Seven amusing Filipino expressions and how to use them

The Philippines has a rich linguistic diversity, with a total of 187 native languages and dialects and two official languages, Filipino and English. Filipino, the national lingua franca based on Tagalog, has evolved in unique ways over time. Originally spoken only in the capital city of Manila and its neighboring provinces, Tagalog spread to other parts of the country through traditional and digital media, local movies, and educational institutions. In celebration of National Language Month (Buwan ng Wika) this August, we’ve put together a list of Filipino expressions and slang used in daily conversations, particularly in the capital region:

1. Anyare?

Meaning/Usage: Short for “Anong nangyari?” (What happened?”), this expression is uttered out of surprise during more lighthearted situations. Asked often rhetorically, this question doesn’t intend to ask what happened per se but WHY something happened.

Example: If you see a close friend or co-worker with a terrible new haircut, you can jokingly say, “Anyare?!

(Main image above by @samanthavaughan via Twenty20)


Meaning/Usage: An expression of surprise, dismay or frustration when things aren’t going your way. It has no direct translation but it can be used as either a “Sigh!”, “Oh my!”, or an “Oh well!”’

Example: Hay naku, I’m so tired of major traffic jams every day.


Meaning/Usage:Bahala” is a derivative of the word “Bathala”, the ancient god worshipped by Filipinos during the pre-Spanish colonial period. This expression of surrender or faith also reflects fatalism back then. But in modern society, it is often uttered when things are beyond your control and is the equivalent of “Whatever will be, will be.”

Example: I was supposed to give a presentation with my boss today but she called in sick. Bahala na!


Meaning/Usage: This acronym stands for “kanya-kanyang bayad”, which roughly translates to “pay for yourself”. Filipinos are highly sociable and tend to treat each other during special occasions. This phrase stemmed from the need to clarify if the one organizing a gathering will be paying for everyone’s meals or not.

Person 1: Let’s go for drinks!
Person 2: Libre mo? (Is it your treat?)
Person 1: No, KKB!


Meaning/Usage: Figuratively speaking, this nasal hemorrhage happens when someone encounters something that’s very difficult to understand and it’s too much for the brain to handle. It is commonly used when a not-so-fluent Filipino speaks English (or any language other than their mother tongue) to a foreigner for extended periods of time or when reading a complex article that’s hard to comprehend.

Example: I’ve been researching about neurobiology since last night. Nosebleed!


Meaning/Usage: Having two official languages made code-switching between Tagalog and English (Taglish) prevalent in the central Philippines. One of the countless Taglish expressions, “Push mo ‘yan!” simply means “Go for it!” Filipinos say it to give support and encouragement to their friends, family, or peers when they’re trying to pursue their goals.

Example: “You do 50 burpees a day?! Push mo ‘yan!”


Meaning/Usage: Hugot” means to draw or pull something out. This expression (and hashtag) was made popular by the Filipino romantic comedy, That Thing Called Tadhana (fate) in 2014. Since then, “hugot lines” and memes that speak to the brokenhearted and “victims” of unrequited love became a trend on social networks. By quoting these spot-on lines that capture what they’re going through or have gone through, they can draw out certain emotions that they can relate with. It’s no surprise the Philippines is considered one of the most emotional countries in the world.

Example: “My relationship status? Taken…. Taken for granted. #hugot

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Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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