The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino (or Pilipino) and English. Filipino has eight major dialects, in order of use: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense. Some regard these as separate languages. Apart from these, there are more than 176 local dialects. Filipino, based on Tagalog, is related to Malay and Indonesian and is part of the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family. Filipino is the common language used between speakers of different native languages, which are closely related but not mutually intelligible. Tagalog is the predominant dialect from the Luzon mainland. English is used in government and as the medium of instruction in higher education.

All Philippine languages are grammatically and phonetically similar and all are classified as Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian languages and are similar to the languages spoken in Indonesia and Malaysia. About 10 languages are spoken by 90 percent of the population of the Philippines. Pilipino, a language based in Tagalog, is technically the national language of the Philippines but in actuality it is primarily the local language of people in the Manila area and the plains of Luzon. Many people outside of Luzon and Manila understand it because newspapers, film scripts and magazines are written in Tagalog and radio and television shows are broadcasts are broadcast in the language.

Filipino contains words from other native languages and English. Three dialects are of national importance: Cebuano in the southern islands, Ilocano in the north, and Tagalog, the language of the National Capital Region. When Tagalog was chosen as the basis for a national language, Cebuanos refused to use Filipino. [Source:]

Like any living language, Filipino is in a process of development through loans from Philippine or foreign languages, as well as from inventions among different sub-cultures (ask someone about “becky speak” or “gay lingo”). Thanks to the American Period, American English was and continues to be taught in schools. Filipinos get a healthy amount of Hollywood movies and American TV shows too. So if you speak English, feel free to ask for directions or strike up a conversation. If the Filipino you spoke to can’t speak English, he’ll happily pull in someone who does. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Among the languages from the Taiwan-Philippines language group that are on the verge of extinction are: 1) Arta (with 6 speakers); Bubuza (with 5 speakers); and Pazeh (with 1 speaker). The number of people speaking Tagalong in the United States has doubled in he last 30 years.

Classification and Division of Languages in the Philippines

Some eleven languages and eighty-seven dialects were spoken in the Philippines in the late 1980s. Eight of these — Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, Waray-Waray, Pampangan, and Pangasinan — were native tongues for about 90 percent of the population. All eight belong to the Malay-Polynesian language family and are related to Indonesian and Malay, but no two are mutually comprehensible. Each has a number of dialects and all have impressive literary traditions, especially Tagalog, Cebuano, and Ilocano. Some of the languages have closer affinity than others. It is easier for Ilocanos and Pangasinans to learn each other's language than to learn any of the other six. Likewise, speakers of major Visayan Island languages — Cebuano, Ilongo, and Waray-Waray — find it easier to communicate with each other than with Tagalogs, Ilocanos, or others. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Nearly all the languages spoken in he Philippines are Austronesian (formerly Malayo-Polynesian) languages. There are 1,200 Austronesia languages—about a fifth of the world's total. They are spoken on islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans from Madagascar to Hawaii. About a hundred different languages are spoken on Vanuatu alone. Malay, Formosan, and most of the languages of Indonesia, the Philippines and Polynesia are Austronesia languages. The Austronesian family of languages most likely originated in China.

Language divisions were nowhere more apparent than in the continuing public debate over national language. The government in 1974 initiated a policy of gradually phasing out English in schools, business, and government, and replacing it with Pilipino, based on the Tagalog language of central and southern Luzon. Pilipino had spread throughout the nation, the mass media, and the school system. In 1990 President Corazon Aquino ordered that all government offices use Pilipino as a medium of communication, and 200 college executives asked that Pilipino be the main medium of college instruction rather than English. Government and educational leaders hoped that Pilipino would be in general use throughout the archipelago by the end of the century. By that time, it might have enough grass-roots support in non-Tagalog-speaking regions to become a national language. In the early l990s, however, Filipinos had not accepted a national language at the expense of their regional languages. Nor was there complete agreement that regional languages should be subordinated to a national language based on Tagalog. *

Spanish Language in the Philippines

It is no surprise that over this long period of time, the Spanish language made its way into the Filipino dialects. Today it is estimated that about 20 percent of Tagalog words are Spanish. In fact, the common Tagalog greeting “Kumusta” was derived from the Spanish “Como esta” (How are you). Here are a few very common words that came from Spanish (the spellings have been Filipino-ized): Diyos (god), eskwela (school), gwapo (handsome), kalye (street), kabayo (horse), kwento (story), karne (meat), pamilya (family), sapatos (shoes), bintana (window), and many, many more. [Source: by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011, the missionary website, \=/]

