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Filipino Titles of Respect

Updated on November 5, 2018
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Respect is undeniably an important part of being Filipino. Something that most likely guests out of the country visiting for the first time and being around Filipinos may have noticed. Filipinos used the words ate and kuya when referring to older siblings. These are just two examples of Filipino titles commonly used to show or give respect. Addressing people appropriately by titles has been taught at a young age as calling a person just by their first names when they're not within your age range but are years older is considered impolite or rude.

There are different titles or honorrifics used to give the appropriate respect to the elderly from relatives, family members and of people with authority and that will be all listed in here. Starting from the most commonly used and heard Filipino titles of kinship from ate and kuya to Filipino titles used for strangers, read on and find out what Filipino titles to use and when.

Ninong and ninang

The godparents in Filipino. A ninong or godfather and ninang or godmother can either be from a child's christening or from a wedding. Ninong and ninang are often a close friend or well trusted person that the parents chose to be part of their child's life, to act as second parents. The same applies for a ninong and ninang in a wedding taking a second parent rule for the new couple.

A baptismal with the parents and the baby's ninong and ninang.
A baptismal with the parents and the baby's ninong and ninang. | Source

Balae

Parents of a newly wed or a couple don't just call their son in law or their daughter in law's parents by their first names. There is a title used for that as well - balae.

When speaking to the parents or a parent of your son's wife or your daughter's husband, calling them balae is a commonly used title with or without their name. Pronounced as ba-la-e. Having family gatherings for example together with your son or daughter in law's parents, addressing them as balae works just fine. But having more than one married kid and their spouse's parents being around as well, addressing them with names such as Balaeng Jhon or Balaeng Angela is probably best to be more specific.

Ale

Giving respect by using titles doesn't end within the family circle. There are appropriate titles as well to address strangers. Pronounced as ah-le, ale is used to address a woman you don't personally know, a stranger. It is used either with or without the name but often just the word.

Ale is something that will come in handy just in case you need to get the attention of a seemingly married woman who accidentally left some of her belongings on the bus station and you want to get her attention to let her know.

Aleng or aling is used knowing the person's name - Aleng Karol. Speaking from experience, this is pretty common in the provinces when addressing neighbors in the middle age.

Mang

Mang is the male counterpart of aleng. A title given to a married or older man. I did address my father's friends mang + their first name just to give an idea of using mang. It is used with the man's first name. Mang Gorio is a good example of using mang given that you know the name of the person. It is fit for someone who you may not personally know but isn't a total stranger. If not, head on the next used title of respect for a stranger.

Addressing these strangers as ate and kuya is not uncommon as well these days.
Addressing these strangers as ate and kuya is not uncommon as well these days. | Source

Kuya

Kuya is used to address an older brother amongst siblings but using kuya just doesn't end here. Kuya is also used to address a stranger that might be just few years older than the speaker, someone just old enough to be an older brother.

Give it a shot next time you commute and say 'Kuya, para po!' to get the hang of it. It's letting the driver know you're ready to get off in a nice respectful way.

Ate

Pronounced ah-te, it is one common Filipino title used in a Filipino household. Calling an older sister or cousins 'ate' gives that appropriate respect an older sister or cousin deserves with or without the name along with it. But having more than one sister, a name often follows after this title to be more specific as to which of the older siblings is being referred to as ate. Same goes when being around older cousins, the ladies of course.

Using ate doesn't end within the family circle, you'll hear it often used in addressing strangers as well that might be just few years older than the speaker, old enough to be an older sister. Even when talking to a seemingly way older adult, let's say having a conversation with a woman having her young kid with her, it isn't uncommon amongst Filipinos to address them as 'ate.'

Bunso

Bunso is the youngest amongst siblings. But aside from taking the spot of being the youngest, the word bunso is also used as a form of endearment when addressing the youngest.

Mom and Dad

Mom and dad has their own Filipino word counterparts as well. Although these two are used as well in the Philippines or amongst affluent Filipino families, there are quite some more words used by most to address mom and dad.

