Philippine Spanish

This article is about the Spanish dialect called Philippine Spanish.
Not to be confused with Spanish language in the Philippines.
Philippine Spanish
Español filipino
Castellano filipino
Native to Philippines
Region Manila
Ethnicity Spanish Filipino
Spanish people of Filipino ancestry
Zamboangueño people
Native speakers
(439,000 (2007) with "native knowledge"[1] cited 1990 census)[2]
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Philippine Spanish (Spanish: Español filipino, Castellano filipino) is a variant of standard Spanish spoken in the Philippines mostly by Spanish Filipinos. Since the independence of the Philippines from Spain (1898), the dialect has lost most of its speakers and it might be now close to disappearing.


Primary dialects of Spanish

Philippine Spanish is a Spanish dialect of the Spanish language in the Philippines. The variant is very similar to Mexican Spanish, because of Mexican and Latin American emigration to the Spanish East Indies over the years.

Philippine Spanish is spoken mostly among Spanish Filipinos.

It is the language used by the likes of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Antonio Luna, Pilita Corrales, Ian Veneracion, Marian Rivera, to name but a few famous Spanish Filipinos.


From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines which were a part of the Spanish East Indies, were governed by the Captaincy General of the Philippines as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain centered in Mexico. It was only administered directly from Spain in 1821 after Mexico gained its independence that same year. Since the Philippines was a former territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain for most of the Spanish colonial period, Spanish as was spoken in the Philippines had a greater affinity to American Spanish rather than to Peninsular Spanish.


Philippine Spanish has the following characteristics. Some of these have been passed on the manner of everyday speech of Filipinos; such as /x/ being [h] and seseo.

y/ll distinction

As in some dialects in northern Spain and in some bilingual zones in Latin America, there is a distinction between ll /ʎ/ and y /ʝ/. For example, "silla" /ˈsiʎa/ and not /ˈsiʝa/ (Tagalog "silya"). However, yeísmo occurs in some words like "cebollas" /seˈboʝas/ (Tagalog "sibuyas") and "caballo" /kaˈbaʝo/ (Tagalog "kabayo").


As in Latin American Spanish, the /θ/ and /s/ phonemes merge into [s]. For example, cerveza /seɾˈbesa/ (Tagalog "serbesa").

Retraction of /x/ to [h]

The velar jota sound /x/ is retracted to glottal [h]. This also occurs in Andalusian, Caribbean, and Canarian Spanish. For example, "Jorge" [ˈhoɾhe ~ ˈholhe].

Confusion between /d/ and /ɾ/, /p/ and /f/ and non-open vowels

As a Malayo-Polynesian country (such countries often interchange /d/ and /ɾ/, /p/ and /f/, /e/ and /i/ as well as /o/ and /u/) this could be observed in Philippine Spanish. For example, "pared" [paˈdeɾ] (Tagalog "pader"), Filipinas [piliˈpinas] (Tagalog "Pilipinas"), entender [intinˈdiɾ] (Tagalog "intindi") and ojal [uˈhal] (Tagalog "uhal").

No aspiration of /s/

Unlike many Spanish and Latin American dialects, syllable-final "s" is pronounced as an alveolar sibilant [s], rather than a glottal fricative [h]. For example, "amores secos" [aˈmoɾes ˈsekos].

Retention of [h] of words originating from Latin f-

Words like "hacer" [aˈseɾ], "hablar" [aˈblaɾ] come from the Latin words facere and fabulare, respectively. However, in Philippine Spanish, the h- initial is pronounced as [h], not silent nor [x] Therefore, the pronunciations would be [haˈseɾ] and [haˈblaɾ] (Tagalog "habla"). Because /x/ in Philippine Spanish is glottal [h], it is best to consider those words to phonemically be /xaˈseɾ/ and /xaˈblaɾ/, rather than to postulate a marginal phoneme /h/. The same thing occurs sometimes in Andalusian and Caribbean Spanish.

[ɾ–l] shift at the end of syllables

At the end of a syllable of a word or a word itself, if the syllable/word ends with an l or r, /l/ becomes [ɾ] and /ɾ/ becomes [l] often. For instance, almíbar [aɾˈnibal] (Tagalog "arnibal), rezar [daˈsal] (Tagalog "dasal"). This also occurs in Andalusian and Caribbean Spanish.

For most of the less educated population, Spanish is acquired through Hispanic music, or for some, especially children, by watching Dora the Explorer in Nickelodeon. For the educated population, Spanish is further enriched through watching Telenovelas from the internet or watching the cable channel of Televisión Española.[3] That results in the lack of general characteristics that describe its phonological system.


