OPINION: Recognizing the Spanish in our daily lives 1

OPINION: Recognizing the Spanish in our daily lives

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Jan 06 2017 12:27 AM

Last week, we discovered that the word we use for ‘coffin’ in Pilipino--“ataul”--is in fact borrowed from the Spanish original which is ataul! Spelled the same way, too. Let us continue with our journey into our linguistic roots. Here follows, really just a very few, a teaser-sampler of Filipino Hispanisms.

How about “asikaso?” To mind or to attend to. To do something about. As in “asikasohin mo naman ang mga bisita” (please attend to the visitors). Visita is, of course, Spanish for visitor. 

Or, another sample usage--“masyadong ma-asikaso,” meaning requires too much attention. ‘Too much’ is ‘demasiado’ in Spanish, from which we drew “masyado!” (Masyado ka naman!–You are too much!) Well, our ‘asikaso’ is a localized adaptation of the Spanish phrase “hacer caso” which means “to pay attention to.” Neat, huh?

How about “ginisa sa sariling mantika?” (loosely, cooked in one’s own fat or cooking oil.) Guisar is the Spanish root, meaning “to cook” or more commonly, to saute or to stew. Mantika’s is originally ‘manteca’ which is lard or fat!

In Waray, we say ‘mercado’ but among the Tagalogs, wet market is ‘palengke,’ a variant of ‘palenque’ which is a wooden enclosure or stockade-like structure. (The market square?) 

And when you go to the palengke and you haggle, dicker or drive a hard bargain over the price of what you want to buy with the ‘tindera,’ (salesgirl), she might respond “bina-barat mo naman ako!” (You are driving me cheap!) Barat is a Tagalog adaptation of the Spanish ‘barato.’ Cheap or inexpensive in English. In Waray, we use barato, to mean just that. “Tindera” is derived from the Spanish ‘tienda’ or shop/store, Tagalized into ‘tindahan.’

We no longer use the word “baratillo” for shops or events that feature goods and wares at rock-bottom prices. Cheap buys! A flea market is an example of a “baratillo.” I grew up with baratillos along Calle Legarda in old Sampaloc, Manila. They have now been replaced with periodic “bangketa sales” of Department Stores getting rid of unsold inventories right by the front sidewalk. 

Banqueta is borrowed from the Mexican Spanish word for sidewalk. Sidewalk in old Spanish is “acera.” “Acera” is not even used in Manila anymore although that was what we called our play space along Alejandro VI in the 1940s. Besides, sidewalks/aceras in much of Metro Manila have physically disappeared! (They have been illegally expropriated by or have become extensions of, homes fronting them!)


My listed observations cannot capture all the loan and hand-me-down words and phrases we unconsciously use in our daily lives. In fact, it will take an entire volume to be written on this subject matter alone. I hope some enterprising scholar researcher/journalist/writer would venture into it. Here are some more random picks, worthy of pause.

Basura for garbage and you know what a basurero is. Labandera is the washerwoman. Original is lavandera from ‘lavar’ which is to wash or to clean. (Labahan mo ang damit ko. -- Wash my clothes.) 

Coche or Kotse is in ever constant use for a car/motor vehicle, as well as garahe (garage/garaje). 

The word kutsero (cochero) is still in use in areas where horse-drawn rigs are allowed. Speaking about horses, don’t we call these beasts “kabayo?” Well, that is from the Spanish ‘caballo.’ And while the term ‘driver’ is much in use now, we have not really gotten rid of ‘tsuper’ which is chauffeur/chofer from the original source. 

Old time ethic values much missed in society and truly rarities nowadays are still termed in Spanish. Such as Palabra de Honor (word of honor), Amor Propio (self-esteem and pride), Delicadeza (refined respectability and genteel propriety).

With the Christmas Season just over, most of us went through misa de gallo, and noche buena and/or media noche. While we most commonly have “exchange gifts,” we have not really forgotten that “aguinaldo’ is another term we alternatively use for Christmas gift! 

And if we gorged ourselves with jamon, leche flan, arroz valenciana, relleno, embutido, we would at some point have to rush to the ‘casillas’ or even the cubeta! Both of are of Spanish origins, you know. 

By the way, so is “Litson,” the Filipino Holiday table centerpiece staple. ‘Lechon’ is the original spelling which means a suckling pig! Locally, we call that ‘lechon de leche,” leche being milk in Spanish, hence suckling! Entiendes? (Understand?--An expression used even by those who do not speak Spanish! If only for effect!) 

And should the eating and feasting shall have become overly engorging that laxative relief encounters some difficulty, there is always that good old faithful “lavativa!” (For the uninitiated, it is that almost forgotten bathroom instrument called ‘enema!’)

As Lent comes along, there will be ‘visita iglesia’ (church visits) and ‘siete palabras’ (sermons on the seven last words of the Christ) and the prosisyon (procesion/procession) of family carriages/karos or karwahe (carro/carruaje). I do not remember how the Tagalogs refer to Lent but in Calbayog, Samar we still refer to it as “Cuaresma,” which is Lent in Spanish. 

And then comes ‘Flores de Mayo” (Flowers of May) or Santakrusan (Santa Cruz/Holy Cross) with the Reyna Elena and her ‘Constantino.’ Church-oriented and/or -promoted festivals and other religious observances (and even services) in the Philippines continue to bear Spanish terms.

The classic ”Kumusta ka--Como estas?” exemplification has even expanded into linguistic permutations. Como esta this and como esta that, really! ‘Kumustahin mo si Maria’ is “See how Maria is doing!”; ‘I-kumusta mo ako kay Maria’ is “Please say hello to Maria for me.” Or “Please tell Maria I asked how she is!”; and ‘Kumustahan nang kumustahan’ is spending time greeting one another saying “how are you!” and wishing one another well! ‘Kumusta’ ang New Year ninyo? (How was your New Year?)


In the Hispano-Filipino instance, linguistic acculturalization is an indelible facet of colonialism. Hand-me-down and loan/borrowed words and phrases are retained, they linger and are embedded in the language. Popular and adaptive usage results in unpreventable enhancement and enrichment of the language. By its very nature linguistic evolution is also a form dynamic nationalism. Outward bound and unshy!

It is a certitude then. There is hardly a talking hour or even a passing conversation with and by a Filipino without an oral display of the Hispanic cultural/linguistic influence, whether it is in its inherited purity or in its beautifully altered adaptation. 

The bottom line is that if we Filipinos did not have so much Spanish in our daily lives and selves, we would be less the Filipino that we are so proud and enjoy ourselves to be today! 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.