Philippine Hokkien

Philippine Hokkien
Fookien; Fukien
Lán-lâng-ōe; 咱儂話
Native to Philippines, Canada, China, Taiwan, United States
Region Metro Manila, Angeles City, Cebu, Bacolod City and Dumaguete City, Vigan, Ilagan, Davao City, Iloilo City, Zamboanga City and other Philippine communities with a substantial Chinese minority.
Native speakers
(590,000 cited 1982)[1]
(98.7% of all Chinese in the Philippines)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Philippine Fukien (Chinese: 咱儂話; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lán-lâng-ōe; literally: "our people's language"), known as Hokkien in the Philippines, is the Hokkien dialect of Min Nan as spoken by about 98.7% of the ethnic Chinese population of the Philippines. A mixed version that involves this, Tagalog and English is Hokaglish.


The term Philippine Hokkien is used when differentiating the variety of Hokkien spoken in the Philippines from those spoken in Taiwan, China, and other Southeast Asian countries.

There are various terms that native to the speaker itself used:

In the Philippines, all terms are used interchangeably to refer to Philippine Hokkien.


Philippine Hokkien is generally similar to the Hokkien dialect spoken in Quanzhou, however, the Hokkien dialect spoken in Xiamen, also known as Amoy (Chinese: 廈門話), is considered the standard and prestigious form of Hokkien. Minor differences with other Hokkien dialects in Taiwan, China, or throughout Southeast Asia only occur in terms of vocabulary.

Geographic spread

Hokkien is spoken by ethnic Chinese throughout the Philippines. Major metropolitan areas that have a significant number of Chinese include Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. Other cities which also substantial Chinese populations in Angeles City, Bacolod City, Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan City, Dumaguete City, Ilagan, Iloilo City, Legaspi, Naga City, Tacloban City, Vigan and Zamboanga City.

Provinces with a large Chinese population include Albay, Bataan, Batangas, Bohol, Cagayan, Camarines Sur, Cavite, Cebu, Compostela Valley, Davao, Davao del Sur, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, Isabela, Laguna, La Union, Leyte, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Quezon, Rizal, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Tarlac and Zamboanga del Sur.


Languages spoken by Chinese Filipinos at home

Only 12.2% of all ethnic Chinese have a varieties of Chinese as their mother tongue. Nevertheless, the vast majority (77%) still retain the ability to understand and speak Hokkien as a second or third language.[2]

Prior to the emergence of China as a regional power in the late 1990s, speaking Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese varieties was seen as old-fashioned and awkward, with the younger generation of Chinese Filipinos opting to use either English, Filipino or various other regional languages as their first languages.

Recent developments showing the rise of a politically and economically stronger China eventually led to the newly found elegance and style now associated with speaking Hokkien and other Chinese varieties. Hence, there is a stronger clamour for instructors who can produce students fluent in Hokkien and Mandarin. Many young parents are also shifting to using Hokkien at home as their children's first language.


Around 120 Chinese Filipino educational institutions (locally known as "Chinese schools") exist throughout the Philippines, with the vast majority being concentrated in Metro Manila. These schools primarily differ from others in the Philippines with the presence of Chinese-language subjects.

These schools were previously under direct supervision of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of Education until 1976 when Presidential Decree 176 of 1973 (sometimes called the "Filipinization" decree) of former President Ferdinand Marcos placed all foreign schools under the authority of the Department of Education. The decree effectively halved the time allotted for Chinese subjects, while Filipino became a required subject, and the medium of instruction shifted from Mandarin Chinese to English.


Chinese Filipino primary and secondary schools typically feature Chinese subjects added to the standard curriculum prescribed by the Department of Education. The three core Chinese subjects are Chinese Grammar (Chinese: 華語; pinyin: huáyǔ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hoâ-gí; literally: "Mandarin"), Chinese Composition (Chinese: 綜合; pinyin: zònghé; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: chong-ha̍p), and Chinese Mathematics (Chinese: 數學; pinyin: shùxué; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: sò͘-ha̍k). Other schools may offer additional subjects such as Chinese calligraphy (Chinese: 毛筆; pinyin: máobǐ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: mô͘-pit), history, geography, and culture, all integrated in all the three core Chinese subjects in accordance with PD № 176. All Chinese subjects are taught in Mandarin Chinese, and in some schools, students are prohibited from speaking English, Filipino, or even Hokkien during these classes.

Presently, the Ateneo de Manila University, under their Chinese Studies Programme offers Hokkien 1 (Chn 8) and Hokkien 2 (Chn 9) as electives.

