Spanish — though not widely spoken in the Philippines anymore — lives and thrives in many Philippine regional languages, but more so in Filipino. In fact, there are plethora of Spanish and Filipino words that are the same or are surprisingly similar. I’m not talking about “kumusta” and “cómo está,” as those are elementary, but rather words that when you read them, they might evoke a sense of wide-eyed awe in you by knowing they are related.

Here are some of them:

“Seguro” and “Siguro”

While “seguro” has a lot of definitions in Spanish, we will go with “sure” in this context. However, its counterpart “siguro” means the opposite with “maybe.” Weird, isn’t it? It’s a word that Filipinos definitely reclaimed.

Some examples:

“Estoy seguro de que estará bien.”

“I’m sure it will be fine.”

 “Sa tingin mo ba, papayag siya?” “Siguro.”

“Do you think he’ll agree?” “Maybe.”

“Demasiado” and “’Di Masyado”

“Demasiado” basically means “too” or “too much” while “’di masyado” is a combination of the contracted word “hindi” and “masyado” which means “not too much,” “not so much,” or “not really.”

Here are some examples:

 “Es demasiado tarde para disculparse.”

“It’s too late to apologize.”

 “Nagugutom ka ba?” “’Di masyado!”

“Are you hungry?” “Not so much!”

“Almorzar” and “Almusal”

“Almorzar” is an action verb that means “to have lunch” while “almusal” is a noun that means “breakfast.” The original Spanish word definitely went under a semantic change. If one wants to disassociate from the said Spanish word, they can use “agahan” as an alternative.

Take a look at the examples below:

“Tengo que almorzar pronto.”

“I have to eat lunch soon.”

 “Tara at kumain na tayo ng almusal.”

“Let’s go eat breakfast.”

Interestingly, the word for “breakfast” in Spanish is “desayuno.”

“Jaula,” “Aula” and “Hawla”

“Jaula” means “cage” while its counterpart “hawla” means the same thing. Easy-peasy.But then, there’s another Spanish word that comes on the scene: “aula,” which means “classroom.” Though “hawla” didn’t definitely come from “aula,” I brought it to your attention in order to avoid trusting a false friend.

Take a look at the examples below:

“El pájaro está encerrado en una jaula.”

“The bird is locked up in a cage.”

“Ang ibon ay nakakulong sa isang hawla.”

“The bird is locked up in a cage.”

“Las aulas fueron desinfectadas.”

“The classrooms were disinfected.”

“Basta”

Though “basta” in Spanish is an interjection that conveys annoyance (“enough!”), it has a slightly different meaning in Filipino. “Basta” in the local language can mean something like “enough,” “I don’t want to” or “tama na” but in a lesser degree. It can also mean “only,” “just” or “as long as.”

Take a look at the examples below:

“¡Basta! Estoy cansado de tus mentiras.”

“Enough! I’m tired of your lies.”

“Basta. Huwag kang makulit.”

“[no direct translation, but can mean ‘enough’ in this context]. Don’t be nagging.”

“Huwag kang basta basta lang makipag-usap sa di mo kakilala.”

“Don’t just talk to strangers.”

“Basta ba ilibre mo ako ’maya.”

“As long as you treat me later [to something].”

“Enano” and “Unano”

In Spanish, “enano” simply means “dwarf.” It may refer to the mythological creature or the medical condition.

Well, in Filipino, it became “unano” instead. While it means “dwarf” as well, it is also used as an insult to mean that someone is small. “Pandak,” “midget” or “bansot,” as what they say — these are quite offensive.

Anyway, take a look at the examples below:

“Ser un enano no le impidió lograr sus sueños.”

“Being a dwarf didn’t stop him from achieving his dreams.”

“Kahit unano siya, mahal ko siya.”

“Even though he is a dwarf, I love him.”

“Huelga” and “Welga”

There have been a lot of “welgas” in the world last year due to labor issues brought by the pandemic. But did you know that the word “welga” is of Spanish origin?

