Phrases You Should Know Before Traveling to Bisaya (Cebuano) Area

If you’re planning on traveling around the Philippines, learning basic Bisaya phrases will greatly benefit you. If you think you’ll easily be able to get around by simply being able to speak Tagalog, you’re mistaken.

While most Filipinos can understand Tagalog, many still have a hard time using it especially in Bisaya-dominated regions where native languages are well-entrenched in the local populace. You may find it difficult to explain to a habal-habal driver in a remote town in Agusan where you want to go, or purchasepasalubong in Cebu without being offered the “tourist price” because you speak Tagalog and obviously aren’t a local.

Bisaya has a lot of variations. There’s Waray-Waray, Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Boholano, Surigaonon, Kamayo, Butuanon, Kinaray-a, and more. However, it is Cebuano that can easily be understood in most parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

Here are some helpful Bisaya words and phrases that are Cebuano in origin. Use them when you feel like the other party can’t comprehend or converse well enough in Tagalog, or use them just because you can!


Bus from Butuan to Davao
Moving from one place to another is a primary component of traveling. From reaching your hotel, to exploring a number of local attractions, to going home after a whole day tour of the city — all these involve transportation. So here are some Cebuano words and phrases which you may find helpful as you hit the road:

Lugar lang! When calling the attention of the jeepney/multicab/tricycle/habal-habal/bus driver to stop, instead of saying “para!” or stop, say: “Lugar lang!
Bayad palihog When passing your fare to people inside a jeep or multicab, say: “bayad palihog” (payment please). It’s like “bayad pakisuyo” in Tagalog.
Pila man ang pasahe? When asking “How much is the fare?”, say: “Pila man ang pasahe?”
Unsay oras ni molarga? When asking “What time will this leave?”, say: “Unsay oras ni molarga?” This is equivalent to “Anong oras ‘to aalis?” in Tagalog.
Unya pa/Taudtaod When the driver or konduktor wants to tell you “later,” he’ll say: “unya pa” or simply “unya.” Alternatively, “taudtaod” also means later but somehow closer in time, like in just a few more minutes or in Tagalog translation “maya-maya.”
Karon na When the driver or konduktor wants to tell you “now”, he’ll say: “karon na” or simply “karon.”
Ugma Tomorrow
Gahapon Yesterday
Buntag, Udto, Hapon, Gabii Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Evening or Night
Pila ka oras ang byahe? When asking “How many hours is the ride?”, in Cebuano you say: “Pila ka oras ang byahe?” Don’t be confused with pila and pila ka. Pila is like “ilan” or “magkano” in Tagalog while pila ka is somehow equivalent to “ilang” or “magkanong.” Eg. “Pila tanan?” (Ilan/Magkano lahat?) as opposed to “Pila ka buok?” (Ilang piraso?). This is also applicable in numbers like, “duha” means “dalawa” in Tagalog while “duha ka” is somehow but not exactly equivalent to “dalawang” in Tagalog.
Asa ka moadto? / Asa ka manaog? Asa ka moadto”? – When the driver or konduktor wants to ask you “Where will you alight?” he’ll say: “Asa ka manaog?” When he wants to ask you “Where are you going?” he’ll say: “Asa ka moadto?” or “Asa ka padulong?”
Diri, Diha, Didto Diri means here or “dito” in Tagalog. Diha means there but is nearer like “dyan” in Tagalog. Didto also means there but is farther like “doon” in Tagalog.

Sample Conversation:

You: Asa dapit ang terminal pa-Tagbilaran? (Where is the terminal to Tagbilaran?)
Guard: Diha sa pikas mga walo ka metros gikan diri. (There on the side about 8 meters from here.)
You: Salamat kaayo manong! (Thanks a lot, manong!)
Guard: Ok Ayoayo! (Ok Take care!)
You: Unsay oras molarga ang barko pa-Tagbilaran, Ma’am? (What time will the ship leave for Tagbilaran, Ma’am?) NOTE: unsa = “ano” while unsay = “anong”
Ticket Seller: Unya pa mga alas-tres. (Later around 3:00pm.)
You: Pila man ang pasahe? (How much is the fare?)
Ticket Seller: Tulo ka gatos (300)
You: Palihog ko usa (One please.)
Ticket Seller: Moadto ba ka sa Chocolate Hills? (Are you going to the Chocolate Hills?)
You: Oo ugma! (Yes tomorrow!) NOTE: There’s no “po” and “opo” in Cebuano


Sarangani Fan Room
When doing hotel check in or voicing out concern regarding hotel services and amenities or when there’s something wrong in your room, knowing a little of these Bisaya phrases could help get your message across more clearly.

