Learning How to Talk the Talk (Filipino Edition)

By: Selina De Dios

When living in another country, it is important to immerse yourself in the local culture. The Philippines, being home to many unique features and traditions, offers visiting foreigners an opportunity to experience what it means to be Filipino through different ways, such as taking in the local music or participating in lively fiestas. Another route would be to learn the local language, and although this may be significantly more challenging, it is definitely more rewarding. Here are some common Filipino slang words that will aid you in the start of your linguistic journey.

1. Kilig

Kilig is one of those Filipino expressions, that have no direct English translations. It simply is that flutter of excitement one gets when something cute, in a romantic sense, occurs.

“He bought you flowers? Ayyy, kilig!”

2. Kwento

In English, kwento is a noun meaning a ‘short story’, but more often than not, it is used as a verb when one wants to know the latest gossip.

“What happened? Make me kwento!”

3. Jabar

This word is definitely slang that one hopes is not used towards himself or herself. Jabar is the visible sweat mark one gets in the underarm on a particularly hot and humid Manila day.

“Put your arms down, you have jabar.”

4. Talaga

The English equivalent of this word is ‘really’, and it is typically used as an expression to emphasize a point or to ask for clarification.

“I heard the math test was really hard.” “Talaga?”
“You swear you saw him? It wasn’t just a lookalike?” “No, talaga, it was him.”

5. Hay naku/Ay nako

Hay means ‘sigh’, but naku has no direct translation. This phrase is mainly used when wanting to express exasperation or frustration, but can also be used in a positive context. It can be compared to “oh my gosh.”

“You called your ex, again? Hay naku!”

6. Sayang

Depending on the context, sayang can either be a verb or adjective meaning ‘waste’, but most of the time it is used to describe a missed opportunity that just occurred.

“You only lost by one point? Sayang!”

7. Doña

This word originated from Spanish and was used to describe a Spanish woman of a high rank. In the context of Filipino slang, it is used to label someone (typically a girl) who demands almost princess-like treatment and will complain if requirements are not met-basically, a diva.

“Can you carry my bag please? My laptop and iPad are making it too heavy.” “Oh my, you’re such doña!”

8. Basta

Another word from Spanish origins, basta directly translates to ‘enough’. In the context of Filipino slang, it has two main meanings, ‘just because’ (generally when one doesn’t want to provide an explanation) or ‘as long as’.

“Why do I have to do it?” “Basta, just do it.”
“It’s ok if we fail, basta we try our best.”

9. Diba

Diba directly translated to English means ‘right’  and is used mainly to question or to ask for approval or clarification.

“The answer to this question is false, diba?”

10. Pwede

Pwede, literally meaning ‘possible’, can be used in many ways, but more often than not, it is used to ask for or give approval.

*Sees a cute guy/girl* “Pwede?” “Pwede!”