5 Commonly Used Expressions in Bisaya, the Language of Cebu

Arriving at Cebu's international airport, you'll discover that English is widely spoken. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Arriving at Cebu's international airport, you'll discover that English is widely spoken. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

On arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the Philippines’ national capital, or at the Mactan-Cebu International airport in Cebu, where the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit will be held, foreign visitors to the Philippines will discover that English is widely used and spoken.

All airport signs, including advertising posters and banners, are accompanied by English translations, and most of the airport staff speak English quite fluently. And on leaving the airport, you'd find the same to be generally true, especially in commercial establishments and tourist hotspots.

Most Filipinos know how to speak a little English, if not other European or Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish, French and Italian. “Hi”, “Hello”, and “Goodbye” are common words in everyday conversation among locals. Traffic signs, official documents, books and magazines, and the leading newspapers are also mostly presented in English—one of the legacies of the country’s former colonial master, the United States of America.

In fact, along with Filipino, English is designated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution as the country's official language. So long as you know some English you can be confident that you'll be able to travel around the city without encountering serious language barriers.

But you never know when a little Bisaya, the local language in Cebu, might come in handy. So here are some of the most commonly used expressions in Bisaya:

  1. Thank You
  1. Good Morning / Good Afternoon / Good Evening
Maayo’ng Buntag / Maayo’ng Hapon / Maayo’ng Gabii
  1. Please
  1. How much is this?
Tagpila ni?
  1. Where is _______________?

Ex. Where is the Basilica del Sto. Niño?

Diin / Asa ang _______________?Diin ang Basilica del Sto. Niño?Asa ang Basilica del Sto. Niño?

Bisaya is also spoken in the neighboring islands of Bohol and Siquijor and in parts of the islands of Negros, Leyte, and Mindanao. It is one of the five main regional languages in the Philippines along with Tagalog, Hiligaynon, Waray, and Iloko. The national language Filipino is based mainly on Tagalog but also incorporates words from the other regional languages. There are over a hundred languages and dialects spoken across the Philippine archipelago.

Some commonly used Filipino words that can be understood almost anywhere in the country would include the term bayad (pay or payment), the greeting mabuhay (the imperative form of “live”), and padayon (continue or carry on). You can also learn more about the Philippines’ indigenous languages during this Global Voices Summit session.

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