From Latin American Spanish

The following American Spanish words are also used in Philippine Spanish, thanks to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade.

Words Present in the RAE Dictionary:

Other Words:

From Peninsular Spanish

Peninsular Spanish started to influence the vocabulary of Philippine languages after the Philippines was administered directly from Spain. For instance, Philippine Spanish uses "patata" (potato} instead of "papa", "gamba" (shrimp) instead of "camarón", "vosotros" (you, informal plural) instead of "ustedes", "melocotón" (peach) instead of "durazno", etc.

Unique Words


Diacritic marks are almost always left out, save for the tilde on the ñ, because of the use of American standard machines and because of the disallowance of using these marks by English-language media companies. Typewriters sometimes include the ñ, but they do not include accented vowels. Computer keyboards have always used the US standard layout, which includes neither ñ nor combining diacritics. Spanish words, however, are vocally stressed as they would be by Spanish speakers. Yet, the absence of these diacritic marks makes Filipinos studying Spanish liable to put the accent on the wrong syllable of loanwords in Philippine languages, as those words are pronounced as in their mother languages.

As of 2012, of the younger generation of Filipino Hispanophones are following the Spanish orthographic convention of typing letters with diacritic marks (acute accents and diaeresis) as well as the inverted question and exclamation marks and the rest of the special characters and symbols found in Spanish orthography on their US standard layout computer keyboards by using the AltGr key, Modifier key, Code page 437, Code page 850, Microsoft Windows Alt Key Numeric Codes for character shortcuts, or the US-International keyboard layout.

Microsoft Windows Alt Key Numeric Codes for the Spanish language:[4][5]

Alt 0193
uppercase A with accute accent
Alt 160
lowercase a with acute accent
Alt 144
uppercase E with acute accent
Alt 130
lowercase e with acute accent
Alt 0205
uppercase I with acute accent
Alt 161
lowercase i with acute accent
Alt 0211
uppercase O with acute accent
Alt 162
lowercase o with acute accent
Alt 0218
uppercase U with acute accent
Alt 163
lowercase u with acute accent
Alt 666
uppercase U with umlaut
Alt 129
lowercase u with umlaut
Alt 165
uppercase N with tilde or eñe
Alt 164
lowercase n with tilde or eñe
Alt 167
masculine ordinal indicator
Alt 166
feminine ordinal indicator
Alt 680
inverted question mark
Alt 685
inverted exclamation mark
Alt 174
left angle quote or left guillemet
Alt 175
right angle quote or right guillemet
Alt 0128
euro sign
Alt 158
pesetas (out of circulation)

For the numero signs such as n.o and N.os, superior ordinal letters such as 1.o, 2.a and, superior letters such as, D.a,, M.a and, and superior numbers such as €850, you may use the superscript (hold down the Ctrl, the Shift and the =) and underline (highlight the text then hold down the Ctrl and the letter U) keyboard shortcuts.[6]

Current status

Spanish was the language of government, education and trade throughout the three centuries (333 years) of the Philippines being part of the Spanish Empire and continued to serve as a lingua franca until the first half of the 20th century. In the last decades its use has declined.[7] New developments in the Philippines are slowly reversing this trend.

Spanish renaissance

In December 2007, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed a directive in Spain that require the teaching and learning of the Spanish language in the Philippine school system starting in 2008.[8]

The presidential decision had immediate results. The Under-Secretary of the Department of Education, Vilma L. Labrador, circulated a Memorandum (17/XII/2007), on the "Restoration of the Spanish language in Philippine Education". In it, the Department mandates secondary schools to offer basic and advanced Spanish.

Exponential growth

There has been a resurgence of learning Spanish among Filipinos.

The main reason is not even cultural, it is economic.

Due to the huge demand for Spanish speakers among business process outsourcing companies in the Philippines, Filipinos are flocking to Instituto Cervantes and other language centers in order to learn Spanish.[9]

See also


  1., 2007
  2. Spanish at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Ocampo, Ambeth. "Spanish on comeback trail in Philippines". Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  4. Woolfson, Tim. "Alt Codes Reference Sheet". Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  5. "Windows – Alt Key Numeric Codes". Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  6. "List of keyboard shortcuts for Word 2002, Word 2003, and Word 2007". Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  7. "Nuevas perspectivas para la lengua española en Filipinas (ARI)".
  8. "Spanish in Philippine Public High School".
  9. "Hola! Asian Call Centers Lure Back Spanish". YaleGlobal - Yale University.
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