Hayop Ka!

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I would like to highlight on this post some of the animal metaphors and expressions in our very rich and colorful Pilipino language.

I am hoping that after reading this you will blurt out “Hayop sa ganda!” rather than “Hayop ka!”

Kayod kalabaw

Kalabaw (carabao) is our national animal. It is our humble yet ever dependable work beast that does not seem to tire. So kayod kalabaw means to work very hard and tirelessly.

Example: Dahil dalawa ang anak ko ang nasa kolehiyo kaya’t kayod kalabaw ako para may pang-matrikula sila.

Kalabaw lang ang tumatanda

Even the ever dependent work beast will get old and become less useful in the farm field. But the above expression means that we can still achieve things even if we are of advanced age, and that age is just a number. Or maybe it is an opinion of our refusal to accept that we are growing old.

Example: Apo: “Lolo, hinay-hinay na po kayo sa pagsasaka.”

Lolo: “Hmmmp, kalabaw lang ang tumatanda.”

Hampas sa kalabaw, sa kabayo ang latay.

This Filipino saying (salawikain) means that someone else is suffering from another one’s whipping. For instance, someone is being punished for a wrong doing, but someone else is feeling the consequence.

Example: Nang tinaasan ang buwis sa mga malalaking negosyante ay tinaas din nila ang presyo ng serbisyo nila sa mamamayan, kaya hampas sa kalabaw, sa kabayo ang latay.

Matalino man ang matsing napaglalamangan din.

Loosely translated as cunning may be the monkey, yet it can still be tricked. This salawikain suggests that you can fight cunning with better cunning. Does this proverb expose the Filipinos ways of resulting to trickery and “abilidad?”

Example: Naisahan ko rin sa wakas ang kaibigan kong madaya, dahil matalino man ang matsing napaglalamangan din.

Palay na ang lumalapit sa manok

This expression means that a girl instead of the boy, is the one initiating the courtship. Though this may also mean an opportunity in general, that is knocking that you should grab.

Example: Pare, palay na ang lumalapit sa manok, tukain mo na ‘yan.

Basang sisiw

It is understandable that chicks are pretty helpless without their mother, who shelters them from harm, including getting wet from the rain. This expression means a pitiful condition or being abandoned.

Example: Para silang mga basang sisiw mula nang maghiwalay ang kanilang mga magulang at iwanan sila ng kanilang tatay.

Isang kahig, isang tuka

This metaphor means being poor and working just enough to have something to eat, or just enough to get by. In other words it is a hand to mouth existence.

Example: “Isang kahig, isang tuka, ganyan kaming mga dukha.” (lyrics from the song Dukha, original by Judas Band in the 70’s, and a recent remake by Aegis)


We all know how pigs are dirty in their natural state and they want to wallow in mud. This expression means to make something dirty or immoral. Could also mean to desecrate or disrespect.

Example: Binaboy ang ating gobyerno dahil sa mga asal ng ilan nating pulitiko.

Tupang ligaw

Literally it means lost sheep. It pertains to someone who have gone astray, especially in the spiritual context.

Example: Sabi ng simbahan ay hahanapin nila ang mga tupang ligaw.

Amoy kambing

This refers to somebody who smells bad or has a strong body odor. It is a known fact that goats don’t like rain or getting wet.

Example: Ang kaklase kong si Putok ang tamad maligo kaya amoy kambing.

Banal na aso, santong kabayo

This line came from the song in the 1990’s by Yano, a Filipino folk/punk rock band. It is literally translated as holy dog, saintly horse. But from the song it connotes religious hypocrisy, which is now the accepted meaning of the term.

Example: Rosario ka nang rosario pero napakachismosa mo naman, banal na aso, santong kabayo.

Asong ulol

In English it is translated as a mad dog or a rabid dog. The term is used to describe someone who is crazy or acting crazy. It also a title of a song by the band Backdraft in the 1990’s.

Example: Bangag na naman si Dagul kaya para siyang asong ulol.

Pusang gala

It literally means a stray cat. But it is an alternative expression or a play of words to the curse word “Put@ng ina!” without sounding too vulgar.

Example: Pusang gala! Tinangay ng pusa ang ating ulam na isda!

Mahirap pa sa daga

It means poor or condition of extreme poverty. I just wonder are mice really poor? Well, not Mickey Mouse.

Example: Mahirap pa sa daga ang kalagayan ng ibang katutubong tribo dito sa Pilipinas.

Pagputi ng uwak

It literally means when a black crow turns white. Thus it connotes something that will never happen.

Example: Pare, kailan mo ba babayaran ang utang mo sa akin, pagputi ng uwak?

Kalapating mababang lipad

This is a euphemism for a prostitute. But do you know where this expression came from?