Tatay is the Filipino or Tagalog word for dad and nanay for mom. These two are often shortened to just 'tay or 'nay. It isn't uncommon to hear mama and papa as well being used which are shortened to 'pa and 'ma. Itay and inay also means dad and mom.

Don't be surprised if a complete stranger calls someone 'nay or 'tay, let's say that seller by the bus station or someone who has a stall or eatery, they may not be blood related but it is common amongst Filipinos. It is used as an endearment while giving out respect.

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Referring to the photo above of this happy family, let's practice what we've tackled so far.

The father of the kids is on the left, the tatay or papa of the family. Beside the tatay of the family is grandma or lola. Hugging lola while having piggyback ride is the boy who might be younger than his sister. The boy might be the bunso of the family, therefore, calling is sister ate. Next to grandma or lola is grandpa or lolo and is giving granddaughter a piggyback ride who might be older than his brother. Next to lolo is the kids nanay.

Lolo and Lola

Lolo and lola is no other than grandfather and grandmother. Lolo or 'lo as it is usually shortened, grandma or lola gets addressed too by the shortened form 'la.

Uncle and Auntie

These two speaks for themselves. The English uncle and auntie used to address the father and the mother's siblings is pretty much used as well by Filipinos, these two and of course their Filipino counterparts.

Tiyo which is the Filipino word but just in case you have heard chong as well referring to an uncle, that is because it means the same. Tiya means auntie and some may prefer calling her by chang.

Tito and tita

Tito and tita means uncle and auntie as well. But these two are used when referring to a younger brother or a younger sister of mom and dad. And by saying younger, that means to that age range where the younger sibling of the parents is single, unmarried or is just about few years older than the nephews or nieces.

I call all my parents siblings as uncle and auntie since they are all married with kids and some of my cousins are within my age range, so I'll take my childhood friend's family as example. We were 12 years old and living with her grandparents which is our next door neighbor, she calls her mother's sister tita and her mother's brother tito. Her mother is older than both siblings. The younger sister is most likely 16 to 17 years old and the brother is within the same age range as well.

Miss

Another commonly used title is the English Miss. when referring to single unmarried young woman.

Totoy and Neneng

Often shortened to 'toy and 'neng, these two are worth adding on the list as well. Both are used to address kids that you don't know the name of. So that next time you're traveling and it happens to be a kid is the only person who could help you with direction for example, address the young boy as 'toy or 'neng if it's a girl then proceed on asking.

Totoy and neneng are for kids you don't know the name of. Totoy for a boy and neneng for a girl.
Totoy and neneng are for kids you don't know the name of. Totoy for a boy and neneng for a girl. | Source

Kumare and Kumpare

These two are often shortened to mare and pare. You'll hear these two used amongst adults with pare used amongst male friends to address one another and mare amongst closed female friends.

These two are very common by godparents when addressing one another either with or without a name. Two adult males who happens to be godparents for a child's christening often calls each other pare or mare for female godparents. Same goes for godparents from a wedding.

Pareng John and Mareng Louisa are just two examples of using pare and mare or kumpare and kumare.

Sir and Ma'am

These two English words are pretty much used as well in the Philippines in regards of giving respect. Sir and ma'am are of most used by Filipino students when addressing their male and female teachers, often with the teacher's last name - Maa'm Sigue and Sir Ferriol are just two examples.

Addressing an employer or someone with a higher position such as a supervisor or a manager as sir or maa'm is common as well amongst Filipinos.

Boss

Another commonly used Filipino honorifics in giving respect is boss. A person in charge, a supervisor or a manager is often address or called as boss by the employees either just by itself or with a name of the person in charge. Having more than one person in charge in the workplace, the name, often than not, follows after - Boss Nathan for example.

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Adding to all these, it isn't unusual for Filipinos to address acquaintances by their professional titles. Dok for a doctor by profession and attorney for a lawyer are just two examples. The same goes when addressing those in politics by calling them in their respective titles such as Mayor, Kapitan for the barangay captain and Presidente or Mahal Na Pangulo (Beloved President) for the country's president.

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