Tagala - the Philippines first Filipino-Spanish dictionary which was printed in 1613. It is 25 years older than the first book printed in the United States. Spanish has also influenced Philippines numbers, name and money. The Spanish money system (based on pesos) was adopted into the Filipino lifestyle as well as the use of Spanish numbers in business and money transactions. Today, using Spanish numerals is the marketplace norm. It is also interesting to note that the Spanish were the ones who appointed Manila as the capital city of the Philippines. They also named the islands “Filipinas” after Prince Philip os Asturias, who later became the King of Spain. [Source: by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011, the missionary website, \=/]

Spanish was taught as a compulsory language until 1968 but is seldom used today. AFP reported: “What surprises Spaniards who come to the Philippines is the fact that their language has virtually disappeared. The archipelago was first colonized by the Spanish in the early 16th century shortly after Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the islands and later died here in 1521. Spanish culture permeates the country where 80 percent of the population are followers of a Spanish-styled Roman Catholicism and where 20,000 Spanish words have been absorbed into most of the local dialects. Even today, Filipinos eat paella, menudo and chorizo, have brazo de Mercedes and turrones for dessert and drink Fundador Brandy. [Source: AFP, September 12, 2007 ==]

“But when the Philippines passed from Spanish to American control after the Spanish-American war of 1898, English completely supplanted Spanish. Today, most Filipinos speak and read English. The most serious blow came in 1987 when the government removed Spanish as one of the official national languages of the country and did away with a requirement that college students take courses in Spanish. Jose Rodriguez, local director of Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish cultural center, notes that ironically, only one Philippine university now offers a doctoral course in Spanish compared to 12 universities in South Korea and 10 in Japan. ==

“Rodriguez says there is no updated figure on how many Filipinos can actually speak Spanish although Molina says a study in the 1990s found one out of eight Filipinos could understand some Spanish. Spanish radio producer Chaco Molina says the Spanish language was never as widespread in the Philippines as in Latin America. Christian missionaries who came to the Philippines found it easier to learn the local dialects to preach to the natives rather than teaching them Spanish.” ==

Radio Station Keeps Spanish Language Alive

In 2007, AFP reported: “Despite 400 years as a colony of Spain, the Philippines has retained little trace of the language but producers of the country’s only Spanish-language radio program say that’s about to change. “Filipinas Ahora Mismo” – which loosely translated means “Philippines Right Now” – features book and movie reviews, information on the Spanish influence in different parts of the country and music by modern stars such as Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, all in Spanish. It is just a small step but its producers hope the show can help lead a revival in a language that has withered away in most of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation. [Source: AFP, September 12, 2007 ==]

“It is not a question of making Filipinos speak Spanish again,” says Spanish Ambassador Luis Arias Romero. “It is a question of making Filipinos aware of the importance of Spanish in culture and world affairs.” The radio show, sponsored by the Cadiz Press Association, is part of this effort although the project’s manager Chaco Molina concedes they still have a long way to go. Molina said when the Cadiz association first proposed the plan, they suggested an eight-hour radio show. “I told them that was too ambitious. This isn’t Guatemala where everyone speaks Spanish,” he said. ==

“The show, hosted by veteran Filipino broadcaster Bon Vivar, airs from 7-8 p.m. Monday to Friday on government-owned dzRM radio at 1278 kHz in Manila, and in simulcast to several major cities. “I see a renaissance of the Spanish language in the Philippines,” says Molina, adding the show is aiming at a young audience who will be more receptive to the language. ==

Words from the Philippines

The expression "out in the boondocks" comes from the Philippines. "Bundok" is a Tagalog word meaning "mountain." People used to say the Kalingas tribes people lived so deep in the North Luzon bundok the word "boondocks" has come to mean extremely remote.

The word imeldific after Imelda Marcos was coined to mean excessively ostentatious or in bad taste. “Susmariosep” is Philippine expletive that is Filipino contraction for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Mabuhay Gardens was a San Francisco nightclub. Originally a Filipino restaurant and club owned by the late Ness Aquino, it featured many Filipino celebrities, including Amapola (aka Amapola Cabase). During the late 1970s, Bay Area punk and new wave bands performed there, and it was an important touring stop for bands from beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the bands that performed there were the Dead Kennedys, Boys, Nico, Devo, and X. Comedians like Whoopi Goldberg also made early appearances at the venue. “Mabuhay” is a Tagalog greeting. It means “long life” and literally is the imperative form of "live", from the root word buhay (life). [Source: Wikipedia]

