Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

The Philippines was colonized by Spain for more than 300 years. With this, there's been a lot of Spanish influence, including phrases that have seem to conquer every Filipino's lexicon. However, not all Filipinos may know that what they utter daily are Spanish. Neither the Hispanics traveling or living in the Philippines realize that their native phrases are being used. Here are some Filipino phrases borrowed from Spanish that you may find amusing:

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference

1. Petsa de peligro
In Filipino, petsa de peligro refers to the last stretch of days before pay day. It's described as the tough days when cash is running low. While it’s a borrowed phrase from Spanish, petsa de peligro doesn’t really mean anything in Spanish other than its literal translation “date of danger.”

During petsa de peligro, Filipinos try as much not to spend: instead of eating out, they bring baon (packed food) at work, instead of riding a taxi, they commute, and instead of going out on weekends, they stay at home.

Honestly speaking, some Filipinos have the habit of being “one-day millionaires.” They spend a lot when money is on hand and not sparing some for the next days.
Photo credits to the owner

Worse, they even borrow money from another person with the line: “Pwede bang humiram sa ‘yo? Petsa de peligro na kasi” ("May I borrow money from you? Because it’s already petsa de peligro").

2. Kwatro kantos
The phrase was derived from 2 Spanish words cuatro (which means “four”) and cantos (which means “edges/sides”). Surprisingly, it refers to a local alcoholic beverage. It ended up with such unique name because of the shape of the bottle:
(Photo credit to the owner)

If not for the image, who would ever think that kwatro kantos is a gin?

Ginebra San Miguel's kwatro kantos is a popular drink in the province. Alongside is a pitcher of water, chaser (which is usually a powdered drink liked iced tea or mango flavor), and pulutan (Filipino version of tapas). The gin is literally shared by the group who, believe it or not, also share the SAME shot glass (yes, you read it right, one shot glass only!). A person called the tanggero pours the gin as people take turns in drinking, a drinking culture that's uniquely Filipino.
Photo credit to the owner

Funnily, Filipinos enjoy naming liquor by its shape. The smaller 350ml size of Ginebra has a moniker based on its shape too, called bilog (circle). Also, another alcohol brand Tanduay Rhum is called lapad (wide) for its bottle's shape.

Tagay! (“Shot!”)

3. Pan de regla
Pan de regla is a soft local bread with a distinct red filling. It's such a bread fix you can get it at almost every local bakeshop and even at sidewalks. Filipinos enjoy eating this as a snack.
Photo credit to the owner

This bread may be delicious, but the name is somehow gross. Pan de regla is actually the Spanish phrase for “menstrual bread.” As to how it ended up with such sensitive name, pepper.ph told: “...because it looks like the cross section of a used sanitary napkin.” (source)

Actually, the word regla also exists in the Filipino dictionary, which means “menstruation” too. So to some, they'd rather call pan de regla in a less vulgar way such as kalihim (co-secret keeper) and ligaya (happiness).

Also read: Why Learning a Language is Your Ticket to Your Next Flight

4. Lamyerda
In Filipino, lamyerda means to be a truant. It may refer to a student who skips class to go somewhere else than school or to a worker who slacks off to roam and avoid the workload.

In Spanish, lamyerda may sound like la mierda, which is a not-so-good term either. “Mierda!” is a cursing word that means shit, crap, fuck, and other vulgar words you can probably think of. Don’t get surprised with Spanish because they have an array of curses. In fact, “mierda!” is one of the most common expressions in Spain:

So the next time you decide “na maglamyerda” (to be truant), think again. It’s not a good thing, even in other languages.

5. Buena mano
Literally means “good hand” in Spanish, buena mano is an idiomatic expression that refers to “lucky hands.”  But with lucky hands, we don't mean a person winning big at the casino here! Instead, it means something else.
Photo credit to the owner

For store owners, the first customer to enter the store is the buena mano, whom they believe to invite luck into the business throughout the day. With this, owners tend to welcome a bueno mano with a bigger smile. The Hispanics also believe in this and so the idea of buena mano is known in Spanish-speaking countries too. As said, it originally came from the Chinese who are good in running a business.

Buena mano should not to be mistaken with segunda mano though, which means "secondhand" in Spanish. Whether in Spanish or Filipino, they both mean “a used item” or something that’s “not brand new.”

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Lost in Translation

6. Etsa puwera
It sucks to be rejected and taken for granted. Neither you want the millennials to tell you that “you can’t sit with us,” because that would really hurt. These are just some ways to put etsa puwera in context in Filipino.

Actually, the phrase etsa puwera came from Spanish’ echar fuera. To dissect its meaning, echar is a verb that means “to throw” and fuera is an adverb that means “out, away, or outside” in Spanish. Depending on the context, it may mean “to be pushed away.”

It’s human nature to feel bad about being ignored, especially by someone or something you value much. While Christina Aguilera says “nobody wants to be lonely,” we'd say that nobody also wants na ma-etsa puwera (to be pushed away)!

7. Puto seko
Puto refers to a male prostitute in Spanish. In some countries, it also refers to a “gay or faggot.” Whichever way to put it, the term is an extremely offensive insult to someone. Meanwhile, seco is an adjective that means "dry" in Spanish. Combining the two words, puto seco may be a connotation of a “horny male prostitute or gay.”
Photo credit to the owner

On the other hand, puto seko in Filipino is neither offensive nor vulgar. It’s nothing but a sweet delicacy made up of sugar, cornstarch, flour, egg, and butter. It’s a popular pasalubong (an item to bring home) among Filipinos.
Photo credit to the owner

Puto seko should not be mistaken with puto though. Although a local delicacy too, puto is cooked steamed. Also, puto is softer than puto seko. Its main ingredients include rice flour, milk, and egg. It belongs to the numerous rice cakes served as snack in the Philippines.

Do you know other Filipino phrases similar to these? Comment below and let’s start the conversation!

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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. 





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