Cebuano Language, Dialect - Binisaya

Almost every province in the Philippines have their own spoken dialect. Some vary in the words and pronunciations used while others only vary on the intonation, speed or hardness. Cebu is not an exception, in fact there are municipalities that speak unique dialects that are mostly influenced by the dialects of neighboring provinces.


The languages spoken in the Visayan region of the Philippines are generally called "Bisaya" or "Binisaya" which includes Cebuano, are still used by older generation and members of a group of Visayan poets and writers called LUDABI. LUDABI or Lubas sa Dagang Binisaya was established in 1956 by a group of journalists, poets, and writers who has preserved the Bisaya language and kept it alive through their writings and poetry.


Cebuano people, specially in the central part of Cebu, generally use a modernized version of the original Cebuano language where some of the words are adaptation of various languages that are common to the general population. As you go farther to the south or to the north, however, a significant change in the words and intonation are very evident. Sometimes you can't even recognize that it is still the same language but spoken differently.


One unique pronunciation that is very common in the Bisaya language is the short vowels at the end of some words. In the word "gahì" (hard) for example the final "ì" is pronounced short and stops very abruptly. This particular pronunciation is common in such words as "duwà" (play), "bahò" (smelly), "dalì" (hurry), "tagò" (hide), and "dilì" (no).


The most significant evolution in the language from the original Cebuano is the dropping of the "L" in many words to make them sound smoother and shorter. Words like "dalan" (road or street) is now "da'an"; "dalugdog" (thunder) is now "daugdog" or "dogdog"; "kulon" (pot) is now "ku'on"; "pula" (red color) is now "pua" or "puwa"; and "bulà" (bubble) is now "buà" or "buwà"; are typical examples.


Numbers are treated very uniquely. For counting, 1 to 10 are in the original Cebuano while 11 onwards are in spanish but pronounced in a typical Visayan style. Money is generally in spanish exept 1 peso which is just "piso", not uno peso.

Common Greetings in Cebuano

Here is a collection of common sentences and phrases that you might find useful for day-to-day activities in Cebu.

Good Morning.
Maayong Buntag. or May'ng Buntag.

Good Noon.
Maayong Udto. or May'ng Udto.

Good Afternoon.
Maayong Hapon. or May'ng Hapon.

Good Evening.
Maayong Gabii. or May'ng Gabii.

Good Evening Sir. (for greeting old men)
Maayong Gabii Manoy. or 'Bii 'Noy.

Good Evening Ma'am. (for greeting old women)
Maayong Gabii Manang. or 'Bii 'Nang.

Happy Birthday!
Accepted common adaptation: Happy Birthday!
Bisaya (not commonly used): Malipayong adlaw'ng natawhan.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.
Daghang salamat. or Daghan kaayong salamat.

When addressing somebody in a casual conversation, it is common for Cebuanos to use common nickname for a certain group of individuals that fall under certain traditional brackets.

Manoy or 'Noy - used for old men specially 50 years old or older. Only use this if you are much younger than the person. Very old male (65 and above with white hair) are also often called Lolo or 'Lo (grandpa).

Manang or 'Nang - for old women aging 50 and above. Only use this if you are much younger than the person. Very old ladies (65 and above with white hair) are also often called Lola or 'La (grandma).

Bai - affectionately given to male friends of the same age level. It is also commonly used to male acquaintances of the same level. Not adviseable for formal conversations.

Dodong or 'Dong - used as a standard way of addressing younger males. May be used even for teenagers as long as you are much older than the person.

Inday or 'Day - commonly used to address younger females. May be used even for teenagers as long as you are much older than the person.

To introduce yourself or the people with you in Cebuano, is very straightforward.

I am Pedro.
Ako si Pedro.

My name is Pedro.
Ang akong nga'an Pedro.

This is Juan. (besides the speaker)
Kini si Juan.

He is Juan.
Siya si Juan.

That is Maria. (far from the speaker)
Kanà si Maria. (à is pronounced very short and ends abruptly)

That is Greg. (far away from them)
Kadto si Greg.

How are you?

I'm fine.
Maayo. or Maayo man.

What is your name?
Unsay imong nga'an?

Who are you?
Kinsa ka? (a bit impolite)

Who is this? (beside the speaker)
Kinsa 'ni?

Who is that? (away from the speaker)
Kinsa 'nà?

Who is that? (away from the group)
Kinsa 'to?

When counting in Cebuano, use the original bisaya for 1 to 10 and use the spanish numbers from 11 onwards. 100 onwards are interchangeable bisaya and spanish, some people would use spanish while others mix them. The pronunciation of the spanish numbers are more of a visayan style so the spelling is changed differently to show how they are commonly pronounced.  The word "buok" or "ka buok" (pieces) is often used after each number to indicate that the number of pieces is being referred to.

Money in Cebu is in pesos and is generally spoken using the spanish numbers. When money is the center of the conversation, the term "pesos" is often ommitted.

Fractions of a peso are expressed in Centavos or commonly pronounced "sentabos" and sometimes simplified to "s'tabos", example P 0.25 is baynte singko sentabos or baynte singko s'tabos.


Sample usage:

You: How much is the fare?
Pila'y plete?

Jeepney Driver: How many are you?
Pila mo kabuok?

You: 3.

Jeepney Driver: 21 pesos.
Baynte uno.