Walay tubig sa akong kwarto. When there’s no water in your room, speak to the hotel receptionist in a nice way: “Walay tubig sa akong kwarto.” (There’s no water in my room.)
Dugay kaayo ang Wi-Fi! When you feel like you need to call someone’s attention because of the very slow Wi-Fi connection, say: “Dugay kaayo ang Wi-Fi!” (Wi-Fi is so slow!)
Naa kamo extra habol ug unlan? When you need an extra blanket and pillow, ask: “Naa kamo extra habol ug unlan?” (Do you have extra blanket and pillow?)
Pila man ang rate kada gabii? “How much is the (hotel) rate per night?”
Pwede ibilin nako ang akong mga gamit sa front desk? If you arrive before the allowed check-in time or you’re already past the check-out time but still need to go somewhere and will be back in a few hours, you may ask: “Pwede ibilin nako ang akong mga gamit sa frontdesk?” (May I leave my things at the front desk?)
Murag guba ang aircon kay wala man siya naga-andar. “Seems like the aircon is broken because it’s not functioning.”
Tugnaw kaayo sa akong kwarto kay dili nako mapatay ang aircon. “It’s too cold in my room because I can’t turn off the aircon.”
Grabe kapaso sa sulod! “It’s too hot inside!”
Kinahanglan magdeposit ka Sir/Ma’am para mareserve namo ang kwarto. When you’re asked to deposit partial payment in order to reserve a room, the receptionist will tell you something like: “Kinahanglan magdeposit ka Sir/Ma’am para mareserve namo ang kwarto.” (You need to deposit Sir/Ma’am so we could reserve you the room.)Kinahanglan is equivalent to “Kailangan” in Tagalog.
Palihog limpyohi akong kwarto. “Please clean my room.”

Sample Conversation:

You: Pila man ang rate ninyo kada gabii? (How much is your rate per night?)
Receptionist: 1000/night, magpareserve ka ug kwarto Sir? (1000/night, do you want to reserve a room Sir?)
You: Sige palihog usa lang para ugma, duha ka gabii. (Alright please just one for tomorrow, two nights.)
Receptionist: Kinahanglan ug deposito Sir, 50%. (There’s a need for deposit Sir, 50%.)
You: Dako man! (So big! Or that’s a lot!)
Receptionist: Protocol lang namo Sir. (Just our protocol Sir.)
You: Ngano man grabe kadugay ang wifi sa akong kwarto? (Why is it that wifi in my room is too slow?)
Receptionist: Pasensya Sir ako lang gipatan-aw sa staff namo. (Sorry Sir I’ll let our staff look into it.)
You: Ok. Pwede ko mangayo extra unlan? (Ok. May I ask for an extra pillow?)
Receptionist: Ok Sir. Ihatag nalang ng staff namo unya. (Ok Sir. Our staff will give it later.)
You: Salamat kaayo, dong! (Thanks a lot, buddy!)


Sweet Lanzones in Camiguin
Say you’re already on the last days of your vacation and you’re hunting for pasalubong, practicing a bit of your haggling skills in Bisaya can help you land on the price you want. Also, making yourself sound like the locals might let vendors offer you their goods at discounted prices. Just remember, always wear your convincing smile when haggling!

