How to Break the Ice When Talking to Locals in the Philippines

How to Break the Ice When Talking to Locals in the Philippines

"Uh, why is this even necessary?" I'm sure this question was running in your head the moment you saw the title.  

I understand where you're coming from.  The Philippines, that beautiful archipelago in Southeast Asia, is the 3rd largest English-speaking country in the world outside of North America.

However, learning how to break the ice when you're on a trip to the Philippines will definitely win the hearts of your hosts and will make things twice as easy in communicating with them. Filipinos love it when foreign travelers make an effort to learn a thing or two about Philippine culture. And they're great at expressing their appreciation. 


After asking around, here are some of the interesting ways to break the ice when talking to locals:

1. Learn a few basic phrases or words in Filipino.

Filipino is one of the country's official language and learning a few phrases will illicit a "Wow!" or maybe even a  free bottle of bear from a local. Here are a few useful phrases (read by syllable):

Good morning  - Ma/gan/dang U/ma/ga

Good afternoon - Ma/gan/dang Ha/pon

Good evening - Ma/gan/dang Ga/bi

How are you? - Ka/mus/ta?

Thank you  - Sa/la/mat

You're welcome - Wa/lang A/nu/man


2. Or  you could play dumb tourist and ask about a few words or phrases in the language.

For example, you may ask how you can say  "Beautiful" in the local language (Ma/gan/da.) or "Delicious" (Ma/sa/rap).  You could also ask about good places to eat or what local food should you try.  And speaking of food...


3. Don't forget to ask  about or compliment Filipino dishes.

Pinoys (another term for Filipinos) love to eat and are proud of their culinary heritage. Be prepared to be invited to try exotic local food though. (Ever heard of Balut?)


4. Ask about Filipino celebrities.

Apart from food, Filipinos love to talk about celebrities and politics. Of course, you don't want to start a debate on government and Philippine politics so it's much safer to ask about celebrities. Who's the most popular actor or actress in the country? Who do they consider as the most beautiful celebrity? Are there Filipino celebrities in Hollywood? And if you're quite observant, ask who's the pretty or handsome celebrity you saw on one of those big billboards you saw on the street or near the airport. And since I mentioned celebrities, don't forget to ...


5. Mention Manny Pacquiao.

If you are not from this planet, Manny Pacquiao is the world's highest paid athlete and one of the best professional boxers in the world. Ask about his bouts, his family, his showbiz career, his numerous endorsements, and his political career (He's a Congressman or House Representative of Sarangani Province). My Korean pals told me this was how they got a quiet Filipino cab driver to talk. 


6. Of course, you can always break the ice over bottles of beer.

Ask for San Miguel, the country's most popular beer. If you have a strong stomach, order a bottle of Red Horse.  Watch the expression on people's faces when you drop those names. And when everyone seems to have loosened up a bit, you can ask how to say bad words in Filipino (apparently every young visitor's  favorite topic). 


Try any of these tips and see how things will work out during your visit to the Philippine Islands. And for those who've visited the country, feel free to add more tips!


Written and contributed by RainTravels