Tagalog - Survival Phrases for the First-Time Traveller

May 16th, 2013

When visiting the Philippines, there are a few Tagalog phrases that will serve you very well for a short stay.

First Time Phrases

Tagalog is a fun language to speak, so even if you’re not interested in learning much of the language I think you’ll enjoy speaking it. Here are some basics to get you started, beginning with perhaps the most basic human need and one that often causes distress when in unfamiliar places: Where is the bathroom?

To ask this in Tagalog, say saan may banyo?

Getting around will involve some taxis, so learn how to ask how much the fare is: Magkano ang pasahe?

The other most practical phrase to learn for American tourists is, of course, who speaks English?

In Manilla or even elsewhere in the Philippines, you’ll have a lot of luck, as many people there speak English. Say sinong marunong mag-Ingles? and you will likely get a big response. And this is preferable to simply speaking in English, which might put some folks off.


The Philippines is challenging to some tourists because there is a fair amount of crime and the locals can be a bit aggressive. So the following phrases are more necessary than usual when visiting this country. When walking the streets the aggressive merchants and beggars can be a plague, so learning how to say “Get away!” (alis!) is vital, or mix it up with “Don’t bother me!” (huwag mo akong istorbohin!). And if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, especially when purchasing something with US dollars or exchanging money, the phrase sinong niloloko mo? will come in handy – it translates to “Whom are trying to con?”. Throw in “I’m not stupid” hindi ako tanga and people will take notice!

Sadly, you might also need to shout Pulis! which means “Police!” or magnanakaw! which means “Thief!” if you need to tell someone that nawala ang bag ko - “my bag is missing.” And if no police are nearby, learn to shout saklolo! which literally means “somebody come help me” and generally means “Help!”

None of this should be taken to mean that Manilla or the Philippines in general is a bad place – but it is an exciting place!

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