On the other hand, Chiang Kai Shek College offers Hokkien Proficiency Course in their CKS College Language Center.

History and formation

Philippine Hokkien developed during successive centuries of the Chinese Filipinos being in the Philippines.

Starting from the early 19th century, Chinese migrants from Fujian province, specifically from Quanzhou eventually eclipsed those from Guangdong province, establishing Hokkien as the primary variety of Chinese spoken in the Philippines.

As ethnic Chinese began to associate with Filipinos and learn Tagalog and English, they began to use native terms used to refer to items that are found only in the Philippine milieu. Also, since most Chinese migrants from Fujian are businessmen and merchants, many have been using colloquialisms and slang words, rather than grammatically correct scholarly jargon. Both result to the current preponderance of English, Tagalog, and Fujian colloquialisms in Philippine Hokkien.


In some situations, Philippine Hokkien is written in the Latin alphabet. The Chinese Congress on World Evangelization–Philippines, an international organization of Overseas Chinese Christian churches around the world, use a romanization based predominantly on the Pe̍h-ōe-jī system or "POJ". The origins of this system and its extensive use in the Christian community have led to it being known by some modern writers as "Church Romanization" (教會羅馬字; Jiàohuì Luōmǎzì; Kàu-hōe Lô-má-jī) and is often abbreviated in POJ itself to Kàu-lô (教羅; Jiàoluō). There is some debate on whether "pe̍h-ōe-jī" or "Church Romanization" is the more appropriate name. During the 19th century, all the Chinese Filipinos Christian community are Pe̍h-ōe-jī literate and use this system extensively in their churches. Later, Chinese Filipinos and ethnic Filipinos alike who formally study the language also use the version of the Taiwanese Romanization System or "TL" (Chinese: 台灣閩南語羅馬字拼音方案; pinyin: Táiwān Mǐnnányǔ Luómǎzì Pīnyīn Fāng'àn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tâi-ôan Bân-lâm-gí Lô-má-jī Peng-im Hong-àn), often referred to as Tâi-lô) because many Chinese Filipinos use Traditional Chinese in writing and it is seen in school textbooks from Taiwan or based on Taiwanese materials. It too is derived from Pe̍h-ōe-jī and since 2006 has been officially promoted by Taiwan's Ministry of Education.



BilabialAlveolar Alveolo-palatalVelarGlottal
VoicelessVoicedVoicelessVoiced VoicelessVoicedVoicelessVoiced Voiceless
Nasal m [m]
ㄇ 毛(mo͘ [moo])
n [n]
ㄋ 耐(nāi)
ng [ŋ]
ㄫ 雅(ngá)
PlosiveUnaspirated p [p]
ㄅ 邊(pian)
b [b]
ㆠ 文(bûn)
t [t]
ㄉ 地(tē)
k [k]
ㄍ 求(kiû)
g [g]
ㆣ 語(gí)
Aspirated ph [pʰ]
ㄆ 波(pho)
th [tʰ]
ㄊ 他(thaⁿ [thann])
kh [kʰ]
ㄎ 去(khì)
AffricateUnaspirated ch [ts] [ts]
ㄗ 曾(chan [tsan])
j [dz]
ㆡ 熱(joa̍h[jua̍h])
chhi [tsi] [tɕ]
ㄐ 尖(chiam [tsiam])
ji [dʑ]
ㆢ 入(ji̍p)
Aspirated chh [tsh] [tsʰ]
ㄘ 出(chhut [tshut])
chhi [tshi] [tɕʰ]
ㄑ 手(chhiú [tshiú])
Fricative s [s]
ㄙ 衫(saⁿ [sann])
si [ɕ]
ㄒ 寫(siá)
h [h]
ㄏ 喜(hí)
Lateral l [l]
ㄌ 柳(liú)
BilabialAlveolar VelarGlottal
Nasal consonant -m [m]
-n [n]
-ng [ŋ]
Stop consonant -p [p̚]
-t [t̚]
-k [k̚]
-h [ʔ]
Syllabic consonant
Nasal m [m̩]
ㆬ 姆(ḿ)
ng [ŋ̍]
ㆭ 酸(sng)