This Filipino word that means “to strike” actually came from the Spanish word “huelga.” Now what happened here? The letter h is not pronounced in Spanish, and the letter u in this word can have the same pronunciation as the letter w. Hence, it became “welga.”

Take a look at the examples below:

“Los empleados tienen derecho a hacer huelga.”

“The employees have the right to strike.”

“Nag-welga ang mga empleyadong nawalan ng trabaho.”

“The employees who lost their jobs went on strike.”

“Vivo” and “Bibo”

The Spanish word “vivo” can mean “alive,” but it has a lot of different meanings as well. According to SpanishDict, it can also mean “lively,” “quick,” “bright” and “crafty one (opportunist).”

Meanwhile, the Filipino word “bibo” can mean “alert,” “active” and “bright”; Its definitions are not far from that of its Spanish counterpart. Are you familiar with the slang “pa-bibo” or “show-offy”? Well, “bibo” definitely didn’t stray far.

Take a look at the examples below:

“Sigo vivo pero apenas respiro.”

“I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing.”

“Bibong-bibo ang mga bata sa klase.”

“The kids in the class are active.”

“Hace(r) Caso” and “Asikaso”

Both the Spanish word “hace caso” (or “hacer caso” for the infinitive form) and the Filipino word “asikaso” mean “to pay attention to” or “to listen to.” As with many other Filipino words of Spanish origin, “asikaso” was obviously adapted to the native tongue that even Filipinos themselves are unaware of its Spanish connection.

Hence, whenever someone asks to you to “asikasuhin ang mga bisita,” you know it’s Spanish!

Take a look at the examples below:

“No me hace caso.”

“He doesn’t pay attention to me.”

“Pumunta siya ng opisina para mag-asikaso ng papeles.”

“He went to the office to take care of some paperwork.”

“Chisme” and “Tsismis”

These seem relevant in this pandemic era. Last year, a police director remarked that his team supposedly will employ the help of “tsismosas” or gossipmongers to aid their contact tracing works.

As you’ve guessed, the Spanish word “chisme” and the Filipino word “chismis” both mean “gossip” or “rumor.” There’s no difference at all, except the spelling. If we make “chisme” plural, then it would be “chismes,” and they would really sound similar.

Take a look at the examples below:

“Los chismes de la oficina son malos para los negocios.”

“Office gossip is bad for business.”

“Itigil mo na ’yang kaka-tsismis mo!”

“Stop gossiping!”

“Boca” and “Maboka”

Have you ever been told that you’re “maboka”? That’s what someone usually says when accusing another of being a loudmouth. But did you know that it has a Spanish-language connection?

To begin with, the Spanish word “boca” literally means “mouth.” Though the word “boka” doesn’t really exist in Filipino, its adjective form “maboka” does. “Maboka” can mean two things: a person who spins a web of lies, gossips or makes “chisme” or “chismis” and a person who is verbally intelligent.

Likewise, “boca” can also mean “entrance.” And yes, the Filipino language also has something of an equivalent of that with “bukaka.” It means “wide apart (as legs when standing with feet wide apart).”

Take a look at the examples below:

“Dormía con la boca abierta.”

“He slept with his mouth wide open.”

“Masiyadong maboka ’yung katabi ko.”

“The one next to me is a blabbermouth.”

“Mañanita”

Debold Sinas was named the new chief of the Philippine National Police on Nov. 6, earning the ire of Filipinos again. He initially drew flak in May when several police officials serenated him during his birthday, violating a protocol that prohibits mass gatherings during the enhance community quarantine. In his defense, Sinas said that it was just a mañanita.

But what is a mañanita, really?

The Spanish word, which has been adapted to Filipino, can mean a lot of things. “Mañanita” is a combination of the words “mañana,” which means “tomorrow,” and the diminutive suffix “-ita.” Thus, it simply means “early morning.” In Mexican Spanish, the right term would be “Las Mañanitas,” a “traditional Mexican birthday song which is often sung to celebrate birthdays or a person’s saint’s day.” The song found its way to other Latin American countries as well.

