Pare, boss, dear and Pinoy culture

Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Pare, boss, dear and Pinoy culture
How does one call people appropriately these days? When is 'dear' acceptable? Or, for that matter, 'bok'?

There has been a lot of analysis that social media has become a monster, what with fake news and trolling. It’s a bit like inviting the dumbest people and the worst perverts into your home via your computer screen.

But there is also still a good side of it, which is why I suppose some of us remain addicted. And I recently have a good example of this where what was meant to be a playful and shallow post turned into an insight into Filipino culture.

My post on my social media account read:

First of all, what happened was a lot of terms came up. Most of these are familiar. But let’s list them here:

Women Men Both Comments


  Boss Boss

If you are trying to deconstruct gender expectations that the boss is a man.


My comment; “pwede na I suppose but it makes me feel like a granny and I am not there yet.”

Manay Manoy    
Inday Dodong  

For those younger than the speaker.

Tito Tito  

For those older


Refers to anyone regardless of sexual identity or gender orientation.


Somewhat “churchy”. The speaker may be mistaken to be a member of the Iglesia ni Kristo

“Kap” the short form of “kapatid” but surprisingly is used among some tatoo artists.

“Pate” (maragsa) is short for “kapatid” in Zaragoza and Nueva Ecija


From Ilocano

Amiga (Miga)

Amigo (Migs)


Migs para my lambing

Sis Bro

Someone commented she is not comfortable calling them by this name if she is not related to them.




“Pards” can be used for both genders if you want to destabilize the “toxic masculine ego”.


“Eveyone’s a  little gay anyway.”

Ale Mama  

Somewhat outdated not like its Ilonggo, Cebuano counterparts which remain current.

Baby Girl Baby Boy    
Nyora Nyor  


Neng (short for Neneng) Noy (short for Nonoy)    

Only for a certain age group who studied in Ateneo Grade School


The shorter “gah” is less intimate. More friendly.


The new term for “papa” in the sense it is used to denote a handsome and desirable man.


Used by activists or in some parts of the Tagalog region

Miss Mister    
Ta To  

For Ilonggos


Old form of “mister” in Tagalog

Inday Intoy  

Waray. For those younger.


I did not expect this post to have the most comments for the week. What does it say of us that so many cared to answer? Indeed, what can we say of the numerous terms and variations? Those variations ranged from the traditional (Ale and Mama in Filipino for example) to the contemporary (Ate and Kuya) to the recently contemporary (Bossing).  I also note that various language groups have their own versions and it would be so lovely to learn of terms from other Philippine languages. Whether slang or formal this list is far from complete. 

Intimate Filipinos

My own feeling, is that one sounds more sincere using these terms that personalize what is being said. “Salamat” is less sincere as “Salamat, pare.” This seems validated by Satoshi Miyawaki’s comment: “We have similar problem of aging and the choice of expressions, but as we Japanese don’t call people by the words borrowed from relative or familial nouns , and it is just natural for us to say hello or excuse me without them, we are not so at a loss what to do. Sounds the problem is that these words are coming from familial vocabulary and it may be difficult to find somewhat distanced expression which is so used that it can be made for less specified use or more generalized use. So you cannot use “pamangkin” which is too specific and cannot be generalized, and also too long…

Anyway I love and often miss this Filipino choice of intimate vocabulary as compared to Japanese way of polite yet distanced functional expression. We are too good at expression comfortable distance…”

I am indeed culture bound this way, so that I need to use a term that makes a stranger a little less a stranger. Thus despite the very practical suggestion of one commenter that if all I wanted to do was be sincere about thanking the bag boy and “salamat” didn’t seem sufficient, then “maraming salamat” would do the trick.

Nuances galore

The explosion of terms also is an indicator of a thousand nuances of social status and levels of intimacy. For example, an elderly person in Waray calling a younger male “intoy” captures an aspect of nurturance or even gentle admonition.

Other wise friends note that “appropriate” can be very situational. The comment of Maisie Faith J Dagapioso illustrates this so well: “It depends on who I am with. With colleagues who are younger, I have ‘insisted’ that they call me by my name. Students still find it difficult to call me by my first name (they compromised, not calling me ma’am but ‘prof’ or ‘doc’ – which incidentally, I’m not) For community members who we work with, first names, too, but in some cases we call each other ‘bay’. Among Bisaya drivers and conductors of a bus company, i have heard them call each other ‘gaw’. Some people in the office call each other ‘couz’ (cousin), ‘gang’/gah. One thing about not using ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’; i’ve been reprimanded by one person who told me that these terms are ‘signs’ of respect and not using this means one is disrespectful. I have three apos, and they call me and their abuelo by our first names; my sister, though, much younger than i am – by thirteen years – ‘insists’ on being called Lola.” 

Let’s add to this the term, “pal” used only during a certain period in Ateneo Grade School.

I note further  that our capacity to shorten – “gah” from “palangga” for example – is evident in many of the terms.  What I also observe however is that like our penchant for nicknames, shortening makes the term less formal and therefore, less serious. Thus “palangga” loses the inappropriate intimacy of “darling” when it is shortened to “gah”. But maybe this is only used to soften terms with a romantic content because the adapted and non-romantic  Spanish term “amigo” shortened to “migs” adds “lambing”. 

But such nuances are also, as many observed, person and situation specific. Perhaps the very slang “bostsip” so far removed from the English “boss” and chief” may be appropriate for an older woman calling a younger man, but I would feel uncomfortable with this because I found this too informal and therefore not fitting for an older woman who must create more distance. 

Of course there were also friends who, encouraged by my lack of specifics. came up with witty remarks which for purposes of completion I must note. (I actually was wondering what to call the young man who bags my groceries. So none of these remarks apply.) But as I love smart alecks I have acquired a number of them who suggested I use, “hoy”, “psst”, and even “kamote” (though the friend says this would be an insult to the kamote). I replied we should now call people “kams” and “kamo”. I think this would work for trolls.

A proper place

Indeed as I rejected various terms on the basis of  “hindi siya kagalang-galang” (not worthy of respect) I realized something about the term, “kagalang-galang”. It would seem that the the older or more high-status person has to be worthy of respect is a social duty. It is not a one way relationship that demands respect only  from the younger or lower status person. Rather it is only polite for a higher status person to behave towards persons of lower status by being respectable. Thus people of lower social status will often chide the higher status one as “hindi kagalang-galang” when they behave too informally.

I am almost certain that the reader is already running up her own list of terms and agreeing (or disagreeing) with some of the nuances me and my  friends have attached to the terms.

I guess what we can all agree on is that is an IMPORTANT linguistic issue for us Filipinos.

As for me, I think I might try to use what the locals use wherever I am – say “ading” in Ilocos and “Nyor” in Zamboanga, etc. This doesn’t solve the problem of what to use in the culturally bastard region of Metro Manila. Maybe I will use ‘ading” because it is a gender neutral.

I have this strange feeling that when I finally find the proper terms, I will have re-discovered my place in the world.

In the meantime, let me wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day, palanggas. –

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