Bisaya phrases to know

Bisaya is the second most spoken language in the Philippines, though used more widely in the Visayas group of islands. It’s also understood in some provinces in Mindanao. including Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

So if you’re planning a vacation in Cebu, Bohol, or Davao, here are Bisaya phrases you should know that’ll make touring these places much easier.

1. “Good morning/afternoon/evening” – “Maayong buntag/hapon/gabii”

Bisaya Phrases - good morning afternoon evening
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In the Philippines, it’s polite to greet the people you meet. Wishing people a good day can also help you make friends easier, so take note of these Bisaya phrases.

To greet someone “Good morning/afternoon/goodnight” in Bisaya, say “Maayong buntag/hapon/gabii.” “Maayo” (mah-ah-yoh) means “good” while “buntag” (boon-tahg), “hapon” (hah-pon), and “gabii” (gabee-ee) mean morning, afternoon, and night, respectively.

To sound more like a local, you can also say “ayo” (ah-yoh), a Bisaya slang, at any time of day in place of these greetings.

Meanwhile, Bisaya speakers don’t usually use the Bisaya word for goodbye as it can have a negative connotation. Instead, you can just use the English word “bye”.

2. “My name is [name]” – “Ang pangan nako ay [name]”

Bisaya Phrases - introducing yourselfImage credit: Ryan Mendonza via Unsplash

There are many ways to introduce yourself in Bisaya. Some of the Bisaya phrases you can say are “Akong pangalan kay [name]” or “Ang pangan nako ay [name].”

You can also use “Ako si [name]” which is also used to introduce oneself in Filipino.

It’s also important to be able to distinguish the question “What’s your name?” in Bisaya. Usually, it’s “Unsa’y imong ngalan?” But just like the answer, the question has many iterations, though it should be easy to recognize with the words “unsa” (what), imong (your), and pangan or pangalan (name).

3. Bisaya phrases for honorifics & titles – “Kuya/Ate/Tito/Tita/Lolo/Lola”

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Honorific titles in Bisaya are the same as in Filipino. “Kuya/ate” is used for “older brother/sister”. “Tito/tita” is used for “uncle/aunt.” And “lolo/lola” is used for “grandfather/grandmother”.

You don’t have to be family members or relatives to use these words. In the Philippines, we use these honorifics alone or add them before people’s names to show respect to our elders.

Po“, a word added to indicate respect in Filipino isn’t used in Bisaya and is a dead giveaway that you’re not a local, though you can still use it if you don’t feel comfortable dropping the honorific.

As an alternative to “po“, you can adjust your tone to be more gentle or formal to be polite.

4. “Yes/No” – “Oo/Dili”

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Just like in Filipino, “yes” in Bisaya is “oo.” However, it’s pronounced as one long “oh” instead of the Filipino language’s two-syllable “oh-oh”.

Meanwhile, no in Bisaya is “dili” (dee-lee).

To say “there is” or “there isn’t”, remember the Bisaya phrases “naa” or “wala“, respectively. In Filipino, “wala” also means “there isn’t”.

5. “Thank you” – “Salamat”

Bisaya Phrases - thank you
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In the Philippines, it’s important to remember to thank people when they do something for you.

The Cebuano phrase for “thank you” is also “salamat“, just like in Filipino.

If a person has done you a great favor, you can also switch it up and say “daghang salamat” or “salamat kaayo“, which both mean “thank you very much.”

6. “I’m sorry” – “Sorry”

I'm sorry
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The Bisaya phrase for “I’m sorry” is “Pasayloa ko.” However, this can be considered too formal for everyday conversations.

In casual settings, Bisaya speakers simply say sorry in English. You can also say “sorry kaayo” to imply that you’re very sorry.

Kaayo” (kah-ah-yoh) in Bisaya translates to “very”.

7. “Can I ask you a question?” – “Pwede mangutana?”

Can i ask you a question 1
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While it is a question in itself, it’s polite to ask people if you can ask them questions, especially if you’re asking a couple or will be needing a lengthy explanation. This shows respect for other people’s time.

To ask “Can I ask you a question” in Bisaya, say “Pwede mangutana?” (pweh-deh mang-oo-tah-nah).

If they reply with “oo“, you can proceed to ask them your actual question. Or if not, you can just say thank you and move on to the next person.

8. “How do I get to [location]?” – “Unsaon pagadto sa [location]?”

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Visayas is home to many beautiful attractions. If you’re not part of a group tour, you’re going to need to ask for directions a lot.