In Filipino, the word “mañanita” went through a semantic shift — adding the Mexican tradition of singing to celebrate someone’s birthday. “Mañanita” can be easily understood as “salubong,” a tradition that involves family members greeting the celebrant with a birthday song.

“Ayuda”

Two consecutive typhoons hit the Philippines last year, and many provinces in Luzon and Visayas were immediately flooded. On social media, there came several calls for donations for the typhoon victims. Celebrities, private organizations and some government agencies were quick on giving them “ayuda” as well. We always see the word “ayuda” thrown out by the media, but did you know that it originally came from Spanish?

Though “ayuda,” more or less, means the same thing in Spanish and Filipino, it has a slightly different meaning in the latter. When we say “ayuda” in Filipino, it sounds rather archaic, formal and superfluous. Nowadays, the word “tulong” is more common, and “ayuda” is mostly used when the help comes from the government or the authorities. In Filipino, you can only hear the word “ayuda” when there are calamities involved. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, it doesn’t have that limitation.

Take a look at some of the examples below:

“Necesito tu ayuda.”

“I need your help.”

 “Mamimigay ang gobyerno ng ayuda sa mga nasalanta ng bagyo.”

“The government will provide assistance to the typhoon victims.”

“Vacuna” and “Bakuna”

The news about the effectivity of vaccines definitely sheds a ray of hope in finally ending the COVID-19 pandemic. You already know that the word “vaccine” means “bakuna” in Filipino, but did you know that it is of Spanish origin?

As you’ve guessed, “bakuna” and “vacuna” mean the same thing; there is no semantic change involved. The word “bakuna” will probably get thrown around everywhere in the following months when the distribution of the vaccine starts. Well, at least now you know its origin.

Take a look at some of the examples below.

“La vacuna contra el virus COVID-19 está casi aquí.”

“The vaccine against COVID-19 virus is almost here.”

“Ako ay umaasa na sana epektibo ang bakuna laban sa pandemya na ’to.”

“I hope the vaccine against this pandemic is effective.”

“Hielo” and “Yelo”

As the temperatures drop and the weather becomes cold as ice, I bet you won’t be needing a lot of “yelo” to freshen up your hot afternoons. But did you know that the word “yelo” is of Spanish origin?

Indeed, both “yelo” and “hielo” mean “ice,” and it’s very fascinating to notice the slight change in spelling. As you probably already know, the letter h is mostly silent in Spanish. Hence, the letters h and i in “hielo” can be pronounced as “ye.” Clever, isn’t it?

Take a look at some examples below:

“¿Puedes comprar hielo en la tienda?”

“Puwede ka bang bumili ng yelo sa tindahan?”

“Can you buy ice in the store?”

As you noticed, there are two Filipino words that came from Spanish in the first two sentences above. Filipino and Spanish are really closely linked to each other.

“Farol” and “Parol”

Per SpanishDict, both the Filipino word “parol,” an ornamental lantern that is prominent during “ber” months, and its Spanish equivalent “farol” mean “lantern.” However, “parol” is exclusive to Christmas while “farol” is not. You can have a “farol navideño” or a “farol chino,” but you definitely can’t have a “parol ng pasko” or something similar. “Farol” can also mean “lamp” and “streetlight” among others — words that are not attributed to its Filipino counterpart.

Take a look at some of the examples below:

“Los faroles chinos traen suerte.”

“Chinese lanterns bring luck.”

But …

“Napakulay ng mga parol.”

“Christmas lanterns are very colorful.”


Whether one likes it or not, Spanish has become part of daily life in the Philippines. In fact, there are mundane Filipinos words with Spanish origins — words that may sound local at first but are rich with Hispanic history.


The words in this list first appeared in our “palabras de la semana” section. Do you want more? Follow our social media accounts, and stay tuned every Wednesday.


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Arvyn Cerézo
Arvyn Cerézo is the editor of La Jornada Filipina, the first and largest Spanish-language news magazine in the Philippines. His work has appeared in South China Morning Post, Publishers Weekly, AudioFile Magazine, PhilSTAR Life and Book Riot. You can find him on arvyncerezo.com.

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