Philippine idioms

There are objections to idioms. They appear with raised forefinger in a know-it all-manner on the scene and contradict themselves. In part they are refuted by empirical research, some touch the field of superstitions (1) . Frequently, they have only the function to confirm the speaker in his judgment. Factors determining a specific action are often down-reduced  to apparently correct or wrong ethical attitudes.

Nevertheless proverbs belong - as concentrate of knowledge of life and underdeveloped theories on human behavior-  to the cultural of a country. They are educational instruments, claimed with great delight by parents and schools.

The following small and roughly classified selection concentrates on idioms, that have a Philippine origin. However, overlaps with other cultural environments  - in particular the Spanish one cannot be excluded.  Finally there is a common ground of human behavior.










  What is easily acquired is easily lost

   If you make a buying things you do not need, you will soon be selling things you do

  A debt can be paid, but a kind act not

  A clear conscience is far more valuable than money

 When a horse is borrowed, don't look at its teeth

  Rice is wasted, even the bran

 You cannot squeeze blood out if there's none left  





   The tomato plant doesn't grow mangos

   Do not gore the peg where you are tied

  Who does not look back to his origins will not reach his destination

   A mother's actions will be imitated by the child






  There is no firm virgin that a patient guy can't have

   He who marries in haste, will live in distress

  No man is brave in the presence of a crying woman

   The kick of a female carabao, the massage of the male

 Where there are flowers there are butterflies







 A man that talks too much accomplishes little

  He who talks first is the guilty party

   Every kind of animal can be tamed, but not the tongue of man

 The baby, who doesn't cry does not get fed

  If you speak evils from others, you shall hear evils in return

  Speak of the miracle, but don't mention the Saint

  Be careful that you don't spit on your own fave






  Huge but empty head

 Wealth can be acquired but beauty cannot

   Beauty will fade, but not goodness

  A beautiful girl is devils pocket

 An angel in appearance, a devil underneath


      Do not eat your fingers




  The rooster who is full will peck still if given grain

  If it is work, do it fast. If it's food, eat it little by little

 If there is no patience, there will be no food





  It's better to provoke a lion or a tiger, than to provoke a person who just woke up from his sleep

  It is harder to wake up a person who pretends to be asleep, than a person really asleep

 A sleeping lobster is carried away by the current




 There is no muddy water that doesn't clear

 How matter how long the rope, there is always an end






 A young tree is easy to straighten, but when it's big it is difficult

 One need no inherit wealth if he inherits good manners

  A child that is given everything will rarely succeed in life

 The child who is spanked will not grow spoiled


Learning, Knowledge


  Knowledge is a wealth that can't be stolen





  To act


 The dog that does not go around, finds no bone

  He who waits dies, he who makes others wait lives.

  God helps him, who starts early

  God will help those who help themselves

  A sleeping lobster is carried away by the current

 While a person is being wounded , he is stronger

 Grasp the opportunity because the bed bugs will carry and hide them inside the floor

  He who eats chili gets burned and he who touches the pot gets charcoal on his hands

 Superficial affection is like smoke that dissipates









 Not that is black is charcoal

The rattan basket critizes the palm leaf basket, still both are full of holes

  Don't trust in fortune until you are in heaven

  He who is choosy often picks the worst

 Even if you put it in your mouth, it can fall out

  What goes up must come down

Useless labor if someone else eats from it

  There is no strong man when the sea is worst




 All in

 good time


 Don't empty the water jar until rains falls

  The rain when it falls is fast, but the water from the sea is slow to rise

 After the harvest, there's no hay

  Of what use is grass when the horse is dead

  The bitter melon is not yet cooked and the squash jumped in 

 There is no current that does not bounce back

 However long the procession, it always returns to the church





  A wise man doesn't see his foot on the ground, he watches his next step

  People who do not break things first will never learn to create anything

  Of what use is grass when the horse is dead

   The crow will turn white and the heron black

   He who relies merely on affection is trudging a rickety bridge





  It's better to be dead and forgotten than to live in shame




 When it rains, everyone gets wet




  Different towns have different customs




  People's life is like a wheel: it goes up, it goes down


1) Besides idioms or sayings there are also sentences of superstitions. Here some examples. We took them from the book: Tomas D. Andres / Pilar B. Ilada-Andres: Understanding the Filipino, Quezon City, 1987, p. 16 ff:

  If a black butterfly lingers around a person, it means that one of his relatives just died

  If a person's shadow appears to be without head that person will die soon

  Sweeping the floor at night causes one to lose all his wealth

  When a star gets near the moon, it is an omen of war


       Wolfgang Bethge, 2002