Tag Archives: speaking Tagalog

Meal Plans

Báon is a Tagalog word that means food, or items packed, specifically for a trip.

Ang báon ko ay tinapay. (I brought bread.)  Nag-báon ako ng maraming libro.  (I packed a lot of books.)

It can also mean monetary allowance for a trip.

Magkano ang báon mo?  (How much money did you bring?)

Báon is also the word used to refer to food packed for school.

Anong gusto mong báon bukas?   (What snack/lunch do you want to bring to school tomorrow?

I pack my children’s snacks and lunches for school.  With the invention of Thermos and ice packs, there is really no reason for me to spend extra on hot lunches or salads at school.

Palagi silang may báon. (They always bring packed food.)

IMG_0127    IMG_0027Adobo wings

Occasionally, I would pre-order lunch for them in school, especially on sushi days.  But regularly, nag ba-báon sila (they bring packed food).

My children know what to expect for their báon.  I post the menu of the week on my refrigerator door for easy reference.

It is not always easy for me to follow through with my weekly menus, but when I do, I feel I am organized and in control.  I have less food waste, I have more time to do other things, and I don’t overspend on food.

Planning our weekly menu is a family activity.  My son would go through the recipe books I have, and then he would choose several dishes.  Usually, I would be able to cook his choices.

IMG_0016Bacon quiche from a recipe book

I would then buy all the ingredients and cook a week’s worth of food for báon and dinner. I would store them in leak-proof tempered glass containers so they can easily go in the microwave or oven.

My daughter would then decide on which days the food would be served. She would help write the menu.

IMG_0113Menu for this week

Something could definitely be said when all you have to do is take a couple of containers from the fridge and dinner is served.  You have more time to spend with the children.

Learning Language

At the beginning of summer, I had a goal: to encourage my children to speak Tagalog. Now that summer is beginning to wind down with me going back to work today, and the children going back to school in a couple of days, the teacher in me can’t help but evaluate if I was able to achieve my objective.

I am grading myself on two things:  the number of new Tagalog vocabulary words that my children know, and my children’s ability to form coherent Tagalog sentences.

My daughter started the summer knowing just a few words.  She can easily translate Tagalog words to English, but was challenged with finding the right Tagalog term for many English words.

She has a notebook where she writes new Tagalog words. In her notebook, she wrote:  Parts of the House, and Parts of the Body.  When she started this activity, she only knew at most, two words for each category.  After a whole summer, she has filled the the pages with at least 10 Tagalog words.  Progress, don’t you agree?


Before the summer, my children would only speak in complete Tagalog sentences when prompted.  I would like to think that with my determination (a.k.a. kakulitan), now they are able speak Tagalog  with greater fluency and frequency.  Obviously, knowing more vocabulary words helped.

In the last couple of weeks, they would ask, “Nanay, pwede pahingi ng mainit na (gatas na) tsokolate?”  (Mom, may I have hot chocolate milk?) Not bad.

Last Friday, we were in a Filipino restaurant and ordered Halo-halo ( a dessert with shaved ice and an assortment of candied or fresh fruits and sweet beans, and doused with  milk).  We also ordered the restaurant’s special dessert, Bobo Chacha, a tall glass of vanilla ice cream, coconut milk, cubed sweet potatoes, topped with pinipig.

After sampling a little of both, my son said, “Mas gusto ko ang Halo-halo (kaysa) sa Bobo Chacha.”  (I like Halo-halo more that Bobo Chacha.)

I think my biggest achievement is not that they are speaking Tagalog more, but that they are more receptive in learning Tagalog.  It is a huge victory when they no longer ask me why I keep on talking to them in Tagalog.

Hands are for…

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My children are very fond of eating with their hands.  If given a choice they would opt for food that could be eaten without the use of silverware–tacos, sandwiches, spring rolls, siopao (steamed buns), even sushi, if we make it at home.

Rice and meat can be eaten with hands.  And there is a correct and efficient way to do it too.    It seems very easy, but I have seen people do it in weird and very awkward ways.  I have to say, that it is not similar to how toddlers  do it– using just two fingers and picking food a morsel at a time.

The proper way to eat with hands involves using the tips of all five fingers.  The fingers act like The Claw (you know, the electronic game found in arcades).  They gather the food together–a chunk of meat and a kumpol of rice, and in one motion, the clump of rice and meat go in the mouth.

The whole hand does not even have to get dirty, just the fingertips.  Fingers do not have to go inside the mouth too.  The fingers just touch the lips and the food gets pushed inside.

Trying to eat every last piece of meat that fell out of his taco

Anything can be eaten with hands, but the easiest to eat would be dry food.

Kamayan is best recommended for eating seafood.  Peeling shrimps, getting meat out of crabs and lobsters, and picking fish bones are just best done with fingers.

I honestly have not taught my kids how to eat rice with their hands; I don’t think they have seen me eat rice with my hands either.  The opportunity has just not presented itself.  But, I have been preparing food that can be eaten with  hands.

Lost in Translation

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My daughter was playing with plastic eggs left over from Easter when she decided that she wanted the egg that was on the top  shelf.

I was napping when she asked me to get it.

“I am going to get the egg later“, I said.

Like a typical four-year old (this happened last year), she had to have the one egg that was out of reach.  It did not matter that she had 2-dozen other plastic eggs in front of her.

Real eggs that we decorated

She begged.  She cried.  She pleaded.

I was still trying to nap.  I begged!  I cried!  I pleaded!

At this point, my feisty little girl started stomping her feet.  It was now a full-blown tantrum.  She was now screaming and demanding that I get her toy–NOW!