Tagalog Greetings and Friendly Expressions

Tagalog speakers in the Philippines have many ways of greeting other people. It is common also to hear them say "Hi" or "Hello" as a form of greeting, especially among close friends. There are no Tagalog translations for these English greetings because they are basically borrowed terms. Below are a few Tagalog greetings that are importart to learn if one wants to endear himself/herself to Filipinos. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Magandang umaga po. (formal/polite) - Good morning; Magandang umaga. (informal) - Good morning; Magandang tanghali po. (formal/polite) - Good noon; Magandang tanghali. (informal) - Good noon; Magandang hapon po. (formal/polite) - Good afternoon; Magandang hapon. (informal) - Good afternoon; Magandang gabi po. (formal/polite) - Good evening; Magandang gabi. (informal) - Good evening; Kumusta po kayo? (formal/polite) - How are you?; Kumusta ka? (informal) - How are you?; Mabuti po naman. (formal/polite) - I'm fine; Mabuti naman. (informal) - I'm fine; Tuloy po kayo. (formal/polite) - Please, come in; Tuloy. (informal) - Please, come in.

Salamat po (formal/polite) - Thank you; Salamat. (informal) - Thank you; Maraming salamat po. (formal/polite) - Thank you very much; Maraming salamat. (informal) - Thank you very much; Wala pong anuman. (formal/polite) - You are welcome; Walang anuman. (informal) - You are welcome; Opo/ oho. (formal/polite) - Yes; Oo (informal) - Yes; Hindi po/ho (formal/polite) - No; Hindi (informal) - No; Hindi ko po/ho alam. (formal/polite) - I don't know; Hindi ko alam. (informal) - I don't know.

Anong oras na po? (formal/polite). What time is it?; Anong oras na? (informal) - What time is it?; Saan po kayo papunta? (formal/polite) - Where are you going?; Saan ka papunta? (informal) - Where are you going?; Saan po kayo galing? (formal/polite) - Where did you come from?; Saan ka galing? (informal) - Where did you come from?; Ano po ang pangalan nila? (formal/polite) - What is your name?; Anong pangalan mo? (informal) - What is your name?; Ako po si ________ (formal/polite) - I am ______ (name).; Ako si _________ (informal) - I am ______ (name).; Ilang taon na po kayo? (formal/polite) - How old are you?; Ilang taon ka na? (informal) - How old are you?; Ako po ay _______ gulang na. (formal/polite) - I am _______ years old.; Ako ay _______ gulang na. (informal) - I am _______ years old.; Saan po kayo nakatira? (formal/polite) - Where do you live?; Saan ka nakatira? (informal) - Where do you live?; Taga saan po sila? (formal/polite) - Where are you from?; Taga saan ka? (informal) - Where are you from?; Kumain na po ba sila? (formal/polite) - Have you eaten yet?; Kumain ka na ba? (informal) - Have you eaten yet?

Directions words: deretso - straight ahead; (sa) kanan - on the right; (sa) kaliwa - on the left; umikot - turn around; (sa) harap - in front; (sa) likod/likuran - at the back/behind; hilaga - north; silangan - east; kanluran - west; timog - south; (sa) itaas - on top; (sa) ibaba - below/at the bottom; (sa) ilalim - at the bottom; (sa) loob - inside; (sa) labas - outside; There are a number of Tagalog words and phrases which are rather vague in terms of specific distance but signify "nearness" or "farness" of a particular object, thing, or place from the speaker. These are:; doon - yonder (over there); diyan lang po sa tabi - there, on that side; sa banda po doon - over on that side.

Question words; Ano? - What?; Alin? - Which?; Sino? - Who?; Saan? - Where?; Bakit? - Why?; Kailan? - When?; Paano?/Papaano? - How?; Magkano? - How much? (money); Nasaan? - Where? (to look for something/somebody);

Tagalog Swearing & English Translation.

Tagalog (Pilipino) Swearing — English Translation; Tarantado Ka — You're stupid; Tsupain mo titi ko — Suck my dick; Sinabay mo kinantot ang nanay at tatay mo habang yung kapatid mo nanonood — You fuck your mom and your dad, while your siblings are watching!; Ang butas ng puwet mo ay malaki! — The hole in your ass is really big!; Karida puta — Stupid fucking whore; Pokpok — Whore; Puta — Bitch, whore; Kaskasin mo puke mo sa dingding — Scratch your pussy off the wall; Malaking tae sa mukha mo! — That shit on your face is big!; Ang okie mo amoy ng pussit! — Your pussy smells like squid!; Putit ang bulbul mo! — Your pubis are white!; Ang mama mo kalbo! — Your mom is bald!; Walang tungtung ng yung lolo mo! — Your grandpa has no dick!; Dinilaan mo ang pwet nang lola mo — You lick your grandmother's ass; Putang ina ang baho mo — Mother fucker, you stink; Puke mo mabaho — Your pussy stinks; Putragis na impyerno (Tagalog dialect) — Fucking hell. [Source: ***]

