One of the things I enjoy about living in the Philippines is the sensibly priced necessities. Like beer and, when I used to smoke, cigarettes. I quite like the local Tanduay rum but if I wanted to buy some imported stuff, like Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, it cost a fraction of what I would pay back in Sydney. While my asawa is a Cebuana, I did live in Manila for some time before getting married and used to be quite conversant in Tagalog. I could confidently order drinks and food, get around, haggle for a better price and meet and greet the locals. It really is a skill you should develop if you intend to hang around for any length of time.
First of all, learn ‘mayroon’. Pronounced may-ro-on, it means ‘have’, but we use it to ask ‘is there any?’ As in “mayroon San Miguel Light?” This is vital to getting what you want because if you ask them for something, as in order off the menu, they are honour bound to serve it to you. Well, to say yes they have it and yes you can have it and that isn’t the same thing as actually having it but at least they didn’t hurt your feelings or embarrass themselves by telling you no, they don’t have it and you can’t have one either.
If you ask directly for something, as in “Gusto ko San Miguel Light”, they will smile, say “yes sorr” and you will be waiting a long, long time if they have run out. They will usually send a lad off somewhere to buy some just for you, but then again, they might not. Why they let their inventory of staple items run dry is a common occurrence but one that is beyond my understanding. Suffice to say, it is better to ask if they have a specific item. That way they can honestly answer yes or no without embarrassing themselves (poor management of stock is not a reason to be embarrassed here) or offending you. Simple.
What is now vital is to ensure that should there be beer, and more so the tipple of your choice, they don’t serve it Filipino style. That means warm beer, glasses and a bucket of dodgy, probably chipped off a large block on the pavement, ice. The Tagalog word for ice is ‘yelo’, but everyone knows it as ‘ice’ so up to you how authentic you wish to get. You need to specify cold beer, but no ice. Try; “Gusto ko malamig San Miguel Light, walang yelo.” This always works for me but is not as grammatically correct, so I have been told, as; “Gusto ko ng isang malamig na beer walang ice mangyaring.”
I’d try my short, streetwise version until you get used to rolling the words around your mouth and don’t forget to ask if they have any first, ok di ba?
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz