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The reason why Filipinos are not easy to unite is simply because of the geographical nature of the country itself. An archipelago of 7107 islands, the Philippines has 171 dialects spoken by people in many different areas in the region. How can one easily unite citizens speaking more than a hundred languages and separated by more than seven thousand pieces of lands?

Filipino dialects in trouble

Two of the most common dialects in the Philippines are the Bisaya (Visayan) and the Tagalog. These two languages are the main sources of other dialects. Most of the dialects are derived from Bisaya and Tagalog. While Tagalog is widely spoken in Luzon, Bisaya is the native tongue of Visayas and Mindanao.

Although most dialects are spoken differently or less far from Tagalog or Visayan, they are still derived from these two. The Cebuano, the Ilonggo, Waray, Dabawenyo and Bilaan have lots of common words that are spoken. Like Sukli. Sukli is spoken in Cebu and Manila with the same meaning. Sukli means change, or a loose change for a bill. When you say in Manila, of course, it will be easily understood because it’s a Tagalog word. But this word is also used in Visayan with the same meaning in Tagalog. Kambyo is used in Davao instead of Sukli. See?

Other words that are spoken both in Bisaya and Tagalog but with same meanings are Bayad, Likod, Away, Pindut, and other common and proper nouns such as kitchen utensils and body parts like baso, plato, kutsara, tinidor, buhok, ilong, and many others. All of these are spoken not only in Bisaya and Tagalog but also in almost all the rest of the dialects. Of course these are mainly derived from our national language, which is Filipino or Tagalog.

Another interesting dialect is the Davaoeno. You might think that the original Davaoeno dialect is the one which is mostly spoken in Davao City, but no. Davaoeno is the minority dialect that is very seldom spoken in most parts of the city. Davaoeno dialect is originated from the orient seas of Mindanao, which is Davao Oriental. Pure Davaoeno is totally different from Bisaya, although, as what has been mentioned above, this dialect has also Bisaya and Tagalog words in it.

Like Puwa in Cebu, which means the color red—or pula in tagalog—is used in Davao Oriental. Kuno (hearsay), Ha-in (where), Wa (nothing) and many others have the same meaning both in Cebuano and Davaoeno. But careful when a Davaoeno say to you, “Kamanga dah ang asawa ko,” which means, “Go fetch my wife to get home.” Although it is clear to understand this sentence in Bisaya, it actually has a completely different meaning. In Bisaya this could mean very malicious and funny. In Davaoeno, it means differently. In Bisaya, it means that you have to go touch his wife at the middle of the night. Crazy, don’t you think so?

Filipinos are really fond of speaking different kinds of languages. They even invent their own that only few groups of people can understand. Most of us even use languages that you can only read on cell phone screens, imprintable texts so to speak.

So the next time you travel to different parts of the country, make sure you know what, how and when to speak and understand a certain word. Like if you are in a church in Cebu and you’re from Davao, when the priest says, “Mag barog kita tanan.” This doesn’t mean that you have to show what you’ve got with your looks and how you dress. This simply means that you just have to stand up.

Putos and Balot (pack), Pantalon and Karsones, Samin and Anchuhos, Kabalo and Kahibaw, and other Davao letter L replaced by Cebuano letter W or none at all: these are all fascinating differences that you have to ponder.

If you know how to understand, “Where na you?” and “Dito na me,” you won’t be having a hard time.

Image Credit: [Reyshimar Arguelles and Centralecho]


About the author: Nonoy


A former musician who branched out his interest in creative writing and the World Wide Web.

He writes fiction on his spare time.



  1. >amo gayud..naunsa da kining mga tawo dito…haha
    ayuz noy!

  2. >It's true….we Filipinos can make or create another language of our own….Filipino gay-speak is one. Here in the US, gay people here ….well don't have their 'gayspeak'

  3. ella dizon

    >language barrier. i found this very interesting. because i am capampangan by birth, but truly cebuano by heart. when i studied in davao, i often use the tagalog/visyan/ilonggo mixed in one sentence. like "ano man yan ui?" or "ba't man" i thought it is the correct tagalog sentence for "ano yan" or "ano ba yan" and "bakit naman". then i worked in cebu and continued that kind of mix language. cebuanos found it very funny. like the "yabe" in davao, it is "yawe" in cebu. i thought my landlady in cebu meant "yawa" or a curse.

  4. Nonoy Avellanosa

    >@Ella: Hahahaha! You are correct about that Ella. Sometimes it's too awkward to speak to Cebuanos with your Dabawenyo accent or Bisaya. In my case, I often be in a situation where I forgot how to speak whenever I would arrive in Davao from Cebu and vice versa. 🙂 People who hear me talking would just look at me as if I'm a rotten egg. Hahaha:-)

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