I am a preschool teacher so I am no stranger to  meltdowns and tantrums.  I have been told that I am very patient with my students.  I don’t get annoyed, and I am usually calm and composed.

But, when my own children start to make unreasonable demands —like getting a toy when there are other toys to play with—I go bananas.  More bananas than usual now because a nap, that I seldom take, was interrupted.

So I said, “No!”

She got deliriously mad.  She was now stomping both her feet, screaming at me, and telling me to get up and do what she is asking me to do.

Oh, I did get up!  And I sent her to her room.  But not before I said something that sounded eerily similar to what my mom would have said…

Aba, aba, aba!  Huwag mo akong kakausapin ng ganyan.  Umakyat ka sa taas!

(Very loosely translated to:  Hey, hey, hey!  You do not talk to me in that manner!  Go upstairs!)

My kids know that being sent upstairs is not a punishment.  That part of the house is good for helping them calm down and regroup, though when the words came out of my mouth, being sent upstairs seemed like a punishment.

I called her on her behavior because to me, talking that way was being disrespectful.

Sometimes, when children are caught up with emotions that are spiraling out of control, they need to be taken out of the situation.  The room where I sent her has toys, books, and a soft bed —things that could pacify her during this meltdown.


Reading can always calm her down

Later that night as she was helping me with dinner, and all traces of that ugly argument forgotten (or so I thought), she asked me in her sweetest voice,

“Mom, what does aba, aba, aba, mean?  (She clearly understood the rest of my Tagalog command.)

 It caught me by surprise,  “It means, I don’t like what you are doing.”

“Ohhhhhhh.  Next time just say, I don’t like what you are doing… because I don’t understand what aba, aba, aba means. Okay?”

To which I retorted,

Aba, aba, aba!  Now you know.  So don’t do it again!



aba: Word: aba!
English Definition: (intj.) an exclamation of surprise, wonder, or disgust; emphatic denial.
Examples: Aba! Bakit ngayon mo lang sinabi? (Hey, how come you only said it now?)


Any wisecracks you’ve heard from kids?  Share them in the comment section, please.

How to set the table

For Filipinos, preparing a meal is a time to gather around the kitchen to help each other cook, and catch up on the day’s events.

This is also the children’s first introduction to cooking. It has been said that when young children participate in food preparation, they will more likely eat and enjoy the home-cooked meal.

My very first job in the kitchen was setting the table. When I was old enough to hold a knife, I graduated to prepping the food. After I’ve learned the secret recipes and the shortcuts from my parents, I became the head chef. By this time I didn’t have to cook a lot, I was only cooking for me, my parents, a couple of siblings, and sometimes, a guest or two.

Preparing a meal requires everyone’s help.

I cook.

My children set the table.

My husband does the dishes.

It is a project in which everyone in the family participates.

Here’s a refresher on how to set the table:

Raising Bilingual Children

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I have been struggling to raise my children to speak Tagalog.  I accept my role in teaching them Tagalog, and accept responsibility for not being consistent.  At times, I find it easier to talk to them in English because it seems less complicated.

I have discovered that despite conveying the same meaning, English sentences use less syllables than Tagalog sentences.  Because of this, I am more partial to using English because my message is just delivered faster, and I get a quicker response.

Doing a chore:

Umakyat ka at kunin mo ang maduming damit.  (14 syllables)

Go upstairs and get your dirty laundry. (10 syllables)

Asking about the temperature:

Mainit o malamig  ( 7 syllables)

Hot or cold (3 syllables)

Talking about school:

Anong ginawa mo sa eskwela? (10 syllables)

What did you do in school? (6 syllables)

Both my children understand Tagalog.  It is a stretch to say that they can express themselves in Tagalog, although they know enough nouns and verbs to be able to eavesdrop in Tagalog conversations.

Researchers say that second language acquisition starts at birth, but I am from the school of thought that it is never too late to start.  I will just have to be more mindful of using Tagalog when I am with them.

My plan this summer is to make my children proficient in Tagalog.  As I always say, “Everything is a skill;  if you do it long enough, you will get better at it.”

Here is my 5-step plan.  I created this plan with the basic knowledge of how infants learn how to talk.  Immersing the children in the language you want them to learn is the basic premise for plan.

  1. Read Tagalog Books –Some bilingual books use what I call, Shakespearean Tagalog, or words that are very poetic.  Great prose, but not necessarily used in daily conversation.  Books like these, I would paraphrase using common Tagalog vocabulary.
  2. Play Games–This will help increase vocabulary words.  Games like Bring Me, I Spy, even Memory Game with pictures labeled in Tagalog would be fun, challenging, and entertaining.
  3. Listen to Music–I used to teach in a school that taught Mandarin.  When the lao sher (Chinese teacher) came for class, I would stay at the back of the room and catch up on writing notes to parents.  Fifteen years later, I can still sing the songs in Chinese, and I wasn’t even paying attention.  Because of the melody, the words are remembered longer.
  4. Have a playgroup or someone to converse with–A toddler who is just learning to talk may say, ball, to mean, “Get the ball”.  The adult will be able to help the child express himself better by repeating the word, adding an adjective to the noun, and doing the action. The conversation may sound like this: Child: ball Adult: The blue ball (while getting).  You want the blue ball? (while giving the child the ball)  A regular conversation like this, will teach the child sentence construction, syntax, as well as, more vocabulary words.
  5. Visiting the Philippines–Being in a country where everyone speaks the language is the best way to learn the language, customs, and culture.


Walking the side street of Lipa City



A photo taken by my daughter of Boracay Beach

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