Filipino & Spanish Words: Lost in Translation Part 2

History explains the huge influence of Spanish in Filipino language. As Spain colonized the Philippines in 1521 and stayed in the country for more than 300 years, a lot of Filipino words are actually loan words from Spanish.

However, there are some that got its meaning changed, veered off course, and ended up lost in translation. I decided to collate some of them, explaining how it became different when it got adopted in Filipino language. A few blog entries back, I wrote the first set of these and in case you missed it, check out my article Filipino & Spanish Words: Lost in Translation Part 1.

Let's begin! ¡Vamos!

Todas vs. todas

In Spanish, todas is a simple adjective that means “all” in its feminine form. It’s usually accompanied by a noun to make sense and give meaning, such as todas las flores (all flowers), todas las chicas (all girls), todas las playas (all beaches), etc.
Meanwhile, todas somewhat has a heavier meaning in Filipino. Used as slang, todas describes someone who’s in a big trouble, possibly at the verge of being dead for whatever might have caused it. Here’s an example:

Kung hindi ka titigil sa droga, matotodas ka.
(If you won’t stop from drugs, you’ll be dead.)

When you slash the “s” and make it only toda though, right away the meaning changes as it’s most likely understood by the Filipinos as "tricycle drivers."
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In fact, it’s very common to catch toda painted on either the front or back of the tricycle. While most people think that toda is a word, it’s rather an acronym that stands for Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (TODA).

So now you know the next time you go to the toda =p

Also read: Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

Konduktor vs. conductor

Speaking of transportation, another loaned Spanish word is being used by the Filipinos in a different way. When you take a public vehicle in the Philippines, particularly a bus, you don’t expect the conductor to be the driver.
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While conductor refers to a “driver” in Spanish, the konduktor, on the other hand, refers to the driver’s assistant who collects the fare. He’s the guy in the bus who holds the bills between his knuckles and punch holes on strips of paper, which is actually the bus ticket.

To call a “driver” in Filipino, it’s simply the English word that’s used, or sometimes spelled as drayber. A few call the driver a tsuper, the loan word with the closer meaning to its Spanish origin, which is chofer.

Aburido vs. aburrido

In Spanish, the adjective aburrido usually refers to the feeling of boredom.


Estoy aburrido. Llámame.
(I’m bored. Call me.)

Also, it can refer to a person with a boring personality.

No hay nada interesante en él. Es aburrido.
(There’s nothing interesting in him. He’s boring.)

In Philippine vocabulary, however, the loan word aburido exists but with a slightly tweaked meaning. When you say someone is aburido, he/she may be feeling worried, disturbed, or anxious. Here’s an example:

Ang tagal maipadala ng pera kaya aburido na ako.
(The money takes time to be sent so I’m worried already.)

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference

Karo vs. caro/carro

When you say caro in Spanish, it usually means “expensive,” so it’s like saying El billete es caro (The ticket is expensive). Also, there’s another Spanish word carro, which may refer to a “carriage” or “cart.” In some Spanish-speaking countries, carro may also mean “car.”
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On the other hand, what first comes to mind of the loan word karo for the Filipinos is neither “expensive,” “carriage,” nor “cart.” Rather, karo may most likely mean “funeral car” in Filipino. A karo is usually that long vehicle where the coffin is placed in order to transport the dead and bring to the grave.

There’s even a joke that when someone drives very slow, he/she acts like a tsuper ng karo (funeral car driver) since during interment, the funeral car is driven as slow as possible.

Bale vs. vale

The word vale has several meanings in Spanish. It comes from the verb valer, which can be used to ask for the price: ¿Cuánto vale este imán? (How much is this magnet?) or to tell what’s more worthy: Vale más un gramo de hacer que un kilo de decir (A little action is better than a lot of talking).

In Spain, vale is commonly used to say “okay” or “fine.” Funny thing was, while I was in Spain, I heard it A LOT from my friends. It's such an overused word I got shookt on how many times they can insert vale in a single conversation! Haha.

- ¿Me voy, vale? (I'll go, okay?)
-- Vale. (Fine.)
- Vale, ¿te vas o no? (Okay, you'll go or not?)
-- No. (No.)
- ¡Vale vale vale vale! (Okay, okay, okay, okay!)

Also watch: Viajera Vlog: Spain

In Filipino, the word bale that came from the Spanish vale means something else. If you’re a boss with an employee who often asks for bale, then brace yourself. Bale means “cash advance” in Filipino.

Ma’am, babale sana ako ng dalawang libo.
(Ma’am, I’d like to cash advance two thousand pesos.)

Bale can also mean “so” or “therefore” in Filipino. It’s sometimes used as a filler especially during flow of thought.

Bale...pagkabayad ko ng bale ko kay ma’am, magbabayad naman ako ng utang sa bumbay.*
(So...after paying my cash advance from ma’am, I’ll then pay my dues to the bumbay.)
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*Bumbay refers to the Indian immigrants in the Philippines who do business by loaning money, usually stacked with an interest. The term bumbay originated from Mumbai, a city in India.

Also read: When in India: Thoughts on Solo Female Backpacking in India


One of the influences the Spaniards gave to the Philippines is Christianity, which is to why there are a lot of religious Filipino words borrowed from Spanish. Some of these include Diyos (Dios in Spanish) that means “God,” ebanghelyo (evangelio in Spanish) that means “gospel,” and bibliya (biblia in Spanish) that means “bible,” and many more.

Meanwhile, there’s one Filipino expression that's of religious origin and I assume also came from Spain. “Susmaryosep!” is an expression of surprise, disbelief, or anger in Filipino. Its connotation depends on the context, but it’s most likely something negative. Here’s an example:

A las 9 na pero hindi ka pa umaalis! Susmaryosep!
(It’s 9AM already yet you haven’t left! Susmaryosep!)

As to how this word got created, susmaryosep is actually the contracted names of Jesús, María, y Josep. Some people shorten it up to make it Sus! but its meaning is just the same.

Now that you know what it means figuratively and literally, you can say susmaryosep with all conviction =p

Do you have other Filipino and Spanish words in mind? Share and comment below!

Shelly C. Dimaculangan was a language translator in the Philippines. She finished AB Journalism at University of Santo Tomas in Manila where she took her first Spanish classes. After college, she continued learning Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 

If this blog has given you helpful information, or has inspired you in any way, a little amount would help me maintain it!

Filipino & Spanish Words: Lost in Translation Part 2 Filipino & Spanish Words: Lost in Translation Part 2 Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 21.3.19 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. I am from Spain and I speak Catalan and Spanish. "Susmaryosep!" seams to me more like the way we would say it in catalan language 'jesus,maria i josep' "yosep" is like a spanish would transcribe Josep from catalan. In spanish is "José" with a strong sound of "j", in catalán is like "i". It is very likely that catalán people also colonized your country along with Spanish speaking spaniards


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