Word of the Week: MAKIBAKA!

Kumusta, mga kaibigan!

[Laban hand gesture]

I’ve been interested in Tagalog/Filipino for a while and I wanted to find a rousing political slogan in the language.  A guy came into my line at work and he mentioned that he was a professor in the Philipines.  Frank was his name.  I asked him, “So does that mean you speak Tagalog (or Filipino)?” to which he answered in the affirmative.  I then asked him for some good political phrases for “Let’s go!” or “Let’s do it!” using raised-fist gestures to convey the sentiment.

He thought for a while and wandered the store and came back with these offerings:

BONGGA KA DAY – You’re hot babe! 

TARA NA – Let’s go! 

ANG GALING MO’PRE – You’re good, pal. 

He must have missed the key word ‘political’ and, so it seems, brought me back a few pick up lines or some such.  I said, “Oh no, not like that. Political slogans like ‘Unite!’ or something.”  He thought for a little while longer and came back with:

MAKI BAKA – Let’s fight 

I was thrilled to be given these phrases and thanked him profusely.  I brought them home and looked them up.  To my disappointment, I couldn’t find any of these words or phrases.  Furthermore, when plugging his Filipino words into Google Translate, here’s what came back in English:

(You prententious day);  [no translation];  (The coming mo’pre); (Maybe inter, inter cow, contend in battle)  

My Lonely Planet Pilipino Phrasebook (1988) has táyo na for ‘Let’s go’ and ‘contend in battle’ seems like a good start for MAKI BAKA.  My National Book Store Diksiyunaryong Ingles-Pilipino (1968) has some constructions around ‘fight’ and ‘battle’ that get close to Makibaka but not close enough. Google Translate says Laban ng! means ‘Fight!’, Laban na! means ‘Against that!’, and Laban! means ‘Against!’ and any of these phrases could be the phrase I’m searching for.

As for Frank’s pick up lines, however, I have to start from the beginning.  Are these Tagalog, Pilipino, Filipino, or possibly some other language entirely?

Reading a bit of history on the origins of Filipino, I see that these terms are not interchangeble.  It’s also possible that he speaks a separate language that is not based on Tagalog which would sabotage the whole inquiry from the get go. 

 Here’s a bit of history on Filipino from Wikipedia: 

In 1937, Tagalog was selected as the basis of the national language of the Philippines by the National Language Institute. In 1939, Manuel L. Quezon named the national language “Wikang Pambansâ” (“National Language”).  Twenty years later, in 1959, it was renamed by then Secretary of Education, José Romero, as Pilipino to give it a national rather than ethnic label and connotation. The changing of the name did not, however, result in acceptance among non-Tagalogs, especially Cebuanos who had not accepted the selection.

In 1971, the language issue was revived once more, and a compromise solution was worked out—a “universalist” approach to the national language, to be called Filipino rather than Pilipino. When a new constitution was drawn up in 1987, it named Filipino as the national language.  The constitution specified that as the Filipino language evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

I’m going to try and get some friends to look my phrases to see what’s what.  In the mean time, any clues that you all can bring to the mystery would be great! 



  1. Minda M. Gallarin said,

    May 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    The words that Frank had given you are Tagalog colloquial dialect that are being used by the common people in the city. The one you searched from different sources are acceptable, however, I’d like to input something, since all your sources are foreign they might have some miss-usage of the language, but as a native conservative Philippine borne, I would say; “laban ng” could be more for “the battle of”, “Laban na” means “Let’s fight” or “go fight” or “The fight/battle has started”. “Laban or laban sa” means “Against”. “Laban diyan/dyan” means “Against that”.

  2. Minda M. Gallarin said,

    May 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Please allow me to add “Makibaka” means “Let’s join the rally” and used when going to a political rally especially if you are on the opposition.

  3. Ally P said,

    February 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Just a note, “Makibaka” was also used as a political slogan in the Philippines during the Marcos era, a time of martial law. The phrase comes from “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!” (Fight/Rise against! Do not be afraid!). It embodies the struggle that occurred at that time.

  4. thedialect said,

    December 31, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Wow Minda and Ally! Thanks for the awesome insight! Glad to have some insiders on board! Laban na!

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