Salawikain or proverbs in English are Filipino sayings that are filled with life lessons and wisdom. I have learned about salawikain decades ago because Filipino teachers taught it in elementary schools. Nonetheless, the lessons that I have learned from them are still with me even up to now.
Aside from our teachers, we Often times we heard examples of salawikain from our parents and grandparents. The reason is their ancestors also taught them those “kasabihan”. It seems that they also live their lives based on the wisdom that they learn from them. Have you heard your parents saying “Kung Hindi Ukol, Hindi Bubukol”? Well, I hear it often too hahaha.
Showbiz personalities in the Philippines also share their favorite salawikain. They express it in English though most of the time it is in Tagalog. The most common proverbs that I hear when I watch them on TV is “Kung Kaya Nila, Kaya mo rin.”
Sometimes other TV personalities joke about it such as “Kung Kaya Nila, Ipagawa mo sa kanila.” Do you see the difference? But again, it is a joke, I’m sure they want their followers to learn from the original version.
Some of the salawikain has a direct English translation and is easy to interpret while some have a deeper Tagalog meaning. At first, you may find it hard to decode their meanings but as you gain wisdom in life. You will appreciate the proverbs that your parents, actors, or teachers always say.
Salawikain has variations too. This is due to the different dialects that Filipinos speak depending on their province in the country. Regardless the meaning, wisdom, and life lessons that we will get from them are still the same. Are you ready to know the examples or halimbawa of the tagalog proverbs/salawikain?
Mga Halimbawa ng Salawikain with Explanations
I have here 17 salawikain and I will explain their meaning to the best of my knowledge.
1. Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo
English translation: What’s the grass good for, if the horse is already dead
We all know that the horses feed on grass. In my understanding, it means that the grass refers to a “help” that was given too late. Or an “action” that would no longer have an effect on the outcome of an event.
2. Pag binato ka ng bato batuhin mo ng tinapay
English translation: When someone throws you a stone, strike back with a bread
This is a life lesson based on the scriptures. This means that instead of taking revenge by doing the same “hurtful” thing to the person, you can choose to show kindness or forgive him/her.
3. Walang malaking nakakapuwing at walang maliit na nakaka hirin
English meaning: No big things can get into your eye, and no small things can cause you to choke
What happens if dust or a strand of hair gets into your eye. You will probably feel restless or uneasy. You want to remove it immediately. This salawikain means that you can not disregard even the small stuff as the latter can have a huge impact on you or on someone else life.
For example, simple “Good Morning” greetings can go a long way for a person who is having a not-so-favorable day.
4. Pag hindi ukol, hindi bubukol
English translation: If it’s not meant or destined to be, it will not happen
This reminds me of a quote about love that says “If you love her, set her free. If she returns you know she is yours forever.” Based on my example, this only means that no matter how long or far you part your ways. If you are meant to be, the universe will conspire to bring you guys back together.
5. Masamang damo mahirap mamatay or matagal mamatay
English translation: Wild grass don’t die easily or have a long life
Grass has a good purpose which is to prevent soil erosion to bare land. Unfortunately, for this particular salawikain, it is used to portray a bad person.
The possible explanation for this one is that bad grass has the ability to grow anywhere. Even if you pull them out, eventually there is a new one that will germinate and grow to replace it.
6. Huli man at magaling naihahabol din
English translation: It is better to be late than never
Another possible English translation is “A good thing is never too late.” It’s better to fulfill promises late than not doing it at all.
7. Sa pagkahaba- haba ng prusisyon sa simbahan din ang tuloy
English translation: The procession may take long but it still ends up in the church
Usually, this salawikain /proverb refers to a couple who have experienced difficulties, hurdles, and obstacles. Yet they still end up marrying each other or have a happy ending.
8. Ang sakit sa kalingkingan ay ramdam ng buong katawan
English translation: The pain in the pinky finger is felt throughout the whole body
This proverb means that if one member of the family is facing issues or hurdles, often times the other members are also affected by it.
9. Kung may tiyaga, may nilaga
English translation: Hard work pays off
Persevere in fulfilling your dreams, eventually, your hard work and sacrifices will result in success.
10. Pag mataas ang lipad ganun din kasakit ang pag bagsak
English translation: Don’t fly so high so it’s not excruciating when you fall
The way I see it, it means that you should not dream very high so when you fail, the disappointment that you will feel is manageable.
11. Ang hindi lumingon sa pinang galingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan
English translation: A person who does not look back to where he came from will not be able to reach his destination
This is one of Jose Rizal’s famous quotes. In my interpretation, this means that you should remember your roots in spite of all your success. You also have to remember the person who once helps you when you were starting your journey to success.
12. Aanhin ang bahay na bato kung ang nakatira ay kuwago buti pa ang kubo ang nakatira ay totoong tao
English translation: What’s good with a house made of stone when only the owls live there, better to live in a hut with real people.
This is my interpretation of this salawikain. Owls are predators, they often hunt at night alone. Probably this means that you do not need riches in life if you enjoy it alone just like an owl who stays up at night alone while it hunts for food. Oftentimes, people who show real attitudes, whether good or bad, live a simple life.
13. Kung ano ang itinanim ay siya ring aanihin
English translation: You reap what you sowed
This may be a shallow explanation but it’s the perfect one. Here it goes, if you spread love chances are you will also get love in return.
14. Ang buhay ang parang gulong minsan nasa ibabaw ka at minsan naman ay nasa ilalim
English translation: Life is like a wheel. Sometimes you are on top while sometimes you are at the bottom.
It signifies that there are times that we are at the bottom of our lives where we face hardships and difficulties. There are times that we are on top where we experience happiness and success.
When you are at the bottom have the courage to weather it because your time will come that it is your turn to be on top or successful.
15. Kapag may sinuksok may mabubunot / Kung may tinanim may aanihin
English translation: If you stashed away (money or valuables), you have something to pull (during rough times)/ If you sow, you will have something to harvest
These two proverbs almost have the same meaning. They refer to being wise with money. They remind us to save money so that during rough times or rainy days we have funds that we can use to bring food to the table.
This reminds me of the fable “the ant and the grasshopper.” The ant is preparing for the rainy days while the grasshopper is happy-go-lucky. We know what happens to the latter during the rainy season.
16. Makikilala mo ang tunay mong kaibigan sa oras ng iyong kagipitan
English translation: You will know who your true friends are during your struggles and difficulties.
This holds true even to the present times. Often, a person has a lot of friends especially when they benefit from the former. However, when the person faces hurdles, such as becoming poor only their real friends will stay with them to provide help through thick and thin.
17. Kung kaya nila, kaya mo rin
English translation: If they can do it so can you
This is a type of encouragement. We often say this to our friends who are about to face challenges or about to fulfill their dreams. It means that you are as equally capable as the other. What you need to do is believe in yourself.
Now that you are familiar with some of the Salawikain or proverbs. You will realize that they are everywhere. You can hear anyone sharing it. You can read it as you scroll through the newsfeed of your social media account. You can watch showbiz personalities share it on television. One thing is for sure, when you encounter them you will be reminded of the lessons that they gave you.