Dec 24, 2010

How many ways can you say "Merry Christmas" using Filipino languages?

Dear Filipino,

How many languages are spoken in the Philippines. I understand not everyone speaks Tagalog?

Colleen Butler

Dear Colleen,

People who have tried to answer your question in the past have come up with wildly different answers.  The reason is simple: As always, it boils down to the definition of terms; even better put, it boils down to the difference between what is considered a "language" and what is considered a "dialect." 

The thing is, there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing them, and the difference is often a matter of degree rather than of kind.  According to Dr. Tucker Childs, professor of Linguistics at Portland State University, it's because:
[T]hey're not objective, scientific terms.  People use the words "dialect" and "language" to mean different things. "Language" can often refer to your own linguistic variety and "dialect" to the variety spoken by someone else, usually someone thought of as inferior. Or "language" can mean the generally accepted "standard" or radio-talk language of a country, while dialects are homely versions of it that vary from region to region and may not be pronounced the way the so-called "language" is. Language varieties are called "dialects" rather than "languages" because they're not written, or because speakers of that variety don't run the country, or because their language lacks prestige. In short, the distinction is subjective...

One of the tests people use to differentiate "language" from "dialect" is mutual intelligibility. You can say that people speak the same language -- or a dialect of the same language -- if they understand each other. If they don't understand one another, they must be speaking different languages. That seems like a good rule. So why, in a case like the Cologne and Bavarian dialects, which aren't mutually intelligible, don't the Germans call them separate languages? Or why are Swedish and Norwegian separate languages, when Swedes and Norwegians have no trouble understanding one another? It's really pretty confusing.
Further, according to John R. Rickford, professor of Linguistics at Stanford University:

The most significant variations or differences within languages occur at the level of the lexicon (vocabulary), phonology (pronunciation), grammar (morphology and syntax), and usage.  Moreover, they are not just qualitative, in the sense that dialect A uses one feature and dialect B another, but they may also be quantitative, in the sense that dialect A uses one feature more often than dialect B does....Finally, variation may be regional, social or stylistic in its origins, and the methods that linguists have used to study each type differ slightly.
Thus, in order to answer your question, I turned to Ethnologue: Languages of the WorldEthnologue is a web and print publication of SIL International (SIL stands for Summer Institute of Linguistics), which trains Christian missionaries to be linguists, sending them to learn local languages, design alphabets for unwritten languages and introduce literacy -- primarily to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language.  Thus, Ethnologue's history has drawn some criticism from secular linguists, but it has grown so comprehensive since its start in 1951 that it is now THE leading authority on languages and an indispensable resource for academics and governments.

According to Ethnologue, Philippines has a total of 175 languages,171 of which are living languages and 4  are considered extinct, i.e., no known speakers.  Yours truly fluently speak and write only 2 of these 175 languages, but can probably survive in a few more.  Note that Tagalog, while officially considered the national language, is only spoken as a native language by 28.15% of the total Philippine population (based on the 2000 census).

Today being the eve of Christmas, I decided to do just a little bit of scouring on the Web for Filipino translations of the season's greeting: "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" 

I came up with only the ones below, but the variety floored me nonetheless.  I hope other Filipinos who get to read this post can send their version to me so I can keep updating the compilation for the next years to come.

Bicolano - Maugmang Kapaskuhan asin Masaganang Ba-gong Taon
Cebuano - Malipayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig
Chavacano - Felices Pascua y Prospero Anyo
Dibabawon - Marayaw na Pasko aw Bag-ong Tuig
Hiligaynon - Malipayon nga Pascua kag Mahamungaya-on nga Bag-ong Tuig
Ilocano - Naimbag a Pascua ken Naragsac nga Baro nga Tawen
Inakeanon - Malipayon nga Paskwa ag Mahigugmaon nga Bag-ong Dag-on
Inonhan - Malipayon nga Paskwa kag Masadya nga Bag-ong Tuig
Manobo - Mepiya Pagasaulog aw maontong kaling Omay
Mansaka - Madyaw na Pasko aw malipayong Bag-ong Tuig
Pampangan - Malugud Pascu at saca Masayang Bayung Banua
Pangasinan - Maabig ya pasko Maliket ya Balon Taon
Sambal - Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Ba-yon Taon
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Waray-Waray - Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tuig
Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at


Unknown said...

Here is "Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year in several Filipino dialects:
Ata - Maroyan na Pasko woy kaopia-an ng Bag-ong Tuig kaniyo't langon mga sulod
Bicolano - Maugmang Capascuhan asin Masaganang Ba-gong Taon
Blaan - Pye duh di kaut Kristo klu munt ug Felemi Fali!
Cebuano - Malipayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig!
Dibabawon - Marayaw na Pasko aw Bag-ong Tui g kaniyo tibo na mga soon
Gaddang - Mangamgam Bawa a dawun sikua diaw amin
Hiligaynon - Malipayon nga paskua & Malipayon Nga Bag-ong tuig
Hungduan - Maphon au nitungawan. Apo Dios Kituwen baron di toon
Ibanag - Mapalupaguiya nga Pascua
Ilocano - Naimbag a Pascua ken Naragsac nga Baro nga Tawen!
Mandobo - Mepiya Pagasaulog sa pagka-otawni Jesus aw maontong kaling Omay!
Mangyan - Mayad paq Pasko kag
Mansaka - Madyaw na Pasko aw malipayong Bag-ong Tuig kamayo, mga lumon
Moro - Nidli pred naborete nano
Pampango - Malugud Pascu at saca Masayang Bayung Banua!
Pangasinan - Maabig ya pasko & Maliket ya balon taon
Sambal - Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Ba-yon Taon!
Subanen - Piak Pasko Pu Piag Bago Tawn
Surigaonon - Malipayon na pasko sanan bag-on tuig!
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Tala Andig - Maayad ha pasko daw bag-ong tuig
Waray-Waray - Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tuig!

Supremo said...

I think the question should be "How many ways can you say "Merry Christmas" using Philippine languages?".

Anonymous said...

I would like to correct the way Sambal translates Merry Chrisas and Happy New YEar. I speak fluently Sambali (Sambal) dialect we used to call. We say "MALIGAN PASKO TAN BA-YUN TAON". Maligaya and Masaya is maliga (n) in Sambal.

The Filipino said...


Filipino is both a noun and an adjective. As an adjective, it's synonymous with Philippine. But I'm curious to learn about your reasoning as to why you think my phraseology needed correcting...

Anonymous said...

In the US we do the same thing...
Merry Christmas - Boston
Merry Xmas - New York
Merry Christmas y'all - Alabama
Merry Christmas all y'all - Texas
Have a good Christmas ya hear? - Tennessee
Happy winter solstice - California

Anonymous said...

Chavacano: Felices Pascua y muy prospero año nuevo!

Unknown said...

My mom always corrected people that they aren't really dialects but languages, as she simply explained it was because they each have their own alphabet. I'm glad you didn't say dialect, either. :)

Anonymous said...

wow how fascinating :-) I was constantly surrounded by conversations in what I imagine was a large array of philipine languages at my old job...i totally understood Chavacano, because it used words in spanish :-P i always thought it was amusing when i could catch spanish words in w/e was being said

Anonymous said...

Zamboangueño Language: Felices Pascua y Prospero Año Nuevo!!!!

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