Expressing One’s Ability in Filipino Culture

Business Cultural Notes

In Filipino culture, it is important that one is mapagkumbaba (humble, or modest) about his or her capabilities and talents. Modesty is socially acceptable, whereas it is taboo to be mayabang (a brag). This does not mean that one has to be mahiyain (shy) about one’s ability or talents; only that one should not lift himself up or praise himself, but let praise come from other people.

If one has the ability to do something, it is important that he or she must offer his or her talent in the form of tulong (help). If one can play the piano, he can say “Pwede akong magpiyano para sa iyo” (I can play the piano for you). Or perhaps wait for someone to ask if there is somebody who could play the piano. And if one is indeed going to rise to the occasion, he or she must be able to prove that he or she can, convincingly. Real talent is highly respected and appreciated by Filipinos.

Some Tagalog expressions that signify one’s capability to do something are as follows:

  • kaya (can do something)
  • hindi kaya (cannot do something)
  • kayang-kaya (is able, without a doubt)
  • pwede (can be)
  • hindi pwede (cannot be)
  • maari (may be)
  • hindi maaari (may not be)
  • may ibubuga (one has talent)
  • walang ibubuga (one has no talent)
  • pwede na (acceptable)
  • magaling (very good)
  • magaling na magaling (excellent)
  • marunong (knows how to do something)
  • marunong na marunong (knows very well how to do something)