Isinusumpa kita — I curse you; Anak ka ng puta — You're a child of a whore; Puta — Whore, slut; Puta ka — You're a whore; Putang ina mo — Your mother is a whore; Bilat sini mo — You're a cunt; Kantutin mo ang nanay mo — Go fuck your mother; Buwa ka ng ina mo — You're the slime of your mother; Kiki mo — Your cunt; Titi mo — Your dick; Putanginamo — Fuck you; Maliit ang titi mo — You got a small dick; Magkantutan tayo — Let's fuck; Gusto kong kantutin tulad nito — I like to be fucked like that; Gusto kitang kantutin na parang hayop — I want to fuck you like an animal; Gusto kitang kantutin — I want to fuck you; Kantutin mo ko pag mali ako — Fuck me if I'm wrong; Naninigas ang titi ko — I got a hard on; Didilaan ko ang tinggil mo — I'll lick your clit; Sipsipin mo ang titi ko — Suck my dick; Lunukin mo ang tamod ko — Swallow my cum; Malaki ang suso mo — You got big tits; Anak ng puta mo — Son of a bitch; Puke ng ina mo — Your mom's pussy; Tukmol — Ugly; Putang Puta — Fucking whore; Ikaw, walang kang titi — You have no dick; Ikaw, wala kang puwet — You have no butt; Ang pangkit ng ina mo — Your mom is so ugly; Malaki ang tae mo — Your shit is big; Puputulin ko titi mo — I will slice your dick; Baho ng utot mo — Your fart stinks. ***

Pumunta ka sa impiyerno — Go to hell; Puro kagaguhan ka — You're full of shit; Sisipain ko puwet mo — I'll kick your ass; Laki ng tenga mo — You have big ears; Putang ina, ang pangit mo — Fucking hell! You're so ugly; Bakla — Faggot, gay; Mantsutsupa — Cocksucker; Jologs — Poor loser; Titi — Penis, dick, cock; Lola mong panot — Your grandmother is bald; Sipain ko lolo mo e — I'll kick your grandfather; Lola mong panot — Your grandmother is bald; Tatay mo kab skawt — Your dad's a little boy scout; Masyado maliit ang suso mo — Your breasts are way too small; Tae — Shit; Titi mo mabaho — Your cock is smelly; Putanginamo — Your mom is a slut; Gunggong — Moron; Tanga — Stupid; Abnoy — Abnormal, retarded; Pututuy — Tiny penis; Tababoy — Fat Pig; Tae — Shit; Ina — Mother; Taena — Shitty mother; Nak Ng Pu — Son of a whore; Unggok — Irritating bastard; Tiyo Paeng — An uncle who sexually molests relatives; Igad — Immature shit; Bernal — Shitty bulldog; Ukinnam — Your mother's cunt; Kainin mong tae mo — Go eat your shit; Mabuhok ang utong mo — You re nipples are hairy; Laplapin mo na lang lola mo — Go eat your grandma s cunt; Gusto kitang himasin — I wanna caress you; Ganito ka ba talaga kabaho? — Do you really stink this bad?; Magsubuan kayo ng tae — Go feed each other shit; Walang kuwentang kantutin ang joa mo — Your girlfriend isn't worth fucking. ***

