Luckily for me, we had more Spanish units in college than the younger set. Just the same, I am stumped whenever I’m forced to express myself in Spanish, and more so, when I’m compelled to listen to someone reply to me in Spanish. I’m telling you…… The easy part is expressing yourself in Spanish. Google Translate and all those English-Spanish dictionaries work for all those questions you have in mind. Until they give you their answers. As in DUH????






I have been living in Madrid the past 2 months. I still don’t speak Spanish. But I go to the palenque, ride the metro, take day trips out of Madrid using the bus or train, visit museos, shop and sip good coffee along Gran Via, and feel “comfortable” in this foreign land. I would always find something “familiar” — no matter how vaguely — in every phrase or sentence uttered, or in many signposts or directions. Thank God the numbers (uno, dos, tres….), prices (quince, dies, katorse….), time (alas cinco, alas cuatro…..), days (Lunes, Martes, Miercoles….), months (enero, febrero…), are all familiar to us. These days, I confidently greet our porter “Que tal?” , hoping he would reply in “despacio” mode.






Going to the palenque is always an adventure. I easily found my “Suki” (favorite shops) where the vendor would actually gently correct my Spanish. Like tomate, not tomato. Cuarto (1/4) not cuatro. My fish vendor would even teach me how to cook the fish as if I understood beyond “plancha” (grill) and harina (flour). 😄 I easily spend 2 hours here, even drink coffee from a bar where the sacred brew is served in a glass! And how I remember my very first ordeal here….. How to order coffee with little milk. You see, you typically order cafe con leche (with milk) or cafe cortado (espresso). The problem is I’m not crazy over espressos and the alternative cafe has mucho leche!






I have been very observant about signposts. More so about menus. Many Spanish dishes naturally found their way to Pinoy tables. The names ring familiar, sometimes similar, other times completely different. Like there is alBondigas here versus our alMondigas. Of course, every Pinoy loves Jamon but our Hamon is more American than Spanish. Which is a pity. And who has not heard of Arroz Valenciana? Valencia is where paella originated. How about Leche flan? Or pastillas?






Even here, you don’t throw your “Basura” just anywhere. When you want to rent or lease something, you say “Alquila” or “alquiler” similar to our arkila. And it’s not difficult to figure out what entrada and salida mean.







It will take some great effort for me to learn a new language like Spanish. Call me slow. But I’m always amazed how some Tagalog words are rooted in Spanish. After all, they ruled for nearly 400 years, didn’t they?