Cebu’s charm comes in many forms and sizes that even in our local words and phrases, the beauty never ceases to exist.
When asked about the beautiful words in their local dialects during the preliminary interviews of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant, Cebu queens April, Lou Dominique, and Tracy Maureen were proud to share two of the Cebuano words they find lovely – gwapa and palaban.
But for a typical Cebuano, we know these aren’t just the only words we can be proud of. Cebuano dialect is rich of words and phrases that bring the entire region of Cebu to a pedestal where the stunning natural wonders are perfectly intertwined with our local language that speaks hospitality and warmth.
Check these 20 beautiful Cebuano words and phrases/expressions/slang you can share to a friend who doesn’t speak our dialect.
Amping means ‘stay safe!’ We usually use this when saying goodbye to someone or when we need to separate ways with our friends and loved ones. Uttering this expression means we want them to arrive at their destinations safe and sound.
“Thank you for today. Sa sunod na sad ha. Amping!”
(“Thank you for today. Until next time. Take care!”)
With the wide range of food options available in the region, no doubt eating has been the pastime of the majority of Cebuanos. As a sign of generosity, we say “Mangaon ta!” to invite people to come and share our meal with them.
“Gigutom kayo ko. Ali, mangaon ta!”
(“I am so hungry. Come here, let’s eat!”)
This word means “God-willing or hopefully”. Cebuanos are generally hopeful and optimistic, hence, “puhon” is expressed when you are hoping something will happen in the future.
“Maka-uyab na unta ko, puhon.”
(“I hope I can finally get a lover, God-willing.”)
“Dasig”, often used as “Dasig Lang”, is a Cebuano word that means ‘take courage, hold on, never give up.’
“Bisa’g unsa pa kalisod sa panahon karon, dasig lang jud ta.”
(“No matter how difficult our situation is now, let’s hold on / never give up.”)
Opposite of ‘puhon’, the expression ‘Simbako!’ is used when we don’t want bad things or events to happen in the future. It is translated to “God forbid” or “knock on wood.”
“Simbako ug unsa unyay mahitabo sa imo…”
(“God forbid something unfortunate will happen to you…”)
This term is derived from the word ‘tisoy/choy’ which refers to a man who looks handsome, grooms himself well. Aside from referring to a good-looking man, we also often use “choya” to describe something awesome.
“Choya sa imong sakyanan bai.”
(“Your car looks awesome, dude.”)
Padayon means ‘to continue.’ This word best describes the Cebuanos’ spirit of resilience and positivity. Regardless of how challenging the situation is, we always find a reason to move forward.
“Maabot ra lagi ta sa didto puhon. Padayon lang.”
“We’ll get there, God-willing. Just continue.”
Pahiyom means ‘smile’. Regardless of who the person is that we’re talking to, Cebuanos are always ready to flash a smile and treat everyone with utmost hospitality.
“Mas nigwapa ka tungod sa imong pahiyom.”
(“You become prettier because of your smile.”)
Dilaab means a strong flame that burns brightly. This one’s a beautiful word from our local dialect as it resembles the strong religious faith of the Cebuanos. Cebu is the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines and it’s the strong faith that keeps the values of Christianity alive and blazing for almost half a millennium now.
“Ang dilaab sa atong pagtoo maoy rason nganong nagdugay ang Kristyanismo sa Pilipinas.”
(“The flame of our faith is the reason why Christianism lasted for a long time in the Philippines.”)
Given that Cebu houses plenty of tourist destinations, ‘lulinghayaw’ can be used frequently. It means “time available for ease and relaxation or the act of taking a vacation.” Using this word will not let you go out of context since we have a lot of beaches, mountain peaks, local delicacies, and world-class accommodation available in the region – enough reasons to add this word in your Cebuano vocabulary.
“Wa koy buhaton karong Sabado. Moadto kog Moalboal para mag-lulinghayaw.”
(“I have nothing to do this Saturday. I’ll go to Moalboal to take a vacation.”)
