot of those moments where fights arose just because someone from another region had not known that certain words can’t be acceptable in another region.

    My mother-in-law is an Ilocana and I swear that if she and her brother spoke it in a conversation, I couldn’t understand a thing. I could merely read their lips, as the saying goes.

  25. oo nga nakakaloko ang salita natin, magkakapareho pero iba iba meaning sa bawat probinsiya.

    meron naman ako alam ang apilyido Bayot, eh sa bisaya ang bayot ay “bading”

  26. Leah- Very true – the way words are spoken elicits the meaning . That’s kind of odd isn’t it? But that’s the way language behaves I guess 🙂 The name OH TONG MOH is kind of confusing too. People couldn’t figure out if it is Chinese or Korean hahaha 🙂

  27. Verns – so you got the Bohol-anon blood in you too eh ? No wonder why you’re feisty 🙂 Same with me I couldn’t understand every word of the Cebuano dialect.

    If you click on NOYPETES in this thread, it will take you to his blog 🙂 BTW I have a boo-boo in your blog. I posted about shoes on a different thread ! Hirap mag post sa office talaga 🙂

  28. Iskoo – didn’t know that “bayot” is bakla in Cebuano ! I have relatives with surname Bayot so they better watch out when they go to Cebuano speaking regions hehe 🙂

  29. bw! this is funny!
    we have 7000 plus islands, that’s probably why the words have evolved and its hilarious to have such words of different meanings in different places.

    i better stay in one place na lang, haha!

    cheers, happy easter.

  30. Rheiboy – LOL.. staying in one place means better safe than sorry ba? hehe.

  31. Now, this looks like a wet dream for a linguist!

  32. Sidney – LOL.. isn’t it great to at least know more than one language? 🙂

  33. Thank God my sister’s son never lived in NYC. With his name being Dick Pinga, it would’ve been double jeopardy for him over there. Both are slang for the male genitalia (one in English, the other in Spanish).

    Funny post, BW!

  34. Eric – LOL.. that’s double jeopardy you bet and worse, what more if he went to school in NYC !

  35. whatdyamean? para akong si Francisco Dagohoy? hahahaha just messing big bro. Aba malay natin…may dugo nga ako ni Dagohoy hahahaha crazy thought 🙂

  36. Verns – palagay ko nga meron kang genes ni Dagohoy 🙂 It’s not necessarily bad if you’re feisty. Also balita ko pogi si Dagohoy hehe 🙂

  37. And you haven’t even mentioned the Bisaya term “nalibog” which means “confused”. Hehe.

    Hey, this is a funny, well-written post. Another great read from you, BW.

  38. hmmm… actually Pangasinan is not a dialect, it’s a language. for if it is a dialect then a dialect of what language?

  39. Abaniko – yep Noypete’s joke alluded to the word “libog” which means confusion or worry, even in Ilonggo 🙂 This is one word that could get you in trouble in Manila.. LOL..

  40. Sonny – I have no problems calling Panggalatok a language but check this out this article written by a UP professor :


    Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  41. Mastorbacion?! LOL. C’mon now!

    There was a true story of a former officemate. His wife worked as a professor in one of the universities in Manila. During the checking of attendance on the first day of class, his wife, the professor, was reading the surnames of all the students on the list without any hassle up until she stumbled upon one “unique” surname. “Miss Pukis?” The female student nodded, confirming that it was indeed her last name. Then his wife asked, “Is it singular or plural?” LOL. I always laugh every time I remember this anecdote.

    During a press conference in the early ’90s, we, the media people, were encouraged by the emcee to ask the head of the tour operators’ association, an elderly man named Mr. Bayag, some major questions concerning the tourism industry. People were just poker-faced. But I was stifling a boisterous laughter.


    Funny post, BW. It made my day.

  42. regarding surnames, it’s in 1849 when spanish gov gen claveria ordered Filipinos to adopt spanish surnames to facilitate a census

    those who can’t write or had no surnames simply marked their names with a cross that’s why the de la Cruz and the Cruz families were the biggest then

    nice post…I don’t have much knowledge of pangasinan’s language. I’m tagalog and I understand a little cebuano/ilonggo 🙂

  43. Jayred – LOL on the Miss Pukis joke 🙂 About the jokes on Mr. Bayag, you must have heard the supremo of them all, Mr. Titirio Bayagbag haha 🙂

  44. Tutubi – really.. that’s very informative. No wonder why we have a deluge of de la Cruz and Cruzes around 🙂 My wife is from Manila and she doesn’t even have a province so she has no clue of what life in the province is like 🙂

  45. I don’t speak any dialects. Purong tagalog lang. And I really found this very amusing. 🙂 I learned a lot too.

    I had a classmate in college whose last name is Panti. And the girls would always talk how we wouldn’t want to get married to someone with that kind of last name. 🙂

  46. Niceheart – pareho kayo ng wife ko, Tagalog na walang probinsya 🙂

    Panti isn’t that bad when worse comes to worst. I know of a person whose last name is Bacucang ( in Ilonggo means large sores on your legs – I bet same in Tagalog too?) but he was able to marry a fellow Ilonggo without much hindrance hehe 🙂

  47. pero minsan di naman jologs ang pangalan, imported pa nga binibigay ng mga magulang sa anak, tulad nalang ng classmate ko sa college, ang pagalan Jennifer, o diba maganda naman. kaso lalaki nung classmate ko. kaya nung graduation tinawag sila na Mr Jennifer, nagtawanan lahat dahil lalaki pala siya. buti nalang cumlaude siya.

  48. LOL .. di ba uso yung unisex na pangalan nowadays like Kelly, or Alex ( same nickname for Alexander and Alexandra). Minsan yung Russell ginagamit sa babae which I think is cute actually but for Jennifer for a guy.. LOL.. di bale na – I’d take Juan anytime 🙂

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