A ulol! — Go to hell!, Fuck you!; Magtsupaan kayo ni Hesus — Let you and Jesus blow each other; Magjakol ka na lang — Go fuck yourself; Magtikol ka na lang — Go fuck yourself; Sibakan tayo — Let s fuck; Umuwi ka na — Go home!, Go to hell!; Amoy pusod ka — You reek of belly buttons; Amoy Yuropeo ka — You smell like a European; Hanggang jakol ka lang naman e — That's all you can do; masturbate; Malibog ako — I'm horny; Malibog ako sa iyo — You make me horny; E tuyo naman yung puke mo e — At least I don t have a dry pussy; Tinitigasan ako sa iyo — You're giving me a hard on; Jakolin mo ako! — Jack my cock!; Masarap ka ba? — Do you taste good?; Putang inang trabaho ito — Fuck this Job; Putang inang lugar ito — Fuck this Place; Putang inang buhay ito — Fuck this life; Sino ang putang ina ito? — Who is this fucker?; Sino ang gagong ito? — Who is this idiot?; Bading — Faggot; Pokpok — Whore; Jakolero — Someone who masturbates a lot; Punitin mo ako — Tear me apart; Sibakin mo ang joga ko — Fuck my tits; Tsupaero — Cocksucker; Gabakoy ka permi? — Do you masturbate often?; Walang hiya ka/ Lang hiya ka — You're shameless; Gago — Crazy; Pusang gala — Runaway pussy; Pucha (Also Putsa) — Whore; E kung sipain kita diyan — What would you say if I kick you right now?; Manahimik ka na nga lang — Why don't you just shut up?; Hesus — Jesus; Susmariosep — Jesus Mary and Joseph!; Diyos ko po — My god!; Tanginang kano 'to — This American son of a whore; Tanginang intsik 'to — This Chinese son of a whore; Tadyakan kita diyan sa ngalangala e — Wait until I kick you in the chin; Hanggang tae ka na lang — All you'll ever be is shit; Tae ka — You're shit; Tae mo — Your shit; Tae mo amoy tae — Your shit smells like shit; Ttumae ka nga — Go shit; Matae ka sana sa pantalon mo — I hope you shit your pants; Amoy tae ka — You smell like shit; Hindi na utot yan a — That's not flatulence anymore; Saksak mo sa baga mo — Stick this in your lung; Maihi ka sana sa kama — I hope you wet your bed; May laman ba yang kokote mo — You got anything in that head of yours; Kulang sa turnilyo — Stupid, crazy (lit. lacks screws in the head); Mangulangot ka na lang kaya — Why don't you just pick your nose; Laway mo tumatalsik — Your mouth is a shower of saliva; Sumibak ka na lang ng kalabasa! — Go fuck a pumpkin!; Punyeta — Shit; Baliw — Mentally retarded; Sira ulo (or ulol) — Nuts, crazy; Bayag — Testicle; Puki (or puke) — Pussy; Dyoga (or joga) — Boobs; Tumbong — Ass; Pwet (or puwet) — Butt; Burat — Head of dick; Unggoy — Monkey; Tanga — Stupid; Bugok — Slow learner; Bobo — Slow learner; Tikol — Masturbate; Sinto sinto — Retarded; Hayop — Animal; Malintong — Slutty; Prosti — Prostitute; Hayup ka! — You animal!; Ay puta! — Oh, shit!; Pangit! Putang ina mo! — You ugly son of a bitch.; Pangit — Nasty; Halika, putang ina mo. — Come here, you son of a bitch.; Layas, putang ina ka! — Get out, you mother fucker!; Ulol — Crazy. ***

Gago — Asshole; Ebak — Shit; Takim — Shit; Tarantado ka — You Bastard; Putik ka — Slang of 'putang inamo'; Gagi — Slang of 'gago'; Ang uten mo ay kasing liit ng buteke — Your cock is little like a lizard; Mang-aagaw ng lakas — Homosexual (lit. strength drainer); Amoy tamod ang bunganga mo, bakla! — Hey fag, your mouth smells like cum; Gusto kong dilaan ang tinggil mo — I want to lick your clit; Hunsvotti — A horse's ass (lit. "dog's cunt"); Masarap ang puke mo! — Your pussy is delicious!; Tarakun — Stupid; Gusto kong dilaan ang kiki mong basa! — I want to lick your wet pussy!; Puke mo, malaki! — You have a big pussy; Broha (Slang) — Bitch; Laplapin mo pekpek ng nanay mo! — Lick your mom's pussy; Basa ang utot mo — Your fart is wet; Umutot ka kaya sa ilong mo — Why don't you fart thru your nose; Sipsipin mo ang utot ko — Suck my fart; Tatlo ba ang betlog mo? — Do you have three balls?; Wala kang silbi sa mundo pakamatay ka na lang — You're worthless in this world, better kill yourself; Sa lagay na yan e di ka pa tinutubuan ng sungay? — You haven't grown horns after what you've done?; Bukas tatakpan ka na ng diyaryo — Tomorrow newspapers will cover your dead corpse; Mas ma sarap ang tae ng aso sa pagkain mo — This dog's shit tastes better than your food; Ang bait mo, sana kunin ka ni Diyos — You're too good, I hope the lord takes you now; Kausapin mo ang tinga ko — Talk to the pieces of food in between my teeth; Saksak ko tong bote ng grande sa wetpacks mo e — Wait until I stick this (huge) bottle of beer into your ass; Langhiya ka — Shameless (lit. no sensibilities for embarrassment) [Contraction of "walang hiya ka"]; Manahimik ka kung wala kang magawa sa buhay mo — Shut your mouth if you cant do anything with your life; Hindi maliit ang titi ko - maluwag ang puke mo! — It's not my dick that's small - it's your pussy which is loose! ***

