The Two Most Important Filipino/Tagalog Words You Should Absolutely Know About

Philippine FlagsWhether you're a future expat, a tourist, a foreigner who's here in the Philippines for a business trip or a Filipino yourself, these two words can take you further with almost anything.
  1. Po
  2. Opo
These are the two most important basic words in the Filipino/Tagalog language.

I. Po - /poh/

Used in many contexts, it is usually added at the end of a declarative or interrogative sentence.

a. Salamat po - "Thank you sir / ma'am"

Po is actually gender neutral and the example above is not the actual translation, but it is very close. The word actually makes us unique as Filipinos. For foreigners, it gives the aura of them showing enough respect both to the language and the person spoken to.

In Google translate, "po" is translated in English as "please" but I beg to differ though it has its merits.

To me, adding "Po" at the end of a sentence goes beyond "please" and shows respect to the person you are talking with and gives you that special aura that can even take you beyond the normal conversation.

Sometimes it can also be used in an exclamatory outburst, but still, the sentence will still be an interrogative one.

Hence:

"Po!!!" is actually very much like saying "Po?!?!" - which means "What?!?!?" in a respectful yet demeaned manner.

But if you say:

"Po?" It sounds more like, "What was that?" in a calm demeanor.

But with that said, using "Po" loosely in an exclamatory sentence angrily or with disrespect is usually done in a sarcastic way.

Hence, if you really want to say in a respectful manner, "What was that?" It is better to say the more complete phrase, "Ano po iyon?" which essentially means "What was that?" but with respect.

Imperative Sentences

You can say "Please pass this" as "Paki abot po" but po will not be translated as "this". You can even try to sing it and you will then be doing it in an awesome and pleasing way.

Try it while smiling, "Paaa-keeey aahhh - bohhhtt - pho"

But, if your boss is saying, "Paki submit mo na po ang report mo." or "Please submit your report immediately." that usually means serious trouble. 


Compare it to "Paki submit mo na ang report mo." which is translated the same as "Please submit your report." stated in a factual and objective manner. 


Hence if you're the boss and you want to emphasize that the report needs to be submitted now or else - you first look into the eyes of the person and say "Paki submit mo na po ang report mo.


You will then have the desired chilling and nerve wracking effect. 

II. Opo - /Uh-Puh/ 

Now this is much more simpler and I know that "much more" is a redundancy, booyah!

"Opo" means "yes" but it's really more than that.

When speaking with a person of authority (excluding traffic enforcers and obvious scalawags - alright, alright, you can include them too) nodding while saying "opo" means deference like a little child to his mother or father.

It is also highly appropriate in a professional setting. Doing so with a cheerful tone, also fosters a positive work environment with the boss.

Making it triple redundant with a "yes sir", is all the more appealing in high octane work environment.

Hence, if you have a horrible boss, you can say "Opo, yes sir, right away." and your boss will feel slightly better and move you from "Incompetent Yes Man/Woman" to "Incompetent But Respectful Yes Man/Woman".

But that's only if you have a horrible boss.

If you have a cool boss, saying, "Opo, yes sir, right away."  redundantly in a cheerful manner will probably make the cool boss say, "Awesome!"