Filipino 101: The F Words

Back in my Multiply days, I started a series that I called Filipino 101. It was short-lived because, for some reason, I got side-tracked. It was fun, though, and I think it is high-time I restart that.

In How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way, I touched on Philippine history. There, I mentioned that for nearly 400 years, we were colonized by Spain. I did not mention much about language, however. But if you have ever heard a conversation or read exchanges between Filipinos, you’d probably be thinking, “Wait a minute. Was that Spanish?” Chances are, you’re right.

Becoming (Sort of) Spanish

Hard as they could, the Spaniards denied teaching their language to the Filipinos. But 400 hundred years is quite a long time to keep everything exclusively. The indios who were more well-to-do were able to afford an education denied to the lower class. That was how they learned Spanish or Español/Kastila.

Meanwhile, many Spanish terms and phrases used for everyday-things became normal everyday-terms, like the following:

Cómo estás? – “How are you?”, but we say “Kumusta?/Kamusta?” or “Kumusta ka?”

mesa/la mesa – table

cubiertos – utensils (“kubyertos”)

ventana – window (“bintana”)

silla – chair (“silya”); the local word is “upuan” or seat since “upo” means sit, so it’s a thing to sit on

pero – but

escuela or escuelas – school (“eskwela” or “eskwelahan”); the local word is “paaralan”, from the root word “aral” or study, so it’s a place for studying

para – for or to be able to (“para”/“para sa”); the local word is “upang”, but hardly anyone uses that in normal conversations

compadre – usually used for a male friend or companion (“kumpadre”/“kumpare”), especially when one is godfather to another man’s child, making them “co-fathers”

“Pare” is the most commonly used version to refer to or call a male friend, although sometimes, that can be used also to address a male stranger in a friendly manner (ex. Pare, could you tell me where the mall is at? I’m new to this place.”), or in a sarcastic/annoyed tone (ex. “Pare, are you kidding me?”)

Comare/comadre  or “kumare” is the female version BUT, online dictionaries say it is either Italian or Portuguese

camiseta – shirt (“kamiseta”), but in the Philippines, it’s usually a sleeveless and collarless shirt worn especially if it’s hot

Those are just some examples of Kastila words we have come to consider as Filipino ones. In fact, it has been so long that many of us don’t know or realize they are not ours. That explains, though, why many of us are able to pronounce Spanish well (at least those who do mind how to say it). We are used to the sounds. In some parts of the country, they can even speak the language well enough.

Meanwhile, when the parents of today’s middle-aged went to school, long after the Spaniards were gone, learning Spanish was a requirement. It isn’t now, that is why Filipinos can’t normally converse in that language.

Nosebleed because of Spokening Dollars

If you hear “spokening dollars” anywhere here, it refers to any English speaker. Yes, we love to coin amusing words and phrases like that. Speak in direct English and they may jokingly exclaim, “Nosebleed!” That means, “Oh my goodness! I can’t understand you. You’re making my nose bleed!” Sometimes, it’s a pure joke, sometimes, it’s really their way of letting you know they can’t understand you.

Today, English is the requirement in school and remains our second language. We learned this from the Americans after they helped drive away the Japanese during World War II. That is why many who grew up until the ’90s are good in American English. What happened to the next generations is another story.

Similar to the Spanish language, we have taken to using many English terms. We count in English, sometimes curse in English (the F- and S-bombs, especially the latter), even address the Christian god in English (“Lord”) when we pray.

Here are several English words we use:

Hello — “Hi” is common enough, but is less used

Good morning/afternoon — “Good evening” is known, but also less used; “Good day” is hardly used except by English speakers



Of course!


appear – It doesn’t mean what you think. Here, when someone says “Apir!”, you high-five (don’t ask me why)


toothbrush, toothpaste


Many words sound too old-fashioned that we prefer the foreign ones, or they have no direct translations at all, like “refrigerator”.

In our ancient alphabet called baybayin, which we now try to revive, there are no characters that represent the following: C, F, J, Q, V, X and Z. Therefore, characters that sound the nearest to them are used when writing, though it depends on the words being written. In addition, we have the character “Ng”.

Our long-accepted modern-day alphabet does not have those, too. We used to call our ABC the ABaKaDa. (If you’ll play that vid above, you’ll hear how we read and pronounce words, especially “Ng”, which always baffles foreigners). Around two decades ago, they created the new Filipino alphabet and incorporated the English letters.

For me, personally, I thought that was stupid. Why? Because they were trying to fix something that was not broken. They said it’s because we now use words that make use of the English letters. But that’s because they’re just English words we’ve come to accept, and silly coined words that either do not mean anything or are bastardized versions of otherwise legit terms. I find it as some kind of dumbing down the people more. We used to be Pilipinos and our language, Pilipino, but somebody got the brilliant idea to use F instead.

