Culture & Heritage

Languages and Non-verbal Languages in the Philippines

Written by Patrick

While the Philippines has over 180 regional languages, that doesn’t pose communication issues among Filipinos from different regions since the country is united by two official languages – Filipino Tagalog and English.  Filipino is commonly used in national media be it in print and broadcast while English is the official medium of instruction in schools, businesses, and official government matters.

Most Filipinos are multilingual, being able to speak their regional or native language, the national language which is Filipino, and English. 

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Top 10 Popular Languages in the Philippines

Considering that it is the official national language, it’s safe to say that there are more speakers of the Filipino language than any other languages in the country.  However, there are other commonly used languages as well.

Here are the top 10 popular languages in the Philippines.

1 | Filipino Tagalog

The official national language is spoken in the Manila Area and nearby provinces including Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Nueva Ecija.

2 | Cebuano

Also known as Bisaya, is the second most spoken language in the country.  It is mostly used in Central Visayas particularly in the province of Cebu and Bohol.  It is also used in some areas in Mindanao including Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, and General Santos City.

3 | Ilocano

The third most spoken native language in the Philippines, Ilocano is used in Northern and Central Luzon, particularly in the Ilocos Region.

4 | Hiligaynon

Also referred to as Ilonggo, Hiligaynon is the second most-widely spoken Bisayan language and is used in Western Visayas particularly in Iloilo, Bacolod, Capiz, and Guimaras as well as some parts of Cotabato in Mindanao.  Hiligaynon is known for its distinct sweet intonation.

5 | Waray

The opposite of Hiligaynon, Waray, also known as Waray-Waray, is known for its tough and strong intonation.  It is the fifth most spoken language in the Philippines and is used in Eastern Samar and some parts of Masbate and Sorsogon.

6 | Bicolano

Also known as Central Bikol or Bikol Naga, Bikol is primarily used in southern Luzon, particularly in Bicol Region.  It is also spoken in Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, and some parts of Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon.

7 | Kapampangan

This native language is spoken in the entire province of Pampanga as well as southern Tarlac and some parts of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales.

8 | Pangasinense

With over 1 million speakers of this language, Pangasinense is primarily used in the province of Pangasinan as well as northern Tarlac and some parts of La Union, Benguet, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Zambales.

9 | Maranaoan

Primarily spoken in the province of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, Maranaoan is known for its distinct downstep accent.  There are around 800,000 speakers of Maranaoan in the Philippines.

10 | Tausug

Tausug is a language spoken in Sulu and eastern state of Sabah, Malaysia.  Many Malay and Arabic words are also used in this native language.


Caption: Pagmamano is one of the non-verbal languages of the Filipinos.

Non-verbal Languages

Despite the many verbal languages used in the country, the use of gestures and non-verbal languages are equally popular.  Most Filipinos even communicate using verbal and non-verbal languages at the same time.

Take a look at the most popular non-verbal languages used in the Philippines.

1 | Pouting Lips

One distinct Filipino non-verbal language is the use of lips when pointing.  They tend to pucker or pout their lips instead of raising their finger or arm to point at an object or person.  Don’t be alarmed and confuse the gesture as an invitation for a kiss.

2 | Handshaking

Like in most countries, handshaking is a common gesture when meeting someone for the first time.

3 | Cheek to cheek

Locally referred to as beso-beso, the gesture is usually practised by women especially those who are already comfortable with each other, not when meeting someone for the first time.

4 | Bless

Bless, or pagmamano, is a traditional way to show respect to elders, especially to parents, grandparents, and godparents.  This is done by a younger person asking the hand of the elder and touching it with their own forehead while bowing at the same time.

5 | Arm in arm

Walking arm in arm is a common gesture in the Philippines especially among women.  This is generally a sign of affection, friendship, and support for each other.

READ MORE: Common Filipino Phrases Every Visitor to the Philippines Should Know

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About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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