Makuri Ba? Lisod Gyud! A Waray and Cebuano Comparison
- Efmer Echavez Agustin () - June 3, 2007 - 12:00am

The Philippines is one country blessed with diverse people, different cultures and consequently, numerous distinct languages. As listed in, the Philippines has 175 languages, of which 171 are living and 4 are extinct.

Among these languages are the Bisaya (Cebuano) and the Waray (Leyte-Samar), two of the prominent languages in the isles of the Visayas. Geographically, Cebuano is spoken in the areas of Negros, Cebu, Bohol and some other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao with around 20 million speakers while Waray or Waray-Waray dominates the islands of Leyte and Samar and some parts of Biliran and has around 3 million speaking population.

These two groups of vocabulary systems can then be considered “neighbors” and some may even call it related to some extent. Truly, Cebuano and Waray are classified into the same language family. It cannot be denied that these two Visayan languages share some similar words of similar meanings or have words with slight, usually insignificant altered forms between them. Even sentence constructions are not really far between the two.

But distinction always gets in the way, separating one language from the other. Most speakers of Cebuano do not understand Waray and, still more, cannot speak the language and vice versa. But such is not always the case. I, for example, am one of those who can use mentally and verbally these two languages with a certain level of fluency. Having been born and raised in the bilingual town of Abuyog, Leyte, I, like most Abuyognons, have been inevitably exposed to both Cebuano and Waray.

Abuyog is a place of “mixed languages”, I may say. And though considered as a predominantly Waray town, its own dialect of the language is noticeably different from the “standard” Waray of the northern towns of the island of Leyte. Here, Waray is mixed with the Cebuano language and many other lingual minorities like Boholano, Hiligaynon, Ilonggo, Tagalog, and many others. So being a child of Abuyog with a father who comes from a Waray town from the north, I have not encountered any big problems with any of the two languages as far as I can remember. But what became hard for me is to classify which word actually belongs to which language. (That “painfully” makes it hard for me to relate to or sympathize with those who find difficulty dealing with any of the two languages). And also the fact that some people taunt or make fun of me because of my unusual “non-standard” Waray.

“Makuri ba?” a Waray may be heard asking if it is really hard to learn his tongue. “Lisud gyud!” a Cebuano may confirm it. Undeniably, the difference can lead to misunderstanding and any speaker of any of the two languages may be taunted when they happen to be around some people speaking the other language. But speakers have found ways of putting humor to these dissimilarities. Some of my Cebuano acquaintances laughed after hearing that the bangka can fly in Waray. However, bangka, which means “boat” in Cebuano means “cockroach” in Waray. Cebuanos also find it amusing that aciete is used in cooking in the Waray households. No one can blame them because aciete refers to the black motor oil for the Cebuanos while the very same word means any type of oil in Waray, either for cooking or for machines. Mantika, the term Cebuanos use for cooking oil almost means the same in Waray, only that it most specifically means “animal fat.”

Aside from that, some other words appear funny because their meanings differ between Cebuano and Waray, just like the following (though some pronunciations and syllable stresses differ):


C: likeness; genetic inheritance

Ex. Liwat s’ya sa iyang inahan. (She is like her mother.)

W: means “also”

Ex. Hiya liwat. (Also him.)

Well, not that far anyway. Aren’t the words “like” and “also” mean the same at some point?


C: uncle

Ex. Si tiyo ang naghatag niini. (My uncle gave this.)

W: puppy (in Waray, uncle is “tiyo,” without the stress on the second syllable)

Ex. Damo it am’ tiyo. (We have many puppies.)

But for sure, no one has a puppy for an uncle.


C: grace; blessing; gift

Ex. Salamat sa gasa. (Thanks for the blessing.)

W: thin (with a stress on the second syllable)

Ex. Ka-gasa naba niya! (How thin she is!)

Being thin may or may not be a blessing. It depends.


C: wring; choke

Ex. Gui-tuok sa bata ang manok. (The child choked the chicken.)

W: cry

Ex. Natuok dayon hiya kun guin tutuyaw. (She cries easily when teased.)

When someone is choked, tears usually flow.


C: straight; good

Ex. Taronga ang linya. (Straighten the line.)

W: eggplant

Ex. May-ada kami tanom nga tarong ha libong. (We have eggplants in our backyard.)

Have anyone seen a straight eggplant?


C: to fight back

Ex. Misukol ang iring sa bitin. (The cat fought back the snake.)

W: to measure; to fit (with stress on the second syllable)

Ex. Nasukol ha ak’ it bado. (The dress fits me.)

Fit or fight, anyone?


C: a game (cara y cruz)

Ex. Nalingaw ko’g duwa ug hantak. (I enjoyed playing cara y cruz.)

W: string beans

Ex. Pagpalit ha mercado hin hantak. (Buy string beans in the market.)

So hantak is a game but is also a food. Didn’t mother tell you not to play with food?


C: stoned; thrown with a stone or with something hard

Ex. Guibuno nila ang mangga. (They stoned the mango fruit.)

W: to stab

Ex. Guinbuno han tawo an iya kaaway. (The man stabbed his enemies.)

Both meanings hurt, anyway.


C: to drag

Ex. Guibitad sa bata ang sako sa duwaan. (The child dragged the sack of toys.)

W: to open; to spread

Ex. Guinbitad nira an banig. (they spread open the mat.)


C: a male’s penile organ

Ex. Err…do I need an example here?

W: mud or anything that is moist but does not flow like gel, paste, etc.

Ex. Malagay it tuna ha tanuman. (The rice field is muddy.)

Ahm. No comment. Hehehe


C: a pepper

Ex. Butangi ug sili ang imong guiluto. (Add pepper to your cooking.)

W: a male’s penile organ

Ahmmm…no example needed, I believe.

No comment again.


C: cute

Ex. Kahimos sa iring! (How cute are those kittens!)

W: to keep

Ex. Himosa it im’ mga gamit. (Keep your things.)

A well-kept place is clean and cute. Hehehe


C: piglet

Ex. Daghan ang baktin sa among anay. (Our sow has many piglets.)

W: full grown pig

Ex. Pamati ko, burod na iton nga baktin. (I think that pig is pregnant.)

Ano ba talaga? Piglet or full grown pig?


C: merman

Ex. Nakakita kuno ang bata ug ukoy. (The child is said to have seen a merman.)

W: residence

Ex. Hain ka naukoy? (Where do you live?)

So where do you think mermen live?


C: a dwarf

Ex. Naa diha ang bay sa yatot. (The dwarf’s house is in there.)

W: mouse

Ex. Malamiri it mga yatot. (Mice are dirty.)

Both are supposed to be small, anyway.


C: rainbow

Ex. Anindot tan-awon ang bangaw. (The rainbow is beautiful to look at.)

W: vagrant; beggar

Ex. Malain kita-on it bangaw. (The vagrant is disgusting to look at.)

So one means beautiful while the other means otherwise. Hehe

The differences between Cebuano and Waray, funny or not, undeniably define one from the other. And instead of making these differences a reason to separate or divide people or a means to defame “the other” language, I believe that these are reasons instead to celebrate. Our languages show the ingenuity of our culture, developed through millennia, mirrors of the Filipino diversity and indelible marks of our civilization. Indeed, Filipinos are rich in traditions and cultural backgrounds. Our languages simply express it.

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