That said,…

The ABaKaDa: A, B, K, D, E, G, H, I, L, M, N, Ng, O, P, R, S, T, U, W, Y

Ang Makabagong Alpabeto (The New Alphabet): A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ṅ, Ng, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

Da Ep, Fee, Bee en Bee

When it comes to the Filipino’s English accent, diction and pronunciation, that’s where you’ll most probably have a problem. So it’s better to know now.

Many of us understand very simple English. Some speak it very well. Some write it well but are too shy to converse with it. And there are those, shy or not, who have the Ep and Fee Syndrome–you tend to unintentionally get your Fs and Ps mixed up. (“It’s a nown pact dat feefol will olways rimember.”)  And many of us do not see the difference between the B and the V when we speak. (“Da bidyo is berry good, Beronica.”)

I’ll let Pinoy Boy Mikey Bustos show you how it’s “done” with the very first viral video that made him famous to Filipinos.

Alright, I’ve shared a lot already. Next time I do Filipino 101, expect some basic vocabulary lessons. Meanwhile, I leave you with this other vid which is funny, but very true of Filipino parents 🙂

Hanggang sa muli!!! (Until then!!!)

6 thoughts on “Filipino 101: The F Words

  1. A couple of years back, I started learning Spanish and quite enjoyed it for a beginner. “Muy trabajo!” Unfortunately, I couldn’t go back due to financial constraints. I’ve tried those found in Youtube but it wasn’t the speed I was comfortable with and mostly, were for users who had Spanish as a subject and were looking for a free refresher course.

    Anyway, as for the English pronunciation, yeah,I get in trouble with my lazy tongue and not, pronouncing words as it should be. I got called out one for the word “moment” for not clearly pronouncing my ‘t’ an my “th” in “That” or “then” nagiging “dat” or “den” *argh* and was told to enunciate properly. lolz. Filipino accent slips but never on words like fink (pink) etc.

    Mom once shared a high school memory – their classroom for their English subject was equipped with headsets so when their teacher will enunciate & they will follow the right pronunciation.

    For the life of me, it annoys me when ppl insist on speaking the bastardized way. I was shocked when I heard a teleradyo broadcaster saying the translation of “attitude” (ate-tude prolly kanto speaking na ba ito?) was sister-tude? What the heck?

    They themselves are “destroying” the language and dumbing the ppl. If one doesn’t want it to happen, broadcasters at least speak in correct form. *sigh*

    One thing, I don’t get it was, why can’t both Pilipino and English be taught side by side, like it was before? It was sad to hear (when I used to work at my other previous jobs) from a couple of former officemates would always transfer phone calls to me, because our foreign clients are asking for anyone else who can speak English. When I was fed up rescuing them, I had to instruct them to practice & converse with the clients even in halting English as much as they can. Fortunately, they did and less phone transfer land on my desk. If we keep re-vamping our curriculum, those in the provinces will lose their edge in speaking in English.

    Oh, this reminds me of a blunder…. I asked my auntie :”Did Lola went home already?” of course, correct form was” Did Lola go home…? I will never forget my aunt’s expression as she ‘deciphered’ my wrong tense. lolz. Good thing, I wasn’t talking to my cousin.or I’ll be grammar edited on the spot. lolz


    • If I were to learn a third language, that would be Spanish. My best reason? There are still people in the Philippines who do speak it, it would be easier to practice and apply what I’ve learned.

      Let’s say I take French instead (which was my original preference when I was younger). It’ll be hard to find others to converse with unless I seek out past French language students whom I don’t personally know, or join any possible online groups of people I also don’t know and whose credibility as French speakers I am not sure of. Don’t want it to be like the blind leading the blind,

      “Anyway, as for the English pronunciation, yeah,I get in trouble with my lazy tongue and not, pronouncing words as it should be.”

      When I really began writing in high school (you remember), that’s when I became more cautious with how I speak in English. I often would read my stuff aloud as I wanted them to sound right. I got to practice more when I became a radio DJ in college. I tell you, there were many bloopers when I started (how embarrassing) until my tongue kind of got used to speaking English words properly.

      Today, I’m much better at it and I don’t even need to be cautious. In normal conversations, however, I sometimes make slips, but that’s okay because no one really cares unless they’re foreigners who can’t understand. I hardly get my Fs and Ps mixed up, anyway, just mispronounce TH as D and, well, I just sound like how Mikey “Miguel” Bustos sounds. I also commit E and I mix-ups sometimes. While on the air, I once pronounced Sharon Cuneta’s last name as “Kunita”!!! LOL!!! I cracked up on the air, even my co-jocks who were in the booth at the time laughed. Just to be clear, it’s not to make fun of people from other parts of the country (in a post, I actually got mad at someone, just search browse down to the “Watch your words” part). It was just simply funny.

