If I could offer one piece of very sound advice to anyone thinking of moving to the Philippines, or even just vacationing there and maybe finding themselves a Filipina it would be this; learn the lingo.
Learn to speak Tagalog or Visayan or whatever the local language or dialect is where you are going to be hanging out.
Tagalog makes up 95% of the official national language, ‘Pilipino’, also pronounced Filipino as Ps and Fs are intermixed. All the TV shows are in Tagalog and so too the songs for the most part. Tagalog speakers make up a half a percent majority over the next largest language group, Visayan, also called Bisayan and Cebuano. Cebuano is the real majority language because many of those counted as being Tagalog speakers are people living in the Metro Manila area who speak another language as their first (L1) but the census claims them as Tagalog speakers.
If you are living in Cebu, Bohol, Mindanao or parts of Leyte, then Cebuano is the language to know.
On Leyte they also speak Waray Waray, as they do in Samar. Then there are other languages like Bicolano, Pampangan, Ilongo and so on, but they really are limited in where they are spoken. Either Tagalog or Cebuano. I started picking up Tagalog and then I married a girl form Cebu! I learned Cebuano to a basic, get around level and noticed how much Tagalog I’d forgotten the next time I had to visit Manila!
If you can speak Spanish, Cebuano will be easier as there are more Spanish words in that language than in Tagalog. For the first couple of hundred years of Spanish occupation Cebu was the capital and it shows in the language influences. Whichever language you go for, enjoy the learning process and practise every chance you get.
I used to be very proficient in buying what I needed from my sari sari store. I could get help for my car when I needed a push or some parts and I could make jokes my mother in law laughed at. If I had stayed there a few more years I would be fluent, but if you don’t use it you lose it. One way I stay current is to work through a Cebuano language course I have. It is a great foundation and along with a few giggle sessions with my wife, it keeps my vocabulary floating.
The best teacher is of course one of the long haired varieties. Pillow teaching is the old term and learning your loved one’s language is a great way to get to know them better. Plus you know what she’s saying to her mother!