Nagbabra ka pa e wala ka namang joga — Why wear a bra when you don't even have tits?; Masarap kaya ang kesong gawa sa gatas mo? — I wonder if cheese made from your milk will taste good; Mas gugustuhin ko pang singhutin ang utot ko kaysa mapatabi sa'yo — I'd rather sniff my fart rather than sit beside you; Makitalo ka lang sa sibakan ng lolo at lola mo — Go join your grandparents fucking; Baka gusto mong hilahin ko yung titi mo tapos isuksok ko dyan sa pwet mo? — How would you like it if I take your dick and stick it deep up your ass?; Kung ayaw mong oras mo, kauusapin mo, putang ina___________! — If you don't like your work schedule, talk to that fucking ________! (Put a name in the blank.); Masmalaki pa yata ang ugat ng titi ko kaysa sa titi mo — My dicks veins are bigger than your dick; Nag-brip ka pa, wala ka namang bayag!? — Why wear underwear when you don't have any balls!?; Ikao Tarantado A Mabaho — You're a bastard and you stink!; Malandi ka — You're a slut; Tamaan ka sana ng kidlat — May lightning strike you; Lintek ka — Asshole!; Marame bule bule sa pek pek. — Hairy cunt; Kantot sa pwet — Fuck your ass; Malibo — Horny; Pare dilaan mo puwet ko — Lick my ass, dude; Kiri ka — You're a bitch; Putang ina mo puta ka — Your mother is a whore, bitch; Dyug-dyug — Fuck; Malibog ka — Lustful; Hindot — Fuck; Salsalin mo — Masturbate it; Tamud — Semen; Puki mo — Your vagina; Titi mo — Your penis; Lunukin mo tamod ko — Eat my cum; Matamis ang tamod ko — My cum taste sweet; Pare dilaan mo bayag ko — Lick my balls, dude. ***

Names in the Philippines

Many Filipinos have Spanish sounding names. Many have American-style or local language nicknames. In many cases surnames are kept by women after marriage. Some such as former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have Spanish-style hyphenated names with their maiden name (Macapagal) and family name of their husband (Arroyo). Others such as Imelda Marcos take the surname of their husband. She was born Imelda Remedios Visitación Trinidad Romuáldez.

People from certain areas of the Philippines often have last names that begin with the same letters. This is because when the Spanish gave out last names they divided up a catalogueof names and gave out different pages often with names from one latter to different areas.

For a long time the naming customs in the Philippines were dominated by Spanish names, as the result of 400 years of colonial rule of Spain over the Philippines. In the last decades however English names have become more and more popular and widespread, reflecting the ever-growing influence of English and the U.S. in the Philippines. There are very few truly Philippine native names in use nowadays.

The late Philippines president Corazon Aquino provides an interesting example of how Chinese and mestizos adapted their names in the Philippines. She was born Maria Corazon Sumulong Conjuangco. Her maiden name indicates Chinese mestizo ancestry. Her parents were Jose Chichioco Cojuangco and Demetria "Metring" Sumulong, and the family were of mixed Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish descent. Many of her descendants came from China. The family surname is a Spanish version of the Chinese name "Koo Kuan Goo." The Cojuangcos were one of richest clans in the Philippines. her Chinese great-grandfather's name could have been romanized to Ko Hwan-ko, but, following the normal practice of assimilationist Catholic Chinese-Filipinos, all the Chinese names were collapsed into one, and a Spanish first name was taken.

According to Most of the family names in Philippines come from Spanish origins since Spain colonized Philippines for almost 500 years; yet, that is not the interesting part. The interesting part is having names such as Girly, Honey, Boy, Uno, Junior, Blue, Princess, Queeny, Sweet, Lovely, Sweet-Rose, Virgie, Baby… Basically, if you wanna understand what kind of names some Filipinos have, you just need to imagine some lazy parents who call their child the first thing that comes to their mind. [Source:, February 7, 2014]

Just right after a born is baby, I would imagine the parents having a conversation as such: Mother: so what should we call our daughter? Father: I donno… anything, like I can care less.. Mother: you know she looks so girly.. Father: ok, what the hell, let us call her girly...Or...Doctor, looks at the mother: What would you like to call your son? Mother: Where is my ****ing husband? I bet he is screwing my slutty neighbor again. Doctor: I have other patients waiting for me, What do you wanna call your son? Mother, rolls her eyes, looks out the window, sees a blue sky: Just call him Blue. [Ibid]