To ask for directions in Bisaya, say “Unsaon pagadto sa [location]?” (Oon-sah-on pah-gahd-toh sah [location]?). Generally, security guards are good people to ask for directions wherever you are in the Philippines.

A person may reply with the Bisaya phrases “Wala ko kabalo” or “wala ko kahibalo” if they don’t know the place. Then, you can just say thank you and ask someone else.

9. “Does this ride go to [location]?” – “Padulong ni sa [location]?”

Bisaya Phrases - does this ride go to
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When traveling in a new place, you need to make sure that you’re riding the right public vehicle to avoid getting lost.

You can ask the driver “Padulong ni sa [location]?” (“Does this head to [location]?”) “Padulong” (pah-doo-long), which means “to head to” may also be shortened to “padung” (pah-doong).

There are also other ways to ask if a bus/jeep/tricycle goes to your destination. You can say “Mohapit ni sa ___?” (“Does this stop by at ___?”) or “Moagi ni sa ___?” (“Does this pass ___?”)

10. “I’m getting off here!” – “Lugar lang!”

Bisaya Phrases - para - lugar lang
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In the Philippines, there aren’t usually bus stops unless you’re in the cities. So you’ll need to call out to the driver to stop at your destination.

In Luzon, we say “Para!” to tell the driver that we’d like to get off.

To get the bus to stop in the Visayas, you need to shout “Lugar lang!” which roughly means your journey is only up to this place.

11. “Is anyone here?” – “Naay tawo?”

Bisaya Phrases - tao po - naay tawo
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In Filipino, we say “Tao po!” to announce our presence and call the attention of people inside the home that we’re visiting.

The equivalent of this in Bisaya is “Naay tawo?” (Nah-ay tah-wo). This can be preceded by “Ayo!” to sound more polite.

You can use this Bisaya phrase when looking for someone to open the door of their home for you or when entering a seemingly empty store.

12. “How much is this?” – “Tagpila ni?”

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You can’t miss out on buying local delicacies and souvenirs when you’re on vacation in the Visayas, too.

To ask for prices, you can say “Tagpila ni? (Tag-pee-lah nee?).

It’s best to do this while pointing at the item you’re asking the price of. This would help the vendor know what item you’re enquiring about, especially if they’re busy.

13. “Please give me a discount.” – “Pahangyua ko.”

Bisaya phrases - Can you give me a discount 1-min
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If you’re on a bit of a budget, you can try asking for a discount especially if you’re buying in bulk.

To do this, say “Pahangyua ko.” (Pah-hang-yoo-ah koh). You can even add “migo/miga“(mee-go/mee-gah) – which is short for amigo/amiga (male/female friend) – to be friendly, but only if you’re around the same age as the vendor.

If they’re older, you can call them “kuya/ate” (older brother/sister) or “ma’am/sir” instead.

To sound a little more confident in asking for a bargain, you can also say “Pilay hangyo nimo?” which roughly translates to “How much discount can you give me?”

14. “One, two, three…” – “Usa, duha, tulo…”

Bisaya Phrases - counting numbers
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The native Bisaya language is used to count from numbers 1 to 10. T0 count from 1 to 10 in Bisaya, say, “usa, duha, tulo, upat, lima, unom, pito, walo, siyam, napulo“.

Meanwhile, Filipinized Spanish words are used from 11 onwards. For instance, 11 is “onse” and 20 is “baynti” from the Spanish words “once” and “veinte“.

15. “One, ten, twenty pesos…” – “Piso, dyis, baynti pesos…”

Bisaya Phrases - money
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Meanwhile, to refer to money, Bisaya speakers use localized Spanish numbers just like in many places in the country. An exemption to this rule is “piso” which refers to one peso.

There’s only a slight difference in pronunciation between Filipino and Bisaya. For instance, “bente” (P20) and “trenta” (P30) can be pronounced as “baynti” and “treynta” in Bisaya.

For denominations in the hundreds, Bisaya speakers revert back to native words. But if you find this too complicated, you can also just use the English numbers and add “peso/s” and you’ll be well understood.

Learn basic Bisaya phrases for your Visayas trip

Bisayas are known to be good English speakers but you can get a lot of extra points from the locals if you try to learn the native language. With these handy Bisaya phrases above, you’re almost set for your Visayas trip!

If you also want to learn the national language, check out this list of basic Filipino phrases. Or if you’re traveling anywhere in North Luzon, study these Ilocano phrases.

Cover image adapted from: Eury Escudero via Unsplash, Jem Sahagun via Unsplash, Muhamad Reza Junianto via Unsplash


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