Down and Dirty Bisaya
No, these aren’t swear words or naughty Bisaya words. These are the “few” words you’ll need to get up and going in Bisaya within a few minutes.
These are presented as “Joke Lang” (your first lesson), which means “It’s only a joke” or “I’m kidding”, as it will take more than this to understand Bisaya. Same concept as in the States. There has to be a least a hint of truth, or else it’s not really a joke, is it?
Sige – With sige you will know 50% of all spoken Bisaya. OK, I’m exaggerating, it’s more like 25%. Sige means OK, continue, and then, goodbye, etc. Phone calls are especially fun to listen to because the number of sige increase as the conversation comes to a close. Something like – “Sige…sige…sige, sige…sige…sige, sige sige.” I tried to count them in a call once to humor myself but I lost track.
Lang – I mentioned this in the beginning, it means only or just, but there is a common use that I find humorous. After the price of virtually anything they will put the lang. Cost of a Mentos at the sari-sari, P1 lang. Cost of a bunch of bananas (saging), P25 lang. Cost of a nice house in the new subdivision, P5.8 million LANG! It’s more common on commercials, but when asking the price of something at the store if they by chance only say the peso amount, I question them, “lang?” They usually smile. It may be one of the only jokes I make that they get.
Kumusta – means how in Bisaya. It’s often used to ask how someone is, or is doing. Kumusta ka (you)? As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve been unable to elicit any response other than, “OK lang.” In the US if you ask “how are you?” you’ll get any number of responses – good, fine, great, been better, doing OK, etc. Maybe if you know someone here well enough you might get something different, but I bet the percentage of times it’s “OK lang” is close to 90+. For me it’s been 100%.
Oy – hey, or wow, short for hoy. This isn’t as common as some of the others, but I still find it interesting. I think I first heard it on the jeepney when the conductor tapped (pushed) a young lady to move over for another passenger. Her response was “Oy” with an irritated look on her face. I’ve heard it used around the subdivision quite a bit, and it always makes me smile.
Kuan – whatchamacallit or pause word. I hear this a lot in conversation, and often confuse it with kaon, which is to eat. I think most of the time I’m hearing it is the a pause, or similar to “Umm.” I’ve heard some long conversations with a healthy use of kuan. Unfortunately it doesn’t really help me understand the conversation any better.
Ayo – the human doorbell. I’m not even sure if this is really Bisaya, as ayo means to fix or repair. When trying to get someone’s attention one would softly say “Ayo.” Usually this is at the front gate or door of the house. It is sometimes doubled. The volume will increase if there is no answer, until they decide no one is available and leave. Why the lack of doorbells? I’m not sure on that. I guess ayo works, so what’s the need. I was thinking if I ever had a doorbell installed, I’d get one that went “Ayo..Ayo” instead of “Ding..Dong.” Wonder if there’s a market for that here?
There you have it. I’m sure others have a few specials words they could add, too. These are a few that have caught my fancy. You’re ready to go speak with the locals now. Well, maybe not quite yet, but you’ve got a good start.