Do they speak Filipino or Tagalog in Cebu

What language do they speak in the Cebu province of the Philippines ?

Filipino is the National language of the Philippines, spoken by the vast majority of the Philippine population.
Tagalog is a regional dialect that is very close to Filipino, and therefore very commonly used by a large percentage of the population.

But in Cebu, they speak Cebuano, and from my recent experiences, many people, epecially in the Mactan Island area, will refuse to use the national Filipino language.

This had me really puzzled as Filipino is taught in the schools, and it is used on most local television programs, so my question at first was why can’t they speak it ?

The real answer took some days to recognise.

I thought at first that they could not speak it.
Then I realised that they did undertand it, but they never replied in Filipino, they replied in their own Cebuano dialect, which is very different to Filipino. So different that probably about 70% of what they say is not understandable to a Filipino or Tagalog speaker.

So my question became why do they choose not to use the national language.

For this we need to look at the history of Cebu, way back in time, AND recent.

2010: The Vice Mayors League of The Philippines-Cebu has issued a resolution declaring 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz persona non grata in the province, after the former beauty queen purportedly belittled Cebuanos’s ability to speak anything but Cebuano. The statement that sparked this was when Gloria Diaz said that beauty pageant contestants are not required to answer questions in English, and that they can use translators.

The Cebuan reaction:

Wednesday, 01 September 2010
CEBU CITY – Nagpalabas na ng resolution ang Vice Mayors League of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter na nagdedeklara kay 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz na “persona non grata,” at i-ban na itong pumasok sa lungsod ng Cebu, matapos sinabi nito na ang mga Cebuana ay hindi marunong mag-Ingles.

Ayon kay Vice Mayors Laegue of the Philippines President Arlene Zambo ng Toledo City, nagkaisa ang lahat na mga opisyal ng liga para sa pagpalabas ng nasabing resolusyon at mariing kinondena ang diumano’y iresponsableng pahayag ni Diaz laban sa mga Cebuana.

Nakasaad din sa nasabing resolusyon ang pag-demand ng public apology mula sa aktres at dating Miss Universe.

Magugunitang nasaktan at nainsulto ang mga Cebuana sa sinabi ni Diaz na kailangan sa pagsali sa mga international beauty pageant ay may interpreter ang Pilipinas, dahil ang mga Cebuana ay nahirapan sa Ingles.

and their page in English:

Wednesday, 01 September 2010
CEBU CITY – issued resolutions as Vice Mayors League of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter declaring with 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz as “persona non grata” and banned it entered the city of Cebu, said that after the Cebuana can not speak English.

According Laegue Vice Mayors of the Philippines President Arlene Zambo of Toledo City, unanimous league officials for displaying such resolution and strongly condemns the irresponsible statements allegedly Diaz against Cebuana.

Such resolution also stated the demand for public apology from the actress and former Miss Universe.

Remembered the hurt and insulted Cebuana said Diaz needed to participate in an international beauty pageant has the interpreter the Philippines, because the English had difficulty Cebuana.

Gloria Diaz did respond explaining that she had NOT said exactly what the Cebuans had thought, with her reply being:

“Let me clarify it once and for all. People should have the right to say or to answer in whatever language they want to say it in.  If they’re Cebuanos, they can say it in Cebuano. I did not say that they did not speak English,” Diaz fired back.

“If you’re Ilocano, say it in Ilocano. But if you’re Ilocano who speaks good English, say it in English. If you’re Cebuano who can speak Spanish, if you’re comfortable with Spanish, say it in Spanish. That’s what I said and that’s what I meant”


Maybe the Cebuano’s didn’t understand her English very well ?

Cebu Daily News: 09/01/2010
Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale said “Cebuanos consider our native tongue as a sacred heritage“, when demanding that Diaz should issue a public apology to the Cebuanos.

She did not apologise, and this caused her to become an unwanted person in the Cebu area, to be banned from the area… !!

Most regions of the Philippines also treat their own dialect with pride, but they also speak the national language with people from other regions.  Maybe Cebu needs independence from the Philippines.

It seems that the Cebuano’s are very proud of their language, and were very hurt when the Philippine governments of 1897 and 1940, chose Tagalog as the base dialect to form their countries National language.

Tagalog was one of the languages of the original rebellion against the Spaniards, being the national language chosen by Emilio Aguinaldo (the Philippines’ first President) in his original constitution in 1897.

In 1898, when the United States took possession of the Philippines from the Spanish, at the end of the Spanish-American War, it was decided that a common language would be beneficial to all Filipinos, and the US government set up schools in all areas of the Philippines to teach English.

The Philippines had up to about 200+ languages and/or dialects, although most people spoke one of eight regional dialects as either a first or second language.

In 1937 the Institute of National Language recommended Tagalog as the the best choice for a national language, as it was the dialect used in Manila, and the centre of government and all main commerce. In 1940 when Tagalog was declared a national language, it began to be taught in the schools. (1)

It is of course possible that the disagreements between Tagalog and Cebuano speakers dates back as far as 1570 when the Spanish landed in Manila Bay with a force of 120 Spaniards and scores of Colonized Cebuanos as a bulk of the Spanish army.

Maybe Tagalog speakers didn’t take kindly to the Cebuano’s helping the Spanish to take over their country ?

Maybe the Cebuano’s didn’t like the fact that they did not get to have their dialect as the national language ?

Whatever it was, I have found one thing..

  • Cebuanos will speak English to most Nationalities.
  • Cebunaos make it as difficult as possible for people using Filipino or Tagalog.

When encountered by an English and Filipina couple, the Cebuanos pride seems to take over and they still only speak Cebuano.

TWO weeks into a two month stay, and we are now planning on leaving the Cebu area early.. It is just too difficult here.

I will not post this page until after I leave Cebu, just in case they make me “Persona Non Grata” and try to stone me when they find out.


Monday, March 19, 2012
CEBU — A Cebu City councilor wants the American (who had lived in Cebu for 3 years) and who made the video entitled “20 Reasons I Dislike the Philippines” declared “persona non grata” in the city. The areas featured in the video are all in Cebu City.

The Americans reply:

“For those of you that think that this video was made to show my hate for the Philippines, I must say that you are sadly mistaken, I’m just stating the obvious in an unconventional way in order to spark change. Never once did I use the word hate in the piece. I simply pointed out issues that have been overlooked for quite some time”

My comments:

  • He should try some of the better parts of the Philippines.
  • His video was titled “20 Reasons I Dislike the Philippines”  appears to have became “20 Reasons why I hate the Philippines”, after Cebuano translation.

Other comments:

  • Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Dondi Josepha has admitted that the video had some points that were actually constructive.
  • Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Prudencio Gesta said: “it is a good wake up call that we still have many areas of concern to improve”



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