Date and time in Cebuano are essentially based on the Spanish language. The name of the months and the numbers used are basically Spanish with a Visayan pronunciation. Saying the date in English is also very common and is widely acceptable. In almost all cases the year is spoken in English.

Although not very common anymore, some AM radio stations still use the original Bisaya language to mention the time.


January - Enero
February - Pebrero
March - Marso
April - Abril
May - Mayo
June - Hunyo
July - Hulyo
August - Agosto
September - Septembre
October - Oktobre
November - Nobembre
December - Disembre

Day Of The Week

Monday - Lunes
Tuesday - Martes
Wednesday - Miyerkoles
Thursday - Huwebes
Friday - Biyernes
Saturday - Sabado
Sunday - Dominggo

General Terms

Year - Tu-ig
Month - Buwan
Date - Petsa
Day - Adlaw
Week - Semana

Now - Karon
Today - Karong Adlawa
This Week - Karong Semanaha
This Month - Karong Buwana
This Year - Karong Tu-iga

Next - Sunod
Tomorrow - Ugma
Next Week - Sunod Semana
Next Month - Sunod Buwan
Next Year - Sunod Tu-ig

Christmas - Pasko
New Year - Bag-ong Tuig
Holy Week - Semana Santa

What date is it now?
Unsay petsa karon?

January 13.
Enero trese.



1 o'clock - ala una
2 o'clock - alas dos
3 o'clock - alas tres
4 o'clock - alas kwatro
5 o'clock - alas singko
6 o'clock - alas sais
7 o'clock - alas syete
8 o'clock - alas otso
9 o'clock - alas noybe
10 o'clock - alas diyes
11 o'clock - alas onse
12 o'clock - alas dose

dawn - kaadlawon
morning - buntag
noon - udto
afternoon - hapon
evening / night - gabi-i
midnight - tunga'ng gabi-i

hour - oras
minute - minuto
seconds - segundo
time - oras (takna in Old Cebuano)
half (30 minutes used in telling the time) - media

What time is it now?
Unsa nang orasa karon?
Old Cebuano: Unsa na ang takna karon?

It's 7:12 AM already.
Alas syete dose na sa buntag.

Half past 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
Ala una y media sa hapon.

10 minutes before 5 o'clock.
Menos diyes para alas singko.

Asking a question properly in Cebuano can always get you to wherever or whatever you want faster. Here are common things you might want to ask around when you're in Cebu and common expected responses.

What - Unsa
When - Kanus-a
Where - Asa (place), Hain (location of an object)
How - Giunsa
Why - Ngano
Who - Kinsa

In practice, a lot of Cebuanos use the words "Asa" and "Hain" interchangeably for practically the same purposes. The real meaning and differences of these words have become vague and somehow lost and nobody even seem to care the real difference and actual usage of these words anymore.

There is a difference in the actual usage of "Hain" and "Asa" that even Cebuanos and Bisaya speakers should be aware of. "Asa" is used basically if the speaker is directly referring to a place, whereas "Hain" is used to refer to the location of something.


Where is my pencil?
Hain ang akong lapis?

Where is Colon?
Asa ang Colon?

If the object referred to is also a place in a way like a mall, "Asa" or "Hain" can be used.


Where is SM?
Asa ang SM? or Hain ang SM?



Where are we now?
Asa na ta karon?

We are now in Cebu.
Nia na ta sa Cebu.

Where are we going?
Asa ta padu'ong?

We're going to Lahug.
Padu'ong ta sa Lahug.

We will go to Lahug.
Mangadto ta sa Lahug. or Moadto ta sa Lahug.

Where is the Airport?
Asa ang Airport? or Hain ang Airport?

The Airport is in Mactan Island.
Ang Airport naa sa Mactan.

Where is the Comfort Room (toilet)?
Hain ang CR? (CR has been adopted in Cebuano and is more common instead of "kasilyas" (toilet). In areas away from the Cities however, the word "kasilyas" is still very common).

The CR is on the right.
Ang CR naa sa tu-o.



How much is this?
Tagpila ni?

That's forty-five pesos.
Tag kwarentay singko.

Do you have anything cheaper than that?
Naa mo'y mas barato anà?

That red one is only forty pesos.
Kanang puwa tag kwarenta ra.

How about that green one?
Kanà diay'ng green? (Green is more commonly used than the bisaya word "berde")

That's more expensive, that's fifty-seven pesos.
Mas mahal nà, tag singkwentay singko.

No discount?
Wa'y hangyo?

OK, you can have it for fifty-five pesos.
Sige, singkwentay singko na lang.


Here is a collection of various everyday phrases that may be applicable just about anytime, anywhere.

I don't understand.
Wà ko kasabot.

Can you understand English?
Makasabot ka ug Ininglis? or 'Kasabot ka ug English?

Please say it in English.
Palihug Ininglisa lang. or English lang Palihug.



Speak slowly please.
Hinaya'g sulti palihug.

Sorry. (The bisaya word "pasayloa ko" (forgive me) has a deeper meaning and is not used for a casual sorry, or excuse me)

Excuse Me.
Excuse Me.


Dilì or


For a while...
Kadalì sà... or Kadiyot sà...


I don't know...
Wà ko kahibaw... or Ambot... (a bit impolite)

What took you so long?
Nganong nadugay man ka?

You're too early!
Sayoha sad nimo uy! (slightly sarcastic)


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