      Ironically, when talking with people who don’t normally speak in English, I actually often catch myself trying not to sound American and trying to sound more like Mikey’s Miguel. You know how it is here. If you’re not rich and/or gorgeous, they think you’re a show-off and/or maarte. In fact, once, in a sort of argument (long story), I happened to just say “anyway” (I think that was the word or something else that has become kind of generic to Pinoys). I later learned they were mocking me, making it look like I was acting superior and pretending to be smart (“Anyway-anyway! Akala mo kung sino’ng matalino!“). Tell me, haven’t we Pinoys been using “anyway” in normal conversations already??? I never thought one had to be intelligent to be allowed to use the word.

      Anyway (ha ha ha!!!!), regarding the b*st*rdizing of English words, I have a feeling that the broadcasters were only joking. The thing is, if they’re responsible media people, they’d make sure people understood they were joking…I plan on discussing this kind of stuff in the future.

      “One thing, I don’t get it was, why can’t both Pilipino and English be taught side by side, like it was before?”

      They still are both taught! At least, in the gradeschool level, as far as I know. But I am surprised that they only start teaching the English subject now to the first-graders in the fourth quarter. On a related note, I am aghast that science is not yet one of the subjects until third grade (and I know this because our panganay had it when he was in Grade 3). So I’m trying to teach science to our Grade 2 student myself when I am at home and not busy…I effin’ have no idea how this is a K-12 thing.

      As for wrong tenses, it happens to the best of us. I happen to find myself committing such mistakes more times than I’d like to admit.


      • There was a time I also wondered about the Filipino accent and when I saw Bustos vid years back, I understood. We seem to be lacking some finesse (maybe not the right word) when speaking English.

        Science starting at 3rd grade? I can’t recall if we had it earlier or the same either. 😀

        Anyway…maybe too much watching “Ellen” and hearing other ppl say it too. There was another from local celebs “in fairness,…” which is becoming like an expression to some ppl.

        I do hope teleradyo listeners know the announcers were joking as it was misleading to make it define a word & cringe worthy to hear it.

        English starting first grade? I thought it was done during Kindergarten or at least the simple words intros such as cat, bat, hat etc. I remembered because I got bullied back in Kinder for always writing simple sentences starting with “Mark plays or Mark sings…” emotional baggage. lolz You know how bullies say “tell the teacher or mom and they’ll bully you more.” The bullying at class became unbearable, made me ran away from school (practically didn’t wait for Mom to pick me up), turned my parents & my Kindergarten teacher’s world upside down. Dad freaked out because he thought I ended up in Forestry or the infamous creek. My crazy childhood. Gone back to class a few days later, and was transferred to the expat kids table who were very quiet., Lucky me,. lolz


        • “We seem to be lacking some finesse (maybe not the right word) when speaking English.”

          In all honesty, I don’t mind it now. We’re Filipinos, not Americans or British. Heck, they speak Filipino and they can’t speak it well either. For me, as long as you can speak it clearly enough and have enough vocabulary, it doesn’t matter. You can speak with all the proper accent you want, but if you’re lacking in the vocabulary department and commit loads of grammatical errors, then who would you be fooling?

          “Science starting at 3rd grade? I can’t recall if we had it earlier or the same either.”

          Maybe not in Kinder, but from first grade, yes, we had them. I know this because my mother–and eventually, me–being sentimental, she kept our grading cards. It was only a few years ago that I reluctantly parted with them (I kept one or two still for souvenir, ha ha! S’yempre, pinili ko ‘yung may magandang grado, ha ha haaaa!!!!). Last year, our first-grader did not have it, and this year, he still doesn’t. Baka sa Grade 3 na nga since his kuya had that two years ago.

          “I do hope teleradyo listeners know the announcers were joking as it was misleading to make it define a word & cringe worthy to hear it.”

          I lament the lack of proper etiquette in most FM stations today. A lot of them make radio not-so-child friendly these days. One station set a precedent and I hate that station to this day. We had community broadcasting in college so I know that there’s proper etiquette to follow. There should be.

          “English starting first grade? I thought it was done during Kindergarten or at least the simple words intros such as cat, bat, hat etc.”

          Oh, they did teach those. Just saying there’s no actual English subject. The last year, in first-grade, our boy didn’t have it until the fourth grading period.


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