My Filipino Dictionary

English words with Filipino definitions. I have pinched a couple of modes of expression from Ambrose Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary”, mainly for the succinct writing style.

Absence: A state of mind, even if in attendance. Not <quite the same as alibi, but heading there.

Accident: An unavoidable consequence of a foreseeable act, normally by a third party. As in:
Foreigner: “You just knocked over my beer!”
Native: “Yes siirr, but it wasn’t my fault, my cell phone rang and I had to reach across in front of you to get it.”
(F) “Of course, how remiss of me to make assumptions that you wouldn’t be using both of your brain cells at the same time. I have decided that your Church is benevolent and so I will behave accordingly.”
(N) “Thank you siirr”
(F) “You are welcome. Simply place 50 pesos in the collection plate in front of you.”
(N) “Siirr that is your hand.”
(F) “I will leave it to you to decide if it is a collection plate or an instrument of torture. Please choose wisely and advise.”

Accurate: Approximate

Alibi: “It was him.” “But Siirrr, it was going to turn green soon.”

Beer: A beverage for loosening the vocal chords. Vocal chords in the Philippines are never taut.

Beg: An act perpetrated on a foreigner by the asking of a Filipino (often young or female holding a borrowed baby) for money. Typical conversation:
“Siirrr, do you have 5 pesos?”
“Yes, thanks.”
“Siirrr, give it to me.”
“Because if I gave it to you, I wouldn’t have it. Now go and ask that nice Filipino gentleman for money.”
Message ends.

Beggar: Someone who used to rely on his friends.

Bicycle: A mode of transport expressly manufactured for travelling on the wrong side of the street. Riders seem shocked when encountering oncoming traffic. Every day!

Black hole: An area approximately the size of Mindanao where all foreigner complaints, crime reports and nuisance foreigners end up. As there is no indexing or filing system, retrieval is problematic. Sometimes used for Pork Barrel, but with a twist. Money IS indexed secretly.

Black Nazarene: A riot given to religion by innocent bystanders.

Boxing: A primitive contest between 2 men to see who can inflict unconsciousness on the other. Upgraded by tricycle drivers to include knives, guns etc with the upgraded aim of permanent unconsciousness.

Brain Dead: The demise of a distant ancestor.

Brains: “Out of Stock Ssiirrr”

Bus: A form of transport that comes in 3 varieties – 1. Aircon, 2. Non-aircon, 3. Under no circumstances am I getting on that! The fare structure is determined as per the number of the variety. 1 = most expensive but will get you there comfortably. 2 = cheaper, very hot around the EDSA traffic jam, but will get you there eventually. 3 = cheapest, but fine print on ticket states that you may have to help push. Bus drivers are selected for their patience.

Calculator: An electronic gizmo used to compute kindergarten level mathematics. Example: Buy an item for 20 pesos. Hand cashier 50 peso note. “Sorry sirr, calculator battery is flat. Do you have 20 pesos?”

Cebu Pacific: A local air carrier, unencumbered with timepieces.

Christmas: A period of commerce beginning in September and ending in January (sometimes). Famed for shopping malls playing very loud music about snow, in a country with a median temperature of about 30 degrees Celsius.
Clusterfuck. Roxas Boulevarde

Coconut: Come on, I’m trying to be nice.

Consequence: An unknown force acting with weird effect upon objects that Filipinos touch. E.g. “Who would have known that the cube object would have fallen off the sphere object? I will just have to put it back dere (there)”.

Consideration: An impossible construct in the Philippines unless applied to getting a building approval or invalidating a traffic violation.

Courtesy: A very old word with no Tagalog equivalent. Now sadly, not in use.

Crime scene: Area set aside for the amusement of bystanders. Sometimes attended by bugs and grubs to dine on the body. From time to time a policeman may attend (Eat Bulaga notwithstanding). See black hole.

Customer Service: 1. An ideal which many foreigners feel is extinct. As it was never extant, it can never be extinct. 2. That area in a store which has the largest book of excuses.

Cut in: A pastime universally adopted in the Philippines, especially during bank visits, ticket queues, drug stores etc. The object is to be the last to arrive and the first to be served. Counter staff are the umpires, but alas, they have not fed their guide dog and they have no whistle (the security guard took it to help the passing traffic!).

