Boracay is a popular vacation destination in the Philippines for both locals and foreigners. With Boracay Island constantly listed as one of the world’s best, a Boracay trip is on every avid traveler’s bucket list.
Foreigners outnumbered local tourists for the first time in 2015. Koreans were the top visitors, followed by the Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysians, Americans, Australians, Singaporeans, Saudi Arabians, British, and Japanese. The spike in tourist arrivals from abroad was spurred by the increase in direct international flights, the addition of new activities and experiences offered in Boracay, and more cruise ships making stopovers on the island. Boracay’s attraction goes beyond just its turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and swinging nightlife. You will love the island paradise for the warmth and hospitality of the locals. Boracay also effectively attracts non English-speaking tourists from countries like Malaysia, Singapore, China, South Korea, and Russia, mainly because communicating is always easier when the locals go out of their way to help you out. All the same, learning a few essential Tagalog words will go a long way in enhancing your travel experience in Boracay. Get started with the following basic Tagalog words/expressions/greetings.
You say “Magandang umaga,” “Magandang hapon” or “Magandang gabi” (Good morning/afternoon/evening) when you want to greet people Adding po is optional, but is preferable if you are talking to someone older or if you wish to be polite. This is a great way to start a conversation with the hotel staff or your guide.
You will also hear this phrase from people who work in hotels or restaurants. In hotels like Alta Vista de Boracay, the staff is trained to be polite and friendly to visitors, so expect to hear this pretty often!
Claire Viaggi on Trip Advisor reviewed the hotel, saying “staff was amazing, from the front desk to restaurant waiters”.
Kumusta is a Filipino way of making casual greetings. It is the equivalent of “How have you been?” or “How are you?” You can use this to greet the locals you encounter while out and about.
Po is a word Filipinos add to what they are saying, usually at the end, to express respect. You won’t have to use it when talking to your peers. It is commonly used when talking to figures of authority, such as teachers, bosses, police officers, and parents. It is best to use po when talking to those older than you. For instance, you can use it when speaking to an elderly woman manning a store or when asking for directions from traffic enforcers.
Oo and opo both mean yes, but the latter is a more polite way of saying it.
Hindi is the Filipino word for no. To avoid sounding offensive, you can say “Hindi po” instead. You can use this to say no to people in restaurants or stores who are asking for more orders or purchases.
Salamat is the Filipino word for “Thank you.” Expressing your gratitude in the native tongue is bound to bring out smiles from the locals. The gesture will have them warming up to you even more, and could easily open up new conversations.
“Pasensiya na ho/po” is a respectful way to apologize, although saying “Sorry” should suffice in most situations. This English word is often used in the Philippines. You can use “Pasensya na po” if you have to decline an offer from locals to, say, join them for dinner.
Paalam is the Filipino word for goodbye. Say this with a wave of the hand and you will have the locals smiling, even giggling if you are dealing with children. Children in the Philippines like to flock around foreigners, as if trying to satisfy their endlessly curious minds. Exchange a few words with them and give them a proper goodbye upon leaving.
“Tulong!” means “help!”, and will come in handy in times of emergency. If, say, you find yourself in contact with a jellyfish, and you need the locals to help you deal with the sting, you can get their attention by screaming “Tulong!” If you are in a less serious situation, like if you need help carrying your luggage, you can say “Patulong po” instead.
You can use this to ask for assistance from the people around you. In Alta Vista de Boracay, the staff is always ready to assist and help you with your needs.
Just like other Southeast Asian cultures, food is a key element in Philippine culture, so much so that one of the ways Filipinos greet each other is by saying ”Kumain ka na?” (Have you eaten?). This is especially used by people hosting a party, lunch, dinner or any social gathering. “Kumain ka na?” is often followed by whatever phrase you’d like to use to acknowledge someone’s arrival.
Sarap means delicious. Your Filipino hosts will love hearing you say this about the food they serve. Filipinos are warm people and are known for their hospitality. Express your gratitude by being generous with your compliments.
“Magkano ito?” is how Filipinos ask for the price of something or the Filipino equivalent of “How much is this?” To make it sound more natural, you can say “Magkano ‘to?” instead. This will be very useful when you are out exploring bazaars/markets or shopping in malls. Do not forget to try your skills at haggling, as this is a popular thing to do in the Philippines.
Speaking of haggling, you must learn to say “Wala nang tawad?”, which literally means “No more discount?” Do not hesitate to use this phrase, as haggling is part of the Filipino culture. But refrain from using it in boutiques and department stores if you don’t wish to be embarrassed. Prices in these establishments are fixed. Haggling is mostly done in bazaars and smaller stores along the sidewalk or in the market.
The literal and rough translation of pwede is possible. Filipinos often use it to express approval, or as a way of saying “Sure!” If your newfound friends in Boracay suggest that you go kitesurfing with them, you can reply with a resounding “Pwede!”
“Tara!” means “Let’s go!” and is often used in everyday conversation. You can use the expression to signal the guide that you are ready to leave.
“Sagot na kita!” means “My treat!”, a term you might want to use sparingly if you’d like to go easy on your travel budget.
“Sayang!” is used to express disappointment, much like saying “Aww, man!” or “What a pity!” This is especially used when someone was close to making something good happen but failed anyhow. Or you can say “Sayang!” if someone invites you to a party but you won’t be able to make it coz you’d already be back home by then.
If you are looking for a place where you could find public transportation, you can simply ask, “Saan po ang sakayan?” This is what Filipinos say when they are asking for the location of nearby taxi/tricycle stand or bus station.
“Anong oras na?” means “What time is it?” This will come in handy if your smartphone runs out of juice, and you need to know what time it is, especially if you have a flight to catch.
“Halika rito” literally means “come here.” It is usually used when you are beckoning someone to approach you or to “come closer.” It can be a sweet, even provocative, thing to say when spoken to a lover.
The best thing to say to a lover is still “I love you.” In Filipino, this is “Mahal kita.” Make sure you mean it from the heart and feel it roll off your tongue. “Mahal ko kayo” which means “I love you all” can be used in more casual terms like when you are being warm to the locals or to your newfound friends in the country.
“Hay naku!” is used to express exasperation. Feel free to ask what’s wrong if you hear a Boracay native utter these words.
Much like Spanish, Tagalog is a phonetic language, which means speech sounds are represented in ways that are close to what they actually sound. You will rarely encounter any irregular blending, silent words or other complex phonological processes common in other languages like French and English. Tagalog is easy to read, simply remember that every letter is pronounced.
Have fun exploring one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and enjoy using Filipino phrases that are sure to establish rapport with the locals! For an enhanced travel experience, book your accommodations at Alta Vista de Boracay, where the staff are trained to address your concerns and assist you at all times. Do not let any limitations, such as you inability to speak English and Filipino, keep you from packing your bags and going to the vacation of your dreams. Experience Boracay now!