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!!!)

How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way #atozchallenge2017

The written language is most important in writing.Without it, we’d all be like cavemen drawing stories, probably even opinions, on walls, tree trunks, leaves…I imagine there would be much more confusion in this already-confused world.

Of course, there would be the spoken  language, probably mostly grunts coupled with hand gestures. We’d probably be fighting over and over due to sound and gesture misinterpretations. I mean, cave paintings are now art, but isn’t art subject to various interpretations? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in a manner of speaking.

So, without the written language, we’d be so far from the civilized world of today…Well, almost civilized. (Some people do seem to even openly and unabashedly show or express their Neanderthal tendencies.)

A Sense of History and Identity

An uncivilized society with no history, that’s exactly how the country’s Spanish conquerors made the natives, our land’s indigenous people and my ancestors, believe they had. After all, we all used to be made up of tribes that practiced pagan beliefs. For around 400 years, they called us ‘indios’, their colonial and discriminatory racial term for us. The conquistadors made us believe our forefathers were illiterate prior to their arrival. The better to reign over us, right?

“The colonial masters required the native Filipinos to swear allegiance to the Spanish monarch, where before they only had village chieftains called ‘datus;’ to worship a new God, where before they worshipped a whole pantheon of supernatural deities and divinities; to speak a new language, where before they had (and still have) a Babel of tongues; and to alter their work habits, where before they worked within the framework of a subsistence economy.” (Encyclopedia of Southeast Asia: Philippines)

Illiterate with no social identity, though? That was the biggest lie Spain gave us. Before they came barging in, we already had our own ancient writing system, the baybayin, also and more popularly known as alibata.

The Baybayin/Alibata

What is baybayin?

“Baybayin is a pre-Spanish Philippine writing system. It is a member of the Brahmic family and is recorded as being in use in the 16th century. It continued to be used during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines up until the late 19th Century.” (

Pre-Spanish era, we were not yet Filipinos. I say this for the simple reason that Filipinas–the Philippines–was named after Spain’s ruler Haring (King) Felipe once they conquered us. The whole truth was, we were an already-learned people with our own history, as proven by our writing.

“History is impossible without the written word as one would lack context in which to interpret physical evidence from the ancient past. Writing records the lives of a people and so is the first necessary step in the written history of a culture or civilization.” (, on Writing)

This is our ancient writing system, the Baybayin. Here you see when to make the characters sound with an “e/i” or an “o/u”, all depend on where you put the marks or dots. The cross has a different purpose and was not part of the original system

The Baybayin Advocacy

Back in 2008, when I used to simply call it ‘alibata’, I wrote about it in my old and now defunct first official blog. I said (with some edits here),

Alibata is slowly being re-introduced to Filipinos. A decade or so ago, some began sporting alibata characters, the Philippines’ ancient alphabet, especially as tattoos. Most popular of these is the ‘pa’ character to represent the letter P, to symbolize being ‘Pinoy’, slang word for ‘Filipino’ or ‘Pilipino’. Once in a while, I encounter people wearing shirts bearing some of the characters. In the ’90s, GMA (Channel) 7 came up with the action show titled Pintados. In our ancient times, ‘pintados’ were the tribesmen-warriors called so because they had their bodies painted all over. No, tattooed all over. Anyway, this show took a lot of liberty using alibata characters, but without educating the audience on what they meant…

I think I’ll call myself an Alibata advocate. I’ve been trying to practice it this year and I plan to use it in other things…(I do follow what I’ll call ‘Neo-Alibata‘, though. Old and ‘new’ must meet somewhere.)

It was used in many parts of the country back then, especially in Visayas and Mindanao, so it’s not necessarily Tagalog, our most widely used dialect originating from Luzon. The Spaniards came and forced people to become Christians and the ancient letters began disappearing. The style I’m using isn’t exactly the original. I’m following some changes especially when I’m not writing in Filipino. There are letters in the English alphabet that we don’t have.”

