Making it in Manila Tagalog for Travelers

When traveling, it is not necessarily important to speak the local language like a native but it is imperative to know at least some of the basics. For the traveler who has ever been stranded in a foreign location, unable to get anything to eat, unable to find the toilet facilities and unable to get where they need to be, this much will be blatantly obvious. It is always necessary to learn at least enough of the local language to get where you need to be and what you need to survive.

Manila is a major International Metropolitan area that is home to roughly ten million people. Add in the number of business travelers and tourists and the numbers become even more imposing. While it is quite possible that the average visitor to Manila will meet someone from their home country, it is not advisable to take the chance that they will know the local language and be able to help in any meaningful way.

English is said to be a very common language in the Philippines and for all intents and purposes, it is. However, that does not mean that it is always easy, convenient or even possible to learn someone that speaks English. Additionally, not all of the travelers to the Philippines will necessarily have an extensive knowledge of the English language. Getting along in Tagalog is by far, the safest approach to being able not only to survive, but to be capable of thoroughly enjoying a trip to Manila, Philippines.

Learning enough of the local language to get around Manila is quite simple and can be accomplished with very little practice. The National Language in the Philippines is Tagalog and while not everyone speaks it, it is the prominent language in Manila and almost everyone there will have at least a basic understanding of it. Thus, that is where the primary focus of any language studies should be centered. There are far too many independent regional dialects to worry about learning all of them. Focusing on the primary language is generally sufficient to meet the needs of most travelers.

The first word that needs to be learned is ìSaî which is pronounced SAH. Like many words in Tagalog, it has many different meanings. Perhaps the most important context of this word will be in finding locations and if people, buses, jeepneys or other modes of transportation will go to that location. For example, when exiting the airport, it is best to take a taxi cab. When getting into the taxi, a simple ìSah ñ enter destination here ñ.î will get you where you need to go. So if the hotel is across from SM Mega Mall Ortigas Center, a simple ìSa Mega Mall, Ortigas Centerî will inform the driver of the desired destination.

If there is any question about what was said, the word ìAnoî will be used. (Pronounced Ah No, with a staccato and stress placed on the NO portion of the word) This is the Tagalog word for ìWhat?î and will likely be used quite a bit in the average visitorís trip to the Philippines.

The next word to learn is ìPoî which is an address of respect. Thus, using the first example, ìSa Mega Mall, Ortigas Center po.î will inform the driver (respectfully) where the desired destination is. ìPoî should only be used when addressing an individual directly however, and never indirectly or after the subject of a question.

When the destination has been reached, it will be necessary to inquire more directly for directions. If this is the travelers first time on the streets of Manila, a trip to the ìComfort Roomî (More commonly referred to as the CR) may be necessary. In order to find the facilities, it will be necessary to ask ìSaan may ngî (Pronounced Sah-Ahn My Nahng) which is roughly translated to ìWhere isî or ìWhere can I findî. The word ìngî is used as the word ìtheî in this case, indicating what exactly it is that is in need of being located. Thus, once the traveler is at Mega Mall, they would ask someone ìSaan my ng CR?î or ìwhere is the CRî.

After that they may ask where they can get food or a particular location. The same question would be used with whatever it is that is wanted at the end of the question. A simple ìSaan my ng restaurant?î with the restaurant, store, hotel or other destination where restaurant is used in this example, can then be asked in order to discover the location of the desired destination. English is common enough that there should be no difficulty in communicating certain simple words or locations in English. It is very common to hear key words in English. Words such as food, hotel, restaurant, mall and many others are often used, even by natives, in their English form.

If someone has given adequate directions, there may be a desire to thank them for their effort. ìSalamatî (pronounced Sah Lah Maht) is the Tagalog word for thank you. There is no word specifically for ìpleaseî in Tagalog. While there are alternatives, the grammatical issues alone would take much more than a single article to fully explain. Use of the ìpoî when addressing people that are not known is generally considered to indicate politeness and is sufficient for most common (and limited) conversations. To say ìthank you very much.î or literally Many thanks, you simple say ìMaraming salamat poî with Maraming meaning many. (Pronounced Mah Rah Ming)

However, there is a chance that the question asked may not have been understood and somebody may ask the traveler some yes or no questions. Therefore, it is also important to learn ìYesî and ìNoî in Tagalog.

Yes is simply a matter of two Long O sounds put together. ìOoî pronounced ìOh Ohî is said in a very short and staccato manner and means yes. ìHindiî is the Tagalog word for no and is pronounced Hen Dee, though not in such a staccato or abrupt vocalization as Oo.

It is going to be very important to learn how to communicate ideas about how to eat. ìSaan my ng restaurantî will get the traveler to the restaurant but it may not prepare them for what comes next. If only fast food joints or fancy restaurants are desired, this will not be an issue but many travelers prefer places more off the beaten track in order to get a real taste of the local culture. In those cases, a little bit more preparation may be in order.

The word for ìEatî is ìKaininî (Pronounced Kah Een Een) To find

It is very common for people in the Philippines to eat without the benefit of utensils. In many restaurants, it is understood that silverware is an available option but not always brought to the table without a specific request. This is known as Kainin kamay. (Pronounced Kah My) If utensils are desired, the words for the utensils are the same in Tagalog as they are in Spanish. Kutsara (Ku Cha Rah) is a spoon which is the most common eating utensil in the Philippines. Kutsillyo (Ku Chill Ee O) is a knife but not a very common utensil outside of the metropolitan centers. Tenedor (Pronounced Tin Uh Door) is a fork and again, not very common but generally used as a spoon or knife would be in the Western World in order to help scoop the food onto the spoon for consumption.

After all of that, there should be no difficulty in finding the way to the hotel and getting some rest with a full belly and a pleasant sense of relaxation as preparations are being made for the next day in the paradise known as the Philippine Islands.

by: Ward C. Tipton

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