Dog: The old saying “A puppy is not just for Christmas” has no legitimacy here.

Election: An approved remedy for the disease of governance. Alleviates squatters hunger for one day. Or, if they vote wrong – a lifetime.

Facebook: Activity that engulfs the whole working day. Primarily filled with photographs of meals (if Instagram is down).
Face to Face: A television program where tricycle drivers express their machismo in having impregnated as many Filipinas as possible. Also see Boxing.

Fashion: A highly contagious disease amongst Filipinos. A dictator, whom the wise ridicule but obey. Fashion appears to be one of those words which may have its roots in the old saying “the grass is always greener” etc..). Frequently Filipinos will copy the fashion of another nation, e.g. whiter skin, straighter nose, whilst the other nation is copying the Filipinos skin colour. This makes for a splendid transposition for fashion designers, who always have 2 ready markets. Sadly, fashion produces nothing but Asia’s Next Top Model. I wish you Requiescat In Pace fashion, but I fear you are gathering speed.

Filipino: Drinker of Red Horse, Tanduay and Ginebra. Nothing more is known.

Filipina: Female of the species, most commonly known for paying about 3 times more international airport tax than a foreigner. Immigration officials having learned long ago, that foreigners pay ALL Filipinas international airport taxes in the Philippines.

Flagellation: A popular pastime during “Holy Week” whereby penitents flog their own backs with branches and sticks. Normally attended by scorekeepers with notebooks. The main object appears to be splattering white cars and bystanders with blood.

Flip flops: The equivalent of western running spikes but with improved acoustics. Small children 8 – 10 years old have an innate ability to increase the sound level exponentially. These accoutrements also come in non-matching colours and sizes.

Foreigner: Rich, white American (no matter which country of birth or residence). Payer of all airport taxes. Payer of all other taxes. Foreigners have a propensity to pay more than a Filipino for the same product or service. The shopkeepers can’t help it if the foreigners are too generous. It must be their nature. ATM (so called, because if you punch them, money comes out). See Kano.

Form: A higher state than function. See also fashion.

Fun: The Philippines is to be congratulated on being the only country that has quantified this emotion. Apparently there is more of it here. It must have been a trying mathematical time to measure all other country’s fun to enable this comparison. But hey, we have a calculator. Undoubtedly when some other state declares the superior form of the word more (most), a new term will be coined (mostest).

Function: The smaller, weaker cousin of form.

Golf: A game played by “up to” 6 Filipinos, as apart from the usual “up to” 4 by foreigners. Frequently interrupted by very loud shouting, long pit stops for noodles and the denial of any requests to play through because, “very traffic”. “Very traffic” is Filipino for watching the grass grow on the next 5 fairways.

Hazard Lights: Indicators on a vehicle that, when flashing, denote the driver has seen a raindrop.

Holy Week: A period of about 10 days which starts approximately when an unknown bovine jumps over the Earth’s satellite. Some of the merriment that abounds includes the following:
Crucifixion. Often with big nails. The joy on the participants face is almost beatific. The hospital bill at the end normally proves fatal.
Cross carrying. This is normally carried out in groups on busy highways to emulate the traffic jams on the Via Dolorosa in the old days. Coming back is by jeepney.

Flagellation: Spray painting for your ride, dude.

Microphones, loudspeakers: Provided for the use of the priests and acolytes to the detriment of your senses. The output is normally unintelligible due to the 60 dB speakers being cranked up to 160dB.

Husband: One, who having eaten, may be found at the Sari-Sari store.

Idleness: The natural, and correct, nature of the Filipino. If one theorises that there is only one way to do nothing and many ways to do something, then the person doing nothing is doing it correctly. The person doing something has many opportunities for error. QED.

Imbecile: A kind of native divine inspiration. The word itself is hardly ever used by Filipinos, but you know who you are.

Immoral: Expedient

Impartial: Unable to see any benefit in taking up either side of an argument. Unknown in local police, politics or judiciary.

Indicator: An optional extra on a vehicle, never requested or understood by Filipinos. The consequence is they are either never turned on, or never turned off.

