How to Sound Like an Authentic Ilonggo in 13 Phrases

By Harren Fegarido

We Ilonggos are known for having a soft-spoken, “musical” intonation when we talk in Hiligaynon, which is the official language of Iloilo. People from other provinces know that distinct sound and mood when an Ilonggo speaks. They would even venture as far to say that Ilonggos have a sweet or “malumanay” tone of voice.

However, there is so much more to how Ilonggos express their thoughts and feelings through verbal expressions. Certain expressions are addressed to cope and respond to a certain stimuli or situation. Some of these are funny, sarcastic and sometimes annoying (Editor: some of which were addressed partially in Justine Win’s article). I would like to share some of these Hiligaynon terminologies and expressions that are already normal and natural to hear from most Ilonggos:

1. “Ti man

It means “good for you”, but in a seemingly sarcastic way. This term is usually spoken when you got even with another person. It means you had your vengeance. It is often followed with another expression “mayo gani” (which also means good for him/her).

2. “Ambot sa imo

It literally means “I don’t know about you”, but is often used in how people say “whatever” in a dismissive manner. This is one of the most popular Ilonggo expressions there is, and for good reason: it is used if you are being annoyed or feeling irritated at somebody.

3. “Hay, ambot ah

It means “oh, well”, and is often spoken with a sigh. It is used when a person gets irritated, or being left without a choice in a certain manner.

4. “Ti ano?/Ti ano karon?”

It translates to “What about it?”, and is used as an expression of an Ilonggo addressing a challenge or an argument. Don’t use it when you don’t want to piss off your friends.

5. “Ahay/Ay, ahay

These words have two meanings depending on the tone and mode. “Ahay”, when spoken in a slow and kindly manner, means you are giving sympathy and is usually used when something bad or tragic happens. “Ay, ahay”, on the other hand, is usually used in a sarcastic tone, like you are mockingly sympathizing with or patronizing a person. It is usually followed with “kaluoy man” (it’s a pity) and, lest the intention for the latter is not clear enough for the other person to interpret, said with as much equal sarcasm.

6. “Ti kuha mo parte mo?”

It can be closely analogous to the expression, “you got yours”. This expression is being used by Ilonggos for their fellows who did not follow sensible advice and got the worse for it.

7. “Lawlaw

This is a term usually used in games and sports and was coined for people who are not doing well in sports, or for those who are poorly skilled, for that matter. You can often hear it when you pass by a makeshift basketball court, a drinking spree, or during freestyle rap battles.

8. “Wala-wala guid ah

Wala” literally means nothing. When addressed to you in this phrase, it essentially means you’re a disappointment or a failure. Yes, Ilonggos can be harsh, too.

9. “Tsk

It is similarly used with how cultures use this expression. However, for Ilonggos, the use it when they become irritated or annoyed with a problem or, more often than not, another person.

10. “Ay, sus

This came from the word “Ay, Jesus”. It is often used when a person gets disappointed or shocked. It highly depends on the mode and tone of voice, which means that it can be applicable in any context. It is also often followed up with “Ano natabo? (What Happened?)”

11. “Susmaryosep

This derives from an even longer expression, “Hesus, Maria kag Josep”. It is usually heard when a person is surprised or astonished. Also, it’s frequently used as a reaction when something bad or tragic happens. Often followed with “Ano ‘to? (What was that?”)

12. “Wala guid ‘ta da?”

Literally translated to “Nothing for me/us there?”, this offers an indirect way for a person asking for something from another when the latter has achieved or is celebrating something . In short, this is a more polite way to asking someone for a “palibre” (free treat).

13. “Nge

This is frequently used as an expression of disappointment or frustration, though utilized in a more humorous context. Usually followed with “Wala-wala guid ah” (See item no. 8 above).


These are just some of the Ilonggo expressions that we say and hear every day. These expressions are spoken by Ilonggos from all walks of life, and these words transcend social classes and structure. These Hiligaynon expressions are innate in every Ilonggo and those speaking the language, and it is its spontaneous nature that gives it its full color. I’m pretty sure every one of us has spoken some of these expressions once or twice in our lives before. These words, no matter what you think of them, are part of our culture and society.

So, what other Ilonggo expressions do you know? Let us know in the comments section below!

Harren Fegarido is a wanderer