Speak Local: 10 Visayan Phrases That Will Come in Handy

Written by: Shin Kitane/Monday, Aug 15, 2016 07:28 AM

Header Image: iStock.com/haveseen
Lettering Artwork by Trish Lim and Carla De Guzman


The Philippines is a Southeast Asian nation well-known for its white sand beaches, underground caves, hiking trails, and other tourist destinations one can visit during the summer (or anytime of the year really, for some much-needed breaks from reality). A lot of these tourist spots are located in Visayas and Mindanao, two of the three island groups in the Philippines. In both regions, Visayan is the main language used by most locals. 

Should you find yourself booking a ticket to a destination such as Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, or Davao, here are a few basic phrases in Visayan that you can use to communicate more effectively with the people around you. Visayans are usually very warm, especially if they hear someone else speaking their language, so you might want to bookmark this list on your phone—you might just score better deals and warmer smiles with a few magic words! 

The Basic Greetings

1. Maayong adlaw (good day)

On days when you feel particularly perky and friendly, you can greet others with this. If you want to be more specific with the time of day, you can also use these variations: maayong buntag (good morning) / maayong udto (good afternoon) / maayong gabii (good evening) 

2. Daghang salamat (thank you)

A magic word in any culture, daghang salamat is how you express gratitude in Visayan. If you feel like you need to say “Thank you very much,” simply say Salamat kaayo. 

3. Tag pila man ni? (How much is this?)

Come on, you’ll most likely do some shopping anyway. Say tag pila man ni? to ask how much something is. Two more words you can use during your shopping sesh are: barato (cheap/inexpensive) and mahal (expensive) 

4. Kumusta man ka? (How do you do?)

A classic greeting that cuts across all cultures, asking someone about their day is always a good gesture. Practice using it with your tour guide, driver, or that cutie across the table! To answer the question, you can say maayo man, to mean “I am good.” 

5. Ang akong ngalan kay... (My name is...)

Here’s an even cuter way to introduce yourself. Or, ask someone what their name is: Unsa man imong ngalan? 


Ready to Take it to the Next Level?

Here are a few more words you can add to your vocabulary.

1. Gwapa kaayo ka. (You are very beautiful.)

Awww! Maybe you’d like to compliment a village tribe leader for her ancient beauty, or okay, maybe you’d like to flirt with that cute Cebuana your Filipino friend introduced to you —this is how you say it. If you’re talking to a guy, just switch to gwapo kaayo ka for “You are very handsome.” 

2. Ayo-ayo! (Be safe/Be well!)

For when you’re saying goodbye and you wish them well, just say ayo-ayo, preferably with a smile on your face to really get the message across. 

3. Ambot (I don’t know.)

Well, sometimes you gotta say you don’t know! Here’s how, with feelings: Ambot! (best accompanied with a shrug for maximum effect) 

4. Tabang! (Help!)

In case you need help getting somewhere or need any form of assistance, saying tabang or Tabangi ko, palihog. (Help me, please.) is a good way to get someone’s attention, pronto. 

5. Lami kaayo (this tastes really good)

For when your host cooks a mean dish, this is how you say you enjoy the taste of the food. 



About Shin Kitane
Shin Kitane writes to remember and believes that words have the power to heal, inspire, and move others. She dreams of a world where men and women are treated equally, where race, gender, and religion are not measures of one's worth in society. She is also a book-hoarder and a firm believer in re-watching Mean Girls and Harry Potter multiple times a year. Follow her misadventures @shinkitane on social media.
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