Indolently: A Filipino pedestrian’s method of crossing any road. Take special notice of the inbuilt sense of (eventually) seeing the vehicle, then making a 45 degree change so as to be in the intersection longer.

Ingrate: A mendicant with enough.

Insurance: See Warranty.

Irony: A rhetorical device to keep the purveyor happy, the blank stares perpetual and the wicketkeeper very busy.
Jeepney: A mode of cheap transportation for the hoi polloi. The best place to witness one of these vehicles is from directly behind on a motorcycle. The joys of awakening in hospital after inhaling the fumes are almost beyond compare. Hospital bills will bring on another bout of unconsciousness. Make sure you take a comb when viewing a jeepney. You may straighten your hair in the reflection off the tyres. Jeepneys only ever turn right and only from the far left lane. Archaeologists have reported seeing relics of jeepneys with at least one indicator. Sadly, this lexicographer has yet to set eyes on one.

Job: See Brains

Kano: See Foreigner

Karaoke: An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton wool in his ears and an impediment in his tone. Note: these machines are only to be operated from 6am until 5.59 am at approximately 160 dB. The fine for operating outside these hours or lower than that volume can be as high as 4 centavos.

Learn: Attendance at an Elementary or High School, or College. An alien concept, not applicable here. See also absence.

Loan: A financial advance paid back at an interest rate of -100%.

Look: An action taken in the last millisecond of a Filipinos life. As in –
1. Step out between 2 jeepneys into the busiest highway,
2. Look,
3. Encounter Philippine Rabbit,
4. Notice,
5. Meet your all too eager Maker.

Magic Magic Lady: A woman (often elderly) who has the power to see things that her client cannot. Namely, that her client is a knucklehead.

Malacanang: A poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, until he found a better title – Xanadu.

Middle of the Road: An almost impassable pedestrian area.

Mistake: A daily repeated malfunction.

Moral: The particular domain of the Catholic Church. Examples include demands for money or food or land, from people who have no money or food or land. See also Irony. After all, there may have been twice as many typhoons if there was less praying. Nice car Father!

Overseas Foreign Worker: Transplanted native ATM.

Peripheral Vision: A birth gift to foreigners, but an unfortunate oversight by the creator when manufacturing Filipinos. It is a law in the Philippines that all foreigners must always employ peripheral vision; otherwise the foreseeable “accident” will be his fault.

Planning: An interesting concept that has yet to gain a foothold. Every Filipino knows that if he has 500 pesos, he should immediately spend it NOW on food and drink (or possibly karaoke to celebrate the 500 pesos), because who knows when he will get another meal? A foreigner’s method of spending 100 pesos per day for 5 days is abhorrent, as it would override the Filipinos God given right to commit dyspepsia.

Pork Barrel: Reverse Superannuation for politicians. Immediate withdrawal required.

Rear View Mirror: An attachment on cars and motor cycles that is used for straightening hair and applying makeup. The original use is not applicable, as you can tell if it’s safe to change lanes by the following:
1. No contact with other vehicles – it was safe
2. Contact with other vehicles, pedestrians etc – they shouldn’t have been there.

Red Horse: A virulent strain of lager, drunk warm to inflame the emotions of tricycle drivers.

Religion: A teacher of fear and hope, explaining the unknowable to the ignorant. Pre-digested wisdom. And don’t get me started!

Responsibility: One of the few English words that has a gender inference in the Philippines. Filipinos shun this word and all its ramifications. Filipinas meanwhile, accept the word and attempt to supply basic needs for their children, parents, grandparents and Filipinos. It stops there.

Rest: Those who may be ignored, or the Filipinos natural state.

Risk: The act of walking across a busy street whilst 5 metres from the nearest overpass. See also Look.

Road: A strip of earth (frequently macadamed and potholed – it will be fixed just before the next election) used to get from point A to point B. In the Philippine system it is often used to get from point A to point B via point Q. Point Q being the location of most of the traffic accident victims. Many foreign observers have commented that if traffic just went between A and B, these victims would not exist. Locals point out the absurdity of these observations, succinctly advising that there is too much traffic between A and B, so Q it is. One may travel in either direction in any lane, at one’s discretion.

