Ilocano Words & Phrases Guide for Travelers

Ilocano Words & Phrases

Planning to go to Ilocos Regions but want to learn a bit of Ilocano to impress or try to communicate with the locals? Then here’s an article for you!

Communication barriers are tough especially when the language is too far off from your understanding, but let’s try to ease that burden with this guide!

Ammom Ag-Tagalog?

(“Do you know how to speak tagalog?”)

Our first set of words is great for when you don’t want to bombard your brain with too many Ilocano words. 

Most likely, an Ilocano would know how to speak Tagalog to be able to continue business with tourists without a problem. But when all else fails, try these next set of words!

Siak ni [Insert your name here] 

(“My name is [Your name here]”)

Introducing yourself to the locals comes first when showing respect. But why is it important?

Well, it’s not really rocket science to assume that communication is key to building a good rapport. Introducing yourself is a great way for the locals to create a good impression of you!

Anya ti nagan mo? 

(“What is your name?”)

What better way to complete introductions than to know their names?

If you don’t at least know this then say goodbye to potential bargains! Politeness through introductions can go a long way with these hospitable people!

Taga [Insert your Province or City here] nak. 

(“I am from [Province/City mentioned]”)

Another way for the locals to know about you is for them to know where you’re from!

But you gotta be careful though, as some locals might exploit this info by making you tell stories about your place. Ilocos peeps are very well known for their hospitality and their love for stories from tourists!

Naggapo nak di [Insert your Province or City here].

(“I came from [Province/City mentioned]”)

This sentence works both ways with where you came from originally, and where you came from lately!

For example, when you came back from the nearby church, you could just say “Naggapo nak di simbaan.”!

Mabisin nakon.

(“I’m hungry.”)

It’s a no-brainer to feel hungry when you’re traveling.

But no worries! There are a lot of food stalls in Ilocos. Just say the magic words “Mabisin nakon,” along with the next phrase to the locals, and they’d point you to the nearest place you can eat!

Talk about a major convenience to the hungry traveler!

Sinudta ti asideg nga mabalin panganan?

(“Where is the nearest place to eat?”)

This phrase is paired well with the previous one to emphasize how hungry you are! But if you’re still just planning to eat out later and just want to ask the locals the nearest eatery or restaurant, then try this sentence on its own!

Sinudta to mayat nga panganan dittoy?

(“Where is the best place to eat around here?”)

Online food guides aren’t always reliable and are sometimes outdated. So what’s the best way to remedy this situation? Simply put, just ask the locals!

You’ll not only discover new places to dine, but you can also try out what the locals recommend or even where they love to eat!

Anya ti mairekomendar yo nga makan?

(“Which food do you recommend?”)

Can’t choose which menu item to order? Ask the waiters!

Don’t ponder too much on whether you want that poqui-poqui or the pinakbet. The waiters know the best sellers so why not ask them? They might even suggest their heartiest dishes to satisfy those hungry tummies!


(“This is delicious!”)

Compliments to the chef! If you love the food, then this single-word praise would no doubt make the chef smile from ear to ear! Spread the love if the kare-kare gave your taste buds a great time! Nagiiiiimas!

Nangan nakon.

(“I ate already.”)

If you’re being asked to try some food at a local restaurant but have already eaten to your heart’s content, then say this with a smile so as not to offend the locals!

If you want, you could add “Baka madamdama”, which translates to “Maybe later” if you find their food appealing, but your tummy is still full! Because being out on an adventure could for sure make you hungry in no time.

Mapan nak di [Insert destination here]

(“I’m going to [destination mentioned]”)

Being asked where you’re going by the locals is a sign of their interest in your next adventures!

Be sure to tell them, or better yet, storytime! The locals love passing time with stories!

Paggatangak ti [Insert product name here]

(“Where can I buy [Product name mentioned]?”)

Sometimes, the internet is unreliable when it comes to where exactly we can buy the pasalubongs and souvenirs we want to bring back to our loved ones. But lucky for us, the locals certainly know where!

Well, not all of them would know for sure, but keep asking around! You might even stumble upon the sellers themselves!

Aglak-lako kay ti [Product name here]?

(“Do you sell [Product name mentioned]”)

If you’re not sure whether they sell the products you want, then use this phrase if you need confirmation!

Just because it says “Pasalubong Centre” on the front doesn’t really mean they sell every pasalubong in the whole city. So it’s best to ask!

Sagmamano daytoy?

(“How much does this cost?”)

Ilocos is a very hospitable place, but not too hospitable that they’d let you just grab anything and then go! It’s common sense to ask about the price of the merchandise, but if you ask them in Ilocano, they might give you that ‘local’s discount’!

Mabalin tumawar?

(“Can I get a bargain price?”)

A great phrase for when you’re running low on funds but still want to get that last-minute pasalubong for the nieces and nephews! You can haggle with the locals, but not too much! Let’s not abuse the hospitality of the Ilocano residents!

Mabalin nak recomendaran ti hotel?

(“Can you recommend a hotel?)

This phrase is pretty useful if you’re not used to booking hotels in advance, want to stay another night in Ilocos but the room you rented is already reserved, or when you went on that unexpected last-minute decision on going on a joyride with your friends.

Asking the locals to recommend you a hotel is the safest and most surefire way to know which hotel is best suited for your needs!

Sinudta iti [Insert name of tourist destination here] 

(“Where is [tourist destination]?”)

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, ditch google maps and try asking the locals instead! Who better to ask than the people who grew up in the area, right?

Mapan-nak pay!

(“I’m leaving now!”)

Don’t just up and leave the people you made friends with! Say “Mapan-nak pay” whenever you want to leave but not make things too awkward!

It’s best to be polite to the locals, even more so after they helped you pick out the freshest tinubong to bring home to the family!

Don’t worry if some of the locals smiled or laughed at how you said or pronounced these words. Because quite simply, you’ve just made their day! Not many people try to learn Ilocano due to it being quite hard to accomplish without growing up in Ilocos. But by the end of the day, it’s the effort that counts!

You can try reading these phrases out loud to the locals! (Or better yet, try learning these words to speak with them without a cheat sheet!). Enjoy the view, enjoy the company, and enjoy the adventure! Remember to always be polite, and have a safe trip!

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