Ethnic Groups of the Philippines

Ala eh! – All about the Batangas Dialect

20 September 2010

BATANGAS, Philippines – I was born and raised in Batangas, and had no idea I had been using a lot of words that other Tagalog speakers were not familiar with. In my numerous conversations with friends and colleagues, I would usually leave them stumped, if not shocked, by what I say. Realization hit me in college. As we were about to cross a street, I told my classmates, “Tara, liban na tayo!” They just stared at me, and I stared back, quite unaware that they did not understand what I had said. In Batangas, liban means to cross the street; therefore, what I meant was “Come on, let’s cross the street!” They thought I was asking them to skip class. The language is properly known as Batangas Tagalog, and “Ala eh!” is probably its most well-known expression — sort of a registered trademark for my province. Aside from balisong and kapeng barako, of course. If there is someone who speaks with a very heavy accent and seems to start and end all sentences with “eh,” you’d be right to conclude that he or she is from Batangas.

I’ve been working in Manila for the last six years and my friends said I’ve shed my Batangueña accent already, but there are still instances when conversations would come to a halt because I’ve said something they do not understand.

Friend: Saan ka pupunta?
KC:      Ako’y yayao na.
Friend:  Ha? Anong sabi mo?

Here are some words that never fail to elicit laughter from friends, followed by a round of vocabulary lessons:

• hinaw – wash hands
• makayat – messy
• Kita na! – Let’s go!
• bulos – another round/helping of rice/viand
• gabok – dust
• guyam – ants
• kahanggan – neighbor
• maalwan – easy
• hawot – dried fish, commonly called tuyo
• dine – here (dito)
• naliyo – felt dizzy (nahilo)
• barek – drink beer/alcohol
• huntahan – conversation (kwentuhan)

For those who are pondering the meaning of yayao (pronounced as ya – ’ya – o) in the three-line exchange, it’s “to leave” (aalis). I’ve later found out that in Manila, yayao means “(I or you) will die.” I could just imagine how freaky it was when I uttered that word in a very casual manner.