Travel-related Filipino words that don’t have exact English translations

View from Mount Gulugod Baboy in Batangas. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario

The Filipino language is a quirky one, with many words that don’t have an exact or direct translation to English. In this list, we look at three Filipino words used mostly during travel, where we’ll all be hard pressed to look for the English word counterpart.

1. Pasalubong

This word is the most obvious of them all.  “Pasalubong” is a Filipino word that describes something we give to someone as token of remembrance when we go to a faraway place. A “pasalubong” is supposed to bring home the essence of the place where an individual just came from. This explains why many people collect refrigerator magnets or key chains inscribed with names of places like “Cebu” or “Hong Kong” or images that are closely associated with them. 

Each place has, more or less, its own unique pasalubong. For example, when you go to Laguna, people expect you to bring home “buko pie.” When you go to Bicol, people would most likely ask for pili nut products.

Closest English translation: While “souvenir” works fine most times as an English translation, it’s not exactly 100% accurate. To wit, while a picture could be a souvenir, it will never pass as a pasalubong—which most of the time is food, but could be anything from sculptures to handicrafts.

Batanes. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario

2. Baon          

Isn’t it funny how we’ve been using this word since we were toddlers yet only now realized that no word in the English language could quite capture its essence? Our moms have been giving us baon—food, money, or the more intangible thing like love—since our school days.

During travel, Filipinos might pack lunch as baon, in case there aren’t any good place to stop by and eat. In many ways, baon is like the opposite of pasalubong. While pasalubong is the item you bring home from a journey, baon is something you give someone as they prepare to go somewhere.

Closest English translation: Baon could refer to many things, but it commonly refers to food or snack. So the closest English term would be “packing any food (or whatever item) you’re bringing with you” on a trip.

Cebu. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario

3. Para

The word “para” could mean several things in the Filipino language. Most commonly, it is uttered when someone on board a passenger jeep or bus wants to tell the driver (or the conductor) to stop the vehicle so he or she could alight. To wit, people would say, “Manong, para po sa tabi!” (Driver, please pull over so I could go down).           

The same word is also used to refer to hailing a vehicle: “Kuya, i-para mo nga ako ng taxi.” (Mister, please hail me a cab).

Closest English translation: The closest English term that captures this word is “hail” as in “to hail a cab.” But you don’t use the word “hail” to tell the driver to stop the vehicle now, do you?