During the American occupation, there is a place in Tondo Manila, which is a red-light district called Palomar. The word paloma means pigeon in Spanish, while palomar means a pigeon-house. So the women offering their leisure service were called palomas de bajo vuelo or low-class birds, thus the expression “kalapating mababa ang lipad.”

Example: Dahil lininis na ang Maynila kaya wala ng kalapating mababang lipad na naglipana sa Ermita.

Matang lawin

In English it is hawk-eyed. We know that hawk can spot a small prey on the ground even while it is flying high. So this expression means sharp-eyed, or someone who watches and notices everything that happens.

Since I’m in Iowa, this is also known as the Hawkeye state. So a Hawkeye in English may also mean a person born in Iowa or living in Iowa, USA. Go Hawkeye!

Example: Ang mga security guard sa bangko ay mga matang lawin.

Saan mang gubat may ahas

This means that in every place or situation there is always someone who will betray us.

Example: Mag-ingat ka sa mga katrabaho mo, dahil saan mang gubat may ahas.


A crocodile. It pertains to a person who takes advantage or preys on other people. Also used as a term to describe greedy or corrupt people. In basketball term, a ball-hog. During my basketball playing days, we call these ball-hog “ABC” – alligator, buwaya, crocodile.

Example: Ang daming mga buwayang nag-aabang sa Customs.

Butiking Pasay

This means a scrawny person. I don’t know why Pasay is used in the term. I went to school in Pasay City for several years and I can testify that the house lizards in Pasay are not more scrawny than any other city or place.

Example: Ang boyfriend ko ay sobrang payat, para siyang butiking Pasay.

Boses palaka

Frogs love to sing and are known to be noisy especially after the rain. But this term means someone who sings out of tune or not a good singer.

Example: Ang kapitbahay ko ang hilig magkaraoke, eh boses palaka naman.

Isdang tanga

This is a colloquial term to pertain to the ‘sardinas’ (sardines), which is a staple food of Filipinos especially now with the pandemic, as it is mostly included in the ‘ayuda’ that is being given by local baranggays and municipalities. We call them isdang tanga as we say these fish swim their way inside the can.

Example: Ang ulam namin ay ginisang isdang tanga.

Buhay alamang

Literally means life of a small shrimp. This expression means a life without certainty, or a poor life situation or without value. I don’t know about you but bagoong alamang is not without value in my opinion as it is indispensable to many Filipino dishes.

Example: Kawawa naman ang mga squatter sa Tondo, sila ay may buhay alamang.

Utak talangka

If you put several crabs in a bucket, they will claw their way pulling other crabs down in their effort to climb up to the top of the bucket. So this metaphor means trying to put others down or pulling down people who are making progress more than us.

Example: Sana naman tayong mga Pilipino ay maalis na ang ating pagkautak talangka.

Isang bulate na lang ang hindi pumipirma

This is a funny expression to describe a morbid condition. It means someone on his deathbed or almost dying.

Example: Ang aking tiyuhin ay buto’t balat na, isang bulate na lang ang hindi pumipirma.

Parang kiti-kiti

Kiti-kiti is mosquito larva. If you observe them, they are constantly wriggling in the water. So parang kiti-kiti means a person who cannot stop moving or cannot stay in one place. Just like kids with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Example: Ang anak kong bunso, sobrang likot, parang kiti-kiti.


Literally means to be infested with flies. It is an expression that an event has poor attendance, or an endeavor which is not supported by other people.

Example: Linangaw ang Miting de Avance ni Consehal Kupit dahil ayaw na siyang ibotong muli ng tao.


Putakte are wasps or hornets in English. Pinutakte means to get swarmed, which is the opposite of linangaw. However the term though is not in a positive light, as wasps or hornets have stingers, so pinutakte has a connotation of being pestered with troubles.

Example: Pinutakte ng taghiyawat ang kanyang mukha.

Kutong Lupa

It literally means ground louse. It is a term used for annoying or irritating people, especially pertaining to troublesome children. Somebody you like to crush between your thumbnails (tiris) like a louse.

Example: Umuwi na kayo, kung hindi ay titirisin ko kayong mga kutong lupa!

Boses ipis

This literally means a voice of a cockroach. It suggest that of a soft or small voice. It is funny that we have this expression, but when we encounter a cockroach, especially if is airborne, it would evoke the loudest scream that the whole neighborhood could hear.

Example: Ang girlfriend ko ay sobrang hinhin at boses ipis, pero kapag nalasing ay parang marino kung magtungayaw.


There you have it folks, until next time. If you know any more animal metaphor or expression, please leave me a comment. Thank you.

(*image taken from the web)

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