Lapyahan means ‘shore or coast.’ One shouldn’t forget this word especially when visiting Cebu since the entire island is jeweled with adorable shorelines. Cebu wouldn’t be included in the Conde Nast Traveler’s list of best islands for nothing, and its coastlines form part of the reasons why.
“Kaanindot sa mga lapyahan sa Cebu.”
(“Cebu shores are so lovely.”)
Nagtambayayong means ‘working together.’ Living up to the spirit of bayanihan, Cebuanos have always shown to the rest of the world that working together creates nothing but success and a stable economic power.
“Tungod kay nagtambayayong ang mga Cebuano, malampusong napagamay ang kaso sa COVID-19 diri sa syudad.”
(“Because Cebuanos worked together, cases of COVID-19 were successfully reduced here in the city.”)
What better word can we best describe the festive air we feel during the annual celebration of the famous Sinulog festival here in Cebu than the word hudyaka. Hudyaka means ‘merriment or a boisterous celebration.’
“Isa sa mga butang nga mingawon nako sa Cebu mao ang hudyaka sa mga tawo inig Sinulog.”
(“One thing I’ll miss about Cebu is the boisterous celebration of the people during Sinulog.”
“SEKRETO PARA BIBO”
This phrase is usually used when you are talking to someone who is very curious about what you know but you want to keep it a secret to even fuel his/her curiosity. ‘Bibo’ means ‘fun’ so the phrase essentially translates to ‘I’ll keep it secret to make it more fun.’
“Di ko mag-share oy. Sekreto para bibo.”
(“I won’t share a thing. I’ll keep it secret to make it more fun.”
Kuan is Cebuano’s universal term to refer to almost anything that we can’t articulate. In fact, it can be used numerous times in a Cebuano sentence and still makes sense. This is considered the ‘comfort word’ since we are not required to drop names or to mention words we don’t want to say in a sentence.
“Nakit-an nako si kuan kauban si kuan nga nag-kuan didto sa kuan adtong kuan.”
(“I saw somebody with someone doing something somewhere sometime.”)
Cebuanos usually say this to prevent any bad thing from happening to someone when being complimented by another. Most common situation is when someone sees an infant, or a baby or a child who looks very cute and that person gushes over the baby, infant or child. The mother or the guardian of the child says, ‘purya buyag’ accordingly to drive away the evil spirits that will cause something bad to happen to that child.
“Bitaw, cute kayo bataa, purya buyag.”
(“Yes, the child is so cute.”)
Kahidlaw means ‘a feeling of deep longing.’ This term is evident in the music of some contemporary Cebuano artists like Kurt Fick and Jacky Chang whose songs are ridden with sadness and longing.
“Ugma mahanaw ra ang kahidlaw nga nabati ko karon.”
(“The feeling of deep longing that I feel right now will vanish by tomorrow.”)
The Cebuano dialect, of course, has a counterpart for the word that describes the most wonderful thing in the world. Gugma means ‘love’.
“Akong gugma kanimo way katapusan.”
(“My love for you is endless.”)
When Cebuanos feel like someone is in better position, we use this expression. This is from the word ‘hayahay’ which means ‘comfortable’. So when you say ‘hayahaya oy’ to someone, you essentially affirm that someone for being in a comfortable situation. Sometimes, although not really to be taken negatively, this is one way of expressing that we’re, to a certain extent, envious to someone for getting a good fortune.
“Hayahaya oy, wa may trabaho karon adlawa.”
(“I envy you because you don’t have work to do today.”
Laysho is a Cebuano slang which means ‘something fancy’ and is typically used to describe a person, place, or a thing. This has a touch of the ‘gay lingo’ and is very popular expression used by the people in Cebu.
“Laysho kayo imong bag.”
(“Your bag is very fancy.”)
Several words in our local dialect may be forgotten eventually but the fact that in one way or another, these words have helped Cebu achieve the level of identity it has right now will stay forever.
Do you know of any other beautiful Cebuano words/expressions that weren’t presented in this article? Let the readers know, too.
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As a foreigner, I find many Cebuano phrases and words to be beautiful. Not just in the way they sound but how so much deep meaning can be placed in a simple word.