Tagpila diri manang/manong? “How much for this one manang/manong?” or in Tagalog, “Tagmagkano dito manang/manong?”
Walay hangyo? When asking for discount you say: “walay hangyo?” (No discount?)
Naay mas barato? When you’re offered something beyond your budget and you wish to find something cheaper you ask: “Naay mas barato?” (There’s something cheaper?) or in Tagalog, “Merong mas mura?”
Kani, Kana, Kato This, That (near), That (far) or in Tagalog Ito, Iyan, Iyon
Kanang gamay lang That small one only” or in Tagalog, “Iyang maliit lang
Pila tanan? “How much for all?”
Naa na koy napalit ganina. I already bought one earlier” or in Tagalog, “Meron na ‘kong nabili kanina.
Counting from 1-10 in Cebuano Usa, duha, tulo, upat, lima, unom, pito, walo, siyam and napulo. And similar to Tagalog where “na” or “ng” is added after the number when referring to a particular object such in the case of “isang kanin”, “apat na tinapay”; somehow in Cebuano they add “ka” such as “isa ka kan-on” (isang kanin), “upat ka tinapay” (apat na tinapay). In hundreds, “isa ka gatos” (isang daan/one hundred), “duha ka gatos” (two hundred)… or when in thousands, “isa ka libo” (one thousand), “duha ka libo” (two thousand)…
Naay mas dako? There’s something bigger?” or in Tagalog, “Merong mas malaki?”
Hurot na akong kwarta! When you’re done shopping and you feel like updating your status on facebook in Cebuano, just type: “Hurot na akong kwarta!” (I’m out of money!) or in Tagalog, “Ubos na pera ko!”

Sample Conversation:

You: Tagpila ang usa, nang? (How much for one, manang?)
Manang: 500, dong. (500, friend.)
You: Nah! Grabe man kamahal! Walay mas barato? (Nah! Too expensive! Nothing cheaper?)
Manang: Kanang gamay sa atubangan nimo tag 250 lang. (That small one in front of you only 250.)
You: Mas maayo ni kay daghan akong hatagan. (This is better because I have plenty (of people) to give.)
Manang: Pila imong kuhaon? Naay freebie kung daghan imong paliton. (How many will you take? There’s a freebie if you purchase many.)
You: Lima ka buok nang. Tulo ka gamay ug duha ka dako. (5 pieces nang. 3 small and 2 big.)
Manang: Ok kani ang usa ka pusopuso dong. Kana ang imong freebie. (Ok here’s one pusopuso, friend. That’s your freebie.)
You: Lami ba ni? Daghang salamat nang! (Is this delicious? Thanks a lot nang!)

Other Common Words and Phrases

The following are some other words and phrases you might encounter when visiting Bisaya-speaking places. It will be a great help to familiarize yourself with them.

Maayong Buntag/Udto/Hapon/Gabii! “Good morning/noon/afternoon/evening!”
Naa koy pangutana sa imo. “I have something to ask you.”
Ngano man? “Why?”
Unsa? “What?”
Asa? Where?”
Kanus-a? “When?”
Kinsa? “Who?”
Ayaw dong/day! Don’t dong/day!” or in Tagalog “Huwag dong/day!”
Daghang salamat/Salamat kaayo “Thanks a lot.”
adlaw, semana, bulan, tuig day, week, month, year
Days of the Week All days of the week from Monday to Saturday share similar words with Tagalog from “Lunes hanggang Sabado.” Only Sunday is different because in Cebuano it’s Domingo, therefore “Monday to Sunday” in Cebuano is Lunes hangtod Domingo or Lunes taman Domingo
kay “because” or in Tagalog “dahil/sapagkat
Nakapoy ko. “I got tired.” or in Tagalog “Napagod ako.
jud/gyud “indeed” or in Tagalog “talaga” Eg. Ganahan gyud ko sa imong kanta. (Gusto ko talaga ang iyong kanta.)
pud “also/too” or in Tagalog “din/rin” Eg. Ako pud! (Ako rin!)
saka “climb” e.g. Wala pa ko kasaka sa Mt. Apo. (Hindi pa ako nakaakyat sa Mt. Apo. I haven’t climbed Mt. Apo yet.)
baktas, dagan walk, run
dugay, paspas slow, fast
pamahaw, paniudto, panihapon breakfast, lunch, dinner
duol “near” Eg. Layo pa ba o duol na? (Is it still far or already near?)
laag/suroy  “roam around” Eg. Naglaag lang ko. (Gumala lang ako or I just walked around.) Ex. Nagsuroysuroy lang (Gumalagala lang/Naglakadlakad langor I’m just walking around.)

Hopefully you’ll find these Cebuano words and phrases useful during your next trips to Bisaya-speaking places like Cebu and Davao.

I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice….if somebody tries to talk to you in straight nosebleed Bisaya and you have no clue what that person is saying, simply reply with: “Kabalo ko sa Bisaya pero gamay lang.” (I know Bisaya but just a little.)

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