English is convenient to chat with your tricycle driver! (Philippines, Siquijor, February 2008)
English is convenient to chat with your tricycle driver! (Philippines, Siquijor, February 2008)

Tagalog, filipino, english, spanish?


  Philippines: Visayas - February 2008

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

What is convenient when traveling to the Philippines is that everyone speaks English. Fishermen and peasants, villagers and townspeople, children and adults ...

I was struck throughout this trip by the spontaneity with which people came to speak to me. And surprise the good level of English of most of my interlocutors.

English, second official language in the Philippines

English is the second official language of the country, with tagalog (language of the region of Manila) renamed filipino for the sake of national unity. English and Filipino allow us to understand each other in the archipelago, where we speak more than 70 other languages ... The most represented is the Visayan, language of the Visayas Islands, where I was.

Fishermen in Siquijor. (Philippines, February 2008)
Fishermen in Siquijor. (Philippines, February 2008)

Many Filipinos explained the same thing to me: children learn English at school, and classes are taught in English, hence the good general level. Filipinos are very proud of this. For expatriate candidates, speaking English is also a way to find work more easily.

English is part of everyday life. Posters on the walls, road signs, administrative documents, religious, legal or advertising messages are most often in English. Filipinos use English to count, especially when it comes to money. It is not uncommon in a conversation to suddenly hear, in a stream of unidentifiable words, a "one thousand pesos".

The Western traveler who has already been to Indonesia or Malaysia, also recognizes the famous "selamat" polite formulas. Tagalog is part of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages, and the Arab and Chinese merchant ships of past centuries have also left their linguistic imprint.

Spanish colonization

And then there's all the vocabulary inherited from three centuries of Spanish colonization: butter is mantikilya, for example. I even once heard a girl pick up her phone saying "como estas" to his interlocutor ...

St. Catherine Alexandria Cathedral, Dumaguete. (Philippines, Negros, February 2008)
St. Catherine Alexandria Cathedral, Dumaguete. (Philippines, Negros, February 2008)
In front of Dumaguete Cathedral. (Philippines, Negros, February 2008)
In front of Dumaguete Cathedral. (Philippines, Negros, February 2008)

At Cebu Airport, while waiting for my return flight to France, I chatted with a lady on the ground, a former flight attendant, at the bar facing the check-in desks.

She obviously speaks perfect English and she immediately senses my little accent frenchy when I order. We exchange a few words, we sympathize ... I take the opportunity to address the issue of language. I tell him that it amuses me to identify words of Spanish in the filipino, and that English is a real comfort for traveling to the Philippines.

She then remade a short history course, explaining me that English has spread with the presence of the Americans (half a century of colonization, since the Spanish-American War of 1898) and then continued after the Second World War and the independence of the country. That Spanish was still practiced not so long ago, in the large families of the well-to-do, but only the elderly still speak it a little today. And that the general English level in the Philippines is falling, because teachers prefer to go to private schools where they are better paid.

The language participates in the change of scenery

For a passing tourist like me, being able to make people understand each other and talk to them in English is definitely a plus. But this "facility" has its downside.

How to say.... It takes some of the mystery out of it. The change of scenery is less complete. And I didn't even make the effort to learn two or three words in Tagalog or Visayan, since everyone greeted me and approached me in English. It's a pity, isn't it?

Our banca drawn on the sand of Sandugan Beach in Siquijor: "In God we trust" ... (Philippines, February 2008)
Our banca pulled on the sand of Sandugan Beach in Siquijor: "In God we trust" (Philippines, February 2008)
English is convenient to chat with your tricycle driver! (Philippines, Siquijor, February 2008)
English is handy for chatting with your tricycle driver! (Philippines, Siquijor, February 2008)

I promised myself to come back. Take the time to better discover the country, to return to explore the fabulous seabed. Next time, I will put myself more seriously to the language.

Even to learn the basic phrases, to present me as it should, when the inevitable litany of questions arrives, always the same. Where I come from, where I'm going, and if it's the first time in the country, and how long I stay, and if I travel alone, etc. etc. Questions that are as much curiosity as politeness ...

But it creates a slightly different, often warmer relationship when you are able to respond in a language other than English!

  Philippines: Visayas - February 2008

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  1. Your blog is fabulous !!! After a long trip to Malaysia and Thailand to dive I thought secretly to this country but was so afraid to go alone !!! Your posts reassure me. Your photos are beautiful. I would have liked to have you as a buddy, as I'm sure you would have enjoyed diving with me. I think I'm there in September for a long time. 2 years of mopping and diving in this corner. Obviously, very active woman, I may be bored, so I think very seriously to join the useful to pleasant by mounting a diving club PADI.
    I was very sincerely pleased to follow you discreetly in your trip.

    My email is [xxxx] if you want to communicate well and that the desire would come to you to know more about me.

  2. Hello Nina,

    And first of all, thanks for the compliments! If you have already mopped up in Malaysia and Thailand, you will have no trouble adjusting to the Philippines.

    I'm glad my road book has given you some peace of mind about the country. Travelling there alone is neither difficult nor dangerous. In any case, if I rely on my modest experience of a few weeks in the Visayas... 😉

    For diving, you will enjoy yourself. But when it comes to setting up a club, I think it's a little more difficult, you have to have a Filipino partner.

    I erased your e-mail from the body of the message so that you do not get spammed. I will send you another message directly to your address.

    See you soon !

  3. Hello Corinne,

    It's always a pleasure to browse your blog during my travel preparations. Your photos of the Philippines are really beautiful, another incentive to travel for me. I practice snokerling in Asia because I think my lean level 1 (FFESSM) will not be recognized in Asia.

    I go back to Malaysia for the second time (Sabah side), again it's a little thanks to your blog that I discovered in Perhentian

    A big thank you and see you soon

  4. @ Framac:

    I am delighted that my blog really plays its role of "incentive to travel". Nothing makes me more happy than a little message like yours, telling me that Little Bubbles Elsewhere contributed to the departure and the discovery of new horizons!


    For Level 1, you are wrong, it is recognized everywhere in Asia, including Padi centers. It is in France that it is not easy to be accepted in FFESSM centers with Padi training, in fact. But all that evolves little by little.

    Level 1 FFESSM (N1) is about the Padi Open Water level (OW), and neither is a "lean level". In Asia, it is often the basic level that most recreational diving holidaymakers have.

    At worst, the monitors of the center, if they have a doubt, will make you do a rehab dive, to see if you are comfortable or not under the water. As long as you present the card attesting to your level, there is no problem.

    After that, what makes the difference is the experience. For my part, I stayed very long at the OW level, but accumulated a lot of dives. And I passed the next level, the Advance Open Water (AOW), much later, when I already had about 80-100 dives in the fins. So did I have, in fact, a much better "level" than some French N2 who had made it in all and for all that a few dozen ...

    Most centers in Asia are commercial structures, which accept divers from all types of training (NAUI, CMAS, FFESSM, etc.). In short, all this to say that you should not be intimidated by these stories of "level".

    Finally, there is of course already enough to be fun, just snorkeling in these tropical waters!

    I wish you a very good stay in Malaysia.
    See you soon.