Spanish Names in the Philippines

In 1849, the Spanish Governor of the Philippines sent out an order that all families were to choose a new last name from a list of Spanish last names (in order to create a more organized system of keeping track of people). As a result, today there are many Spanish last names still in use, such as Garcia, Cruz, Reyes, Mora, Vasquez, Valdez, Flores, Ramos, Perez, Villanueva, Ortiz, Estrada. However, there were some Filipinos who did not want to change their native last names, and so today there are still some native names remaining. Examples of native Filipino last names include Macaraeg, Matapang, Masipag, Dimaguiba, Guinto, Magsaysay, Makapagal, Batungbakal. [Source: by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011, the missionary website, \=/]

For the first several hundred years of Spanish rule, most Filipino surnames were either indigenous (e.g., Macapagal) or the names of Saints or other Catholic symbols (San Jose, de la Cruz, de los Reyes, etc.). Frequently, members of the same family did not have the same "surname" which drove Spanish officials crazy since they were trying to keep the tax rolls straight. [Source: Maria G, Yahoo Answers, 2006 ^^]

So in 1849, under Governor General Narciso Claveria, they issued a huge "Alphabetical Catalogue of Surnames" (Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos — republished by the National Archives in 1973), which is just page after page of names, some Spanish, some Filipino, compiled by friars and bureaucrats from various sources. In theory, every Filipino was supposed to pick a name from this approved list, and all members of the same family were supposed to have the same surname and stick to it. ^^

In practice, implementation was very uneven. In some provinces, e.g. Albay, the governor apparently tore out pages from the Catalogue and sent them to individual towns. Hence, almost everyone in the town had names beginning with the same letter ("B" in Tiwi, "R" in Oas, etc.) In other provinces, it was much more random. A lot of people kept old surnames (including "de los Santos" and the like) even though the decree supposedly forbade this. However, most Filipinos have family names which date back only to 1849 and to the "Catalogue" issued by Claveria. ^^

Most of the Filipino-Chinese surnames date from the 19th century and later when most Chinese immigrants came to the Philippines. Names ending with "-go" or "-co" or "-son" often reflect contractions of generic terms or honorifics. For more details on the Claveria decree, read the introduction to the 1973 edition of the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos. See Edgar Wickberg, “The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850-1898" for the origin of Filipino-Chinese surnames. ^^

Filipino Nicknames

Nicknames are very common in the Philippines as they are elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Many of them seem funny or odd to American. In 1985, when Marcos was still in power, Steve Lohr wrote in the New York Times, “Pepsi, Sarsi, Coca, Peaches and Cherry Pie. It may sound like the recipe for a stomachache, but those are the names of Filipino celebrities. Pepsi Paloma, Sarsi Emanuel and Coca Nicolas are known, understandably, as the ''soft-drink beauties,'' and they star in some of the steamier local films. Peaches, or Peachie, Sacasas is a former beauty queen turned actress, and Cherry Pie Villongco is a former top fashion model. [Source: Steve Lohr, New York Times, February 5, 1985 ^]

“Unusual names and nicknames here are not confined to those with commercial motivations. Joker Rroyo is no comedian. He is a lawyer who defends political detainees. The President's son, Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr., who is the Governor of Ilocos Norte province, is known to everyone here as Bong Bong. One of the most senior members of the Supreme Court, Claudio Teehankee, is called Ding Dong. Grandmothers sometimes answer to the name Baby, while a couple of captains of industry would be offended if they were not addressed as Boy. ^

“The distinctive monikers sometimes unintentionally extend to surnames. Probably the most widely known example outside of the country is Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila. He is fond of jesting that given his name, the Roman Catholic Church displayed remarkable tolerance in allowing him to rise to its top Philippines post. ^

“It is the prevalence, diversity and outright zaniness of the nicknames here that rank them as a distinguishing national characteristic. Nearly everyone has a nickname in the Philippines. And the way they are used and offered, especially by the powerful, can be of considerable importance. Being able to hail a prominent politician or corporate magnate by that person's nickname is a clear sign that you are somebody with influence. ^

“There are only about a dozen people who call President Ferdinand E. Marcos by his nickname, Andy, to his face, says Eleuterio (Adrian) Cristobal, a presidential spokesman and speechwriter. The honored list includes the First Lady, Imelda, and a few other close family members; a handful of lifelong friends, and a couple of trusted associates, such as Roberto Benedicto, who controls much of the sugar industry, thanks to a presidential decree. ^

“The most common explanation for the Filipino penchant for nicknames is that the the country is a mix of three nickname-loving cultures: Spanish, American and Filipino. Others say there has been a trend in recent years toward more extreme - some say ridiculous - nicknames like Blinks and Booby. But Alejandro (Anding) Roces, a former Secretary of Education, says that odd names are nothing new. He cites a volume by Father Pedro Chirino, a 16th-century Jesuit social historian, who wrote that in the Philippines naming a child was a mother's prerogative and subject to her whim. ^

“Surprisingly few Filipinos can explain how they were tagged with unusual nicknames. ''I never questioned why I was called Boo, because I just always was,'' said Pedro Chanco 3d, an official in the Ministry of Energy. Some are baby names that stuck, while others seem to be merely fashionable nicknames given to people much like proper names.