The “Ka” character on a Philippine flag

What I meant by “the style I’m using” was that I was/is following the altered version created by a Spaniard that adds the cross sign to indicate that a character is to be read as a simple consonant–“pa” is simply read as “p”.  Meanwhile, our writing system did not have any R-sound so one of the usual things done, which I follow, was/is to use the “da” or the “la” character instead. I am very partial to the second one because I find it prettier, to be honest. The Mandirigma Research Organization‘s site should be able to tell you much more, so I recommend that you refer to it.

Another popular character, the “Ka”, is another fave of mine. It was used in one of the flags of the Philippine Revolution, by the revolutionary group called Katipunan. Now I know what that image on the flag symbolized.

Check out how I did my name (Jennifer Federizo Enriquez) and my alias (Li’l Dove Feather) respectively using a generator I just found.

Nice, eh? When I wrote the post mentioned above, I actually offered to write readers’ names for them if they requested it in the comments. It was a total hit, I tell you. That second image you see on this post is my handwriting in ali–oops–I mean, baybayin! 

“The term Baybay literally means ‘to spell’ in Tagalog…Some have attributed it the name Alibata, but this name is incorrect. (The term “Alibata” was coined by Paul Rodriguez Verzosa after the arrangement of letters of the Arabic alphabet  alif, ba, ta (alibata), “f” having been eliminated for euphony’s sake.” )…no evidence of the baybayin was ever found in that part of the Philippines and it has absolutely no relationship to the Arabic language. Furthermore, no ancient script native to Southeast Asia followed the Arabic arrangement of letters,…its absence from all historical records indicates that it is a totally modern creation.” (

Like I said, I aim to be a baybayin advocate. In fact, in the story I am working on, the alibata/baybayin is mentioned.

“…It was proof that unlike what the Spaniards claimed, Filipinos were not an uncivilized race before they arrived and conquered. It was only what they made everyone believe.

Maya had scoffed at that in a conversation saying, ‘Ha! I was learning my A-Ba-Ka-Da loooooong before I met any of them. My father taught me that and his father taught him, and so on. If I had my way, I’d put learning alibata in the grade school curricula.’ She would, too, knowing her. In fact, her journal notebook was filled with things always written in alibata, one way to keep most people away, ironically.” (MAYA [CHAPTER 2: DEAD AIR, Scene 4])

The point made regarding including the writing system in the school curricula is definitely my opinion. And time may come that I shall write a whole story in our beloved baybayin. I can’t wait for other Filipinos to do the same (although there are those who have been incorporating it in their comic books). After all, according to the Mandirigma site, Baybayin was noted by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by most, and was generally used for personal writings, poetry, etc.”

Our literary world has suffered for centuries and it’s time to bring back pride for what we can do and continue our history!…But for now, you can bet that the writing system will figure more in my story’s chapters to come. We always start somewhere.

Meanwhile, here are samples I personally made:

If you found this blog’s landing page, this surely welcomed you

If memory serves me right, this was my first attempt at doing baybayin. I mixed images and using a mouse with an unsteady hand, I tried to write down my alias, Li’l Dove. Though the “B” didn’t look that right, I think it was okay because the effect I was going for was a “smokey” effect

For my then blog, I made this for fun. The girl was supposed to be me, only with better hair and with earrings (well, only one visible) when I am not the type to often wear them. I spelled out “kopi kat” in baybayin and added a personal logo I created


These were just some of the many names I spelled out in baybayin, as requested. I have deleted the others

My own personal logo, in various renditions. It honestly does not strictly follow the writing system’s spelling rules. I’ve just stylized my logo. The above character, yet another one of my favorites, says “G” (meaning me, Gi); the one below says “pi” because no matter what happens, I’m proud to be Pinoy!



I hope you enjoyed that one and learned a thing or two! Come back on Monday for the next A to Z post! Maybe I’ll have something nice again for you again 😉

By the way, all rights reserved to me, J.Gi Federizo, except for images and quotes that are linked to the right sources. I had original sources in 2008 as well, but the links are gone, and shares enough and proper information already, so my thanks to the whole research organization.

Also, DISCLAIMER: This post does not aim to spread hate against Spain or any other country. We are not accountable for whatever bad deeds our forebears did during their time.

A is for “Alibata”, otherwise known as “Baybayin”.

This piece serves as my Letter A post for the A to Z Challenge 2017.