Bisaya 101: Learning The Basics Of The Cebuano Language

Tourists think that when they visit Cebu, they have nothing to worry about language barrier. That may be true because we, Cebuanos, can easily adapt and adjust to different languages. One proof of that is the growing BPO industry in the province. We can understand, speak and write in English, Tagalog and Bisaya with no trouble at all.

Wherever we go, we adjust our vocabulary to fit the language or dialect of that certain place. We love it, though, but to tell you honestly, the people of Cebu would appreciate it if you, non-locals, would try to learn some of our basic words, terms and phrases, too!

The Visaya (or as we informally call Bisaya) language is widely used all over the country, even in the places we assume to be Tagalog-speaking. Bisaya is translated into many dialects and is spoken differently depending on the place. In Cebu, Bisaya is pronounced in a very distinct manner. Our accent is strong and intense. We get often get misunderstood and get in trouble because of it!

Many people make fun of our accent and we do that to ourselves, too. But Bisaya is a beautiful language, so there’s no shame in using it on a daily basis even when we’re not in Cebu (kevs if people stare at us)!

So instead of looking at us like we’re crazy probinsyanos, join us! Here are some basic Cebuano words, terms and phrases you can use (and not use) when in Cebu:

Photo by Cassy Radaza Vanguard

Photo by Cassy Radaza Vanguard

Maayong Buntag (Mayng Buntag)– Good Morning

Maayong Udto (Mayng Udto)– Good Noon

Maayong Hapon (Mayng Hapon)– Good Afternoon

Maayong Gabii (Mayng Gabi-i)– Good Evening

Bai– Bro

Wala/Wala pa– None/Not yet

Ambot– I don’t know.

Photo by Justine Cabaluna

Photo by Justine Cabaluna

Ayo– We say this when we knock.

Sentence: Ayo! Naa moy baligya halo-halo?

*Ayo! Do you have halo-halo for sale?

Gwapa– Pretty

Sentence: Ka gwapa jud nako uy!

Ku-an/Kanang– Kuan and Kanang are fillers used to fill in words you are unsure of (same as “uhm, uh”.

Sentence: Naa na nimo ang ku-an gikan ni.. kanang.. kinsa to uy?

Photo by Wikihow

Photo by Wikihow

Amin– The act of showing respect and honor to the elders by bowing one’s head, take the back of the elder’s hand against the forehead.

Sentence: Lola, mu amin ko nimo.

Libog– Confuse

Sentence: Ka libog ba nimo uy.

*You are so confusing

Kwarta– Money

Sentence: Naa ka’y kwarta?

*Do you have money?

Photo by Julieveve Cuizon

Photo by Julieveve Cuizon

Maoy– To throw a tantrum due to a heartache (usually with beer)

Sentence: Nag maoy nasad si Roger sa Tonyo’s ganiha.

Hubog– Drunk

Hubog nasad si Roger kay gikan sa Tonyo’s, nag maoy!

Bati– Ugly/unpleasant

Sentence: Bati kaayo ka og kamot

*Your hands look ugly.

O (Oh)– Yes

Dili (Di)– No

Photo by Junard Roa

Photo by Junard Roa

Lugar lang– Please stop the jeepney/taxi

Sentence: Manoy, lugar lang ko diri palihug.

*Mr. Driver, please stop the jeepney.

Gay Linggo

We enjoy speaking gay lingo so much that we have created our own twist to it. Here are some of the terms we fondly use in our casual conversations:

Shufa– Pretty

Sentence: Shufa kaayo ka!

Imal– (Lami) Delicious, hot or attractive

Sentence: Imal kaayo ang mga models sa SM.

Laysho– (Sosyal) Fancy

Sentence: Laysho lagi ka’g sinina karon!

*Your outfit looks laysho!

Gor– (Gorang) Old

Sentence: Haggard kaayo ka tan-awon mura ka’g gor!

Kevs/Kever– Care/I don’t care.

Sentence: Wa ko’y kevs ana!

The Cebuano language is deep, yet beautiful and fun. If you have some more words in your Bisaya vocabulary, share it with us in the comments section below!