Close i [i]
ㄧ 衣(i)
iⁿ [inn] [ĩ]
ㆪ 圓(îⁿ [înn])
u [u]
ㄨ 污(u)
uⁿ [unn] [ũ]
ㆫ 張(tiuⁿ [tiunn])
Mid e [e]
ㆤ 禮(lé)
eⁿ [enn] [ẽ]
ㆥ 生(seⁿ [senn])
o [ə]
ㄜ 高(ko)
o͘ [oo] [ɔ]
ㆦ 烏(o͘ [oo])
oⁿ [onn] [ɔ̃]
ㆧ 翁(oⁿ [onn])
Open a [a]
ㄚ 查(cha [tsa])
aⁿ [ann] [ã]
ㆩ 衫(saⁿ [sann])
Diphthongs & Triphthongs
Diphthongs ai [aɪ]
au [aʊ]
ia [ɪa]
io [ɪo]
iu [iu]
oa [ua] [ua]
oe [ue] [ue]
ui [ui]
Triphthongs iau [ɪaʊ]
oai [uai] [uai]

Code endings

BilabialAlveolar VelarGlottal
Nasal consonant -m [m]
-n [n]
-ng [ŋ]
Stop consonant -p [p̚]
-t [t̚]
-k [k̚]
-h [ʔ]
Syllabic consonant
Nasal m [m̩]
ㆬ 姆(ḿ)
ng [ŋ̍]
ㆭ 酸(sng)


陰平 陽平 陰上 陽上 陰去 陽去 陰入 陽入
Tone Number 1 5 2 6 3 7 4 8
調值 Xiamen, Fujian 44 24 53 - 21 22 32 4
Taipei, Taiwan 44 24 53 - 11 33 32 4
Tainan, Taiwan 44 23 41 - 21 33 32 44
Zhangzhou, Fujian 34 13 53 - 21 22 32 121
Quanzhou, Fujian
Manila, Philippines
33 24 55 22 41 5 24
東 taŋ1 銅 taŋ5 董 taŋ2 重 taŋ6 凍 taŋ3 動 taŋ7 觸 tak4 逐 tak8

In general, Min Nan has 7 to 9 tones, and tone sandhi is extensive. There are minor variations between the Quanzhou and Zhangzhou tone systems. Taiwanese tones follow the schemes of Amoy or Quanzhou, depending on the area of Taiwan. Both Amoy and Taiwanese Min Nan typically has 7 tones; the 9th tone is used only in special or foreign loan words. Quanzhou is the only Min Nan dialect with 8 tones, of which the 6th tone is present. The Philippine Min Nan dialect follows the 8 tones and tone sandhi of Quanzhou because many of the Chinese Filipino who speak Min Nan in the Philippines have ancestors from Quanzhou (Fujian) in China.

Differences from other Hokkien variants

Philippine Hokkien is largely derived from the Hokkien dialect spoken in Quanzhou. However, it gradually absorbed influences from both Standard Xiamen and Zhangzhou variants.

Although Philippine Hokkien is generally mutually comprehensible with any Hokkien variant, including Taiwanese Hokkien, the numerous English and Filipino loanwords as well as the extensive use of colloquialisms (even those which are now unused in China) can result in confusion among Hokkien speakers from outside of the Philippines. In Cebu, for example, instead of Tagalog, Cebuano words are incorporated. In Iloilo or Bacolod, Hiligaynon words are incorporated.

Similarities with either Quanzhou and Zhangzhou variants

Most speakers of Philippine Hokkien have their origins in Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, hence the influence of the Hokkien variants spoken in these areas.

Similarities with Standard Xiamen (Amoy) variant

Since the Standard Xiamen (Amoy) variant is considered the most prestigious variant of Hokkien and is the spoken variant of the educated residents of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, elements of this variant occasionally seep into Philippine Hokkien, such as the following:

Use of colloquialisms

Philippine Hokkien (as well as Southeast Asian Hokkien) uses a disproportionately large amount of colloquial words as compared to the Hokkien variants used in China and Taiwan. Many of the colloquialisms are themselves considered dated (specifically, pre-World War II) in China but are still in use among Hokkien-speaking Chinese Filipinos.

Loanwords from English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Philippine languages

Philippine Hokkien, like other Southeast Asian variants of Hokkien (e.g., Penang Hokkien, Johor Hokkien, and Singaporean Hokkien) absorbed several indigenous and English words and phrases which are usually only found (or are more important) in its new milieu. These "borrowed" words are never used in written Hokkien, for which Mandarin characters are used.

Sample phrases

Everyday Phrases

Common Pronouns

See also


  1. Chinese, Min Nan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Teresita Ang-See, "Chinese in the Philippines", 1997, Kaisa, pg. 57.
  3. Chang, Principles of POJ, p. 33.
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