Road Rules: These come in a variety of styles. Lane lines = hint. Pedestrian Crossings = suggestion. Red lights = recommendation. There is no higher road rule than a recommendation. For further details see “clusterfuck”
Round peg, square hole: A game of immense difficulty. Can be played at the highest level – Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, or by even the lowest member of society. What’s more, after a full day of playing, it can be started afresh the next day, with little or no consequence on previous scores. Foreigners are often the square hole.

San Miguel: Patron Saint of cirrhosis.

Sari-Sari store: An outside meeting place for all of the local children to have loud conversations (just outside my door). Some types of stores have been known to cater for foreigners where they dispense beer at about half the price of the local bars. The locals call these foreigners “kuripot”. The foreigners tell the locals to “Go forth and multiply”. An added bonus is that they are open all hours, for the convenience of tricycle drivers to drink as much as possible before the next fare.

Second Marriage: The triumph of hope over experience (ref Ambrose Bierce “The Devil’s Dictionary”).

Shout: Talk.

SMS: A game between at least 2 parties. The aim is to continually move forward (preferably on a road) without taking one’s eyes off a cell phone, concentrating on the keys , whilst perpetuating the complete and utter destruction of the English language (or any other language for that matter). The game ends when either of 2 events occurs. 1 Destination reached – stop moving. 2. Philippine Rabbit – stop moving. See also Look.

Talk: Shout

Three point turn: A method of turning from one side of a road to end up facing in the opposite direction, so called because there are 3 points in such a turn. To show the higher mathematical capabilities of the Filipino mind, 3 point turns can be completed in a minimum of 7 points. “Told you we were smarter.”

Time: A concept refined by Salvador Dali for the delectation of the Filipino people. Time here being fluid, 1pm can mean anything up to tomorrow. Making an appointment one should remember 2 things – 1. The person may not show up on time. 2. The person may not show up on time. Be patient. The reason so many people are late is that they are probably buying fantastic Rolex bargains for around $10. Or they just woke up.

Tricycle: A motorcycle with a sidecar attached, used for transporting passengers. The maximum capacity is 2 foreigners or 12 Filipinos. 12 Filipinos can go 4 times as far as 2 foreigners for one quarter of the fare. Sigh – that foreigner nature again. Tricycles only ever turn left. There is no point in directing the driver to Specsavers as “looking” is not in his lexicon.

Typhoon: Once a useful check on population growth, but the power of the Catholic Church has now surpassed it.

Tyre tread: Huh?

Videoke Bar: Please read Dante’s “Inferno”.

Warranty: A piece of paper often used as packing material. Not much good for anything else.

Published in Delusional Filipino


  1. Profile gravatar of FAFI

    I just read every definition, freakin awesome man. I just copied and pasted this in Microsoft Word so I can read it again later. I take it that you are in the Manila area since you know how blocked up it gets on Roxas Blvd. Yeah I’m close to that area too. I had hell coming back from Mindoro the day before Holy Week started, which is nothing a but a shitty Christmas without presents. Traffic was so backed up I had to get out the bus and walk home…. I love your article Tapusnako, I hope to hear more from you later 🙂

    1. Profile gravatar of Tapusnako
      Tapusnako Post author

      Thanks FAFI and Filo. I actually live a fair way north, but every time I go to NAIA, the driver goes Roxas way. I have another definition, stolen from Ambrose Bierce, but applicable to the Filipino.
      Filogic – Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think I think, therefore I think I am). Rene Descartes original cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) not quite applicable here.

      1. Profile gravatar of 30-30

        A certain international organisation is having a 100 year anniversay in July.
        people from all the phils and the world will converge in one spot to hear leaders crow about their achievements and how they do for their beloved members.
        wife.. do you want to go?
        me.. no
        wife.. why not?
        becos if you analyse this mess, you will understand that all people will want to get there at the same time, all people will want to be at the same spot a the same time, and they will want to leave at the same time, the hotels, buses, taxis,, streets roads,,etc will be full,
        because organizations in the feelippines want to create the biggest dam traffic jam known to mankind, then the government honchos go to them. the organization will brag about how many voters they have.
        RESULT,, one horrible goat F*&k,,that will induce me to take a gun and blow my brains out.