Playful Filipino Names Hard to Get Used to

In 2011, Kate McGeown of the BBC wrote: “Bizarre and often unflattering names are as quintessentially Filipino as the country's Catholic faith, friendly smiles, jeepneys, and love of karaoke. On my first day in Manila, I walked down to the local cafe and was served by a smiling young girl who wore a name badge entitled BumBum. I did a double-take, then smiled back, deciding it was probably a joke. Since then I've met a Bambi, three Bogies, several Girlies, a Peanut, a Barbie and a middle-aged man called Babe. [Source: Kate McGeown, BBC News, March 27, 2011 /]

“These names are found in all sectors of society. Sometimes they are nicknames, sometimes genuine first names - but they are always what people are referred to on a day-to-day basis. Even the president is not spared. His real name is Benigno Aquino, but almost everyone here calls him Noynoy. Two of his sisters are called Pinky and Ballsy. No-one seems to see the need to ask why. Why would you call your children after the days of the week or your favourite desserts? /

“Neither does anyone question the integrity of Joker Arroyo, one of the country's most respected senators. That is his real first name. Apparently he got it because of his father's fondness for playing cards. Joker's brother is called Jack. And it seems perfectly natural to Filipinos that the boxer Manny Paquiao should express his love for the British royal family by naming his daughter Queen Elizabeth. /

“So why do Filipinos have such odd, even risque, names? This is not a translation issue, as most people speak English well, or well enough to know that BumBum, for example, is not exactly on the rest of the Anglophile world's list of popular baby names. I rather tentatively brought the subject up at a dinner party full of lawyers, academics and business people. Many of them were surprised - they had simply never thought of these names as having any kind of negative connotation. /

“But once we started discussing it, they did agree that, to outsiders at least, it all might sound a bit strange. Soon a heated debate began. Perhaps it was because of the propensity of Filipinos to have large, tight-knit families, some of them said. A man called Babe or Honey Boy, for instance, is probably the youngest member of that generation in the family. It suited him when he was two years old - now he is a slightly overweight businessman in his 50s, why change it? /

“But nicknames are not always given when people are young. The former president Joseph Estrada is more commonly known as Erap - a name he acquired in his 20s. When spelt backwards, Erap becomes Pare, which means mate or buddy in the national language Tagalog. Other guests thought that nicknames came about because of a need for individuality. People here often have the same Christian name as their parents. Former Congressman Ace Barbers, who, like Joker Arroyo, obviously had a card-player in the family, has the Christian name Robert, but so do his father and all his brothers. He clearly has not found it a problem as he named his four sons Robert too. Nicknames must be essential in their house. /

“The conversation soon turned to the fact that the Philippines is a melting pot of different cultures, and perhaps that is what led to these strange names. The president himself is a good example. His full Christian name is Benigno Simeon Cojuangco, names which are Spanish, Hebrew and Chinese respectively. His nickname Noynoy is the only part that is truly Filipino. /

“The main thing Spain gave to the Philippines was Catholicism, and with it, tens of thousands of newly-christened Marias and Joses. With the Americans came names like Butch, Buffy and Junior - and the propensity to shorten everything if at all possible. Perhaps it is the combination of these two influences which has led to names like Jejomar - short for Jesus Joseph Mary. The current vice president is called Jejomar Binay. /

“Even the large Chinese community here has not escaped this national name game. Their surnames are often a form of Anglicised Chinese, but sometimes the Philippine penchant for fun shines through. I have heard of a Van Go, a John F Kenneth Dee and an Ivan Ho. But there are some names that just defy explanation. Why would you call your children after the days of the week or your favourite desserts? To many Filipinos, a better question to ask is: "Why wouldn't you?" When I'm introduced to a Dinky or a Dunce, or read about people called Bing and Bong, it seems almost normal. In fact, if anything, I rather like the fact that Filipinos are self-assured enough to use these names, no matter how odd they sound or how senior the person's public role. /

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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