How to Say “Happy Birthday” in Tagalog (and Other B-Day Related Expressions)

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Besides how to say “Happy birthday!”, in this article you will learn to say Tagalog phrases that people often say during birthday parties. 

Growing up, I enjoyed having a typical Filipino birthday party every year.  Mum would always prepare and serve her cheesy baked spaghetti, her crowd-pleaser of a chocolate cake, and barbeque skewers with satay sauce.

Just as my taste buds had learned to look forward to this classic menu every year, I also had gotten used to hearing classic Tagalog birthday expressions as well. And just like my Mum’s delicious home-cooked menu, these phrases will please the birthday celebrant and the party hosts.

Let’s get started by learning how to say the most popular birthday greeting:

Maligayang bati! (Happy birthday!)

(Audio file coming soon…)

3 Ways to Say, “Happy Birthday” in Tagalog (Filipino)

Maligayang Bati! is the most conversational way to greet anyone a happy birthday.  It has a more formal counterpart:  Maligayang Kaarawan which means the same thing but is not typically used conversationally.

There is also an even more formal way to make a birthday greeting: Maligayang Araw ng Kapanganakan! It literally means: A Happy Day of Birth!

So how do you know which of the 3 phrases to use? Well, if you’re not writing a formal or academic paper and simply intend to greet a friend or send a birthday message, best to go with the shortest and most casual Tagalog phrase: 

Maligayang Bati!

4 Tagalog Phrases to Say to the Birthday Boy or Girl at the Party

Besides the expected Maligayang Bati!, here are 4 more expressions to say that will help you score brownie points not only with the birthday celebrant but also the party hosts.  First basic rule of thumb: Pay the hosts at least a single sincere compliment — the home-cooked menu is a good place to start.

1. Ang sarap talaga ng baked spaghetti! (The baked spaghetti is so yummy!)

Every Filipino birthday party has its own version of spaghetti. Be it studded with hotdogs or thickened with sweet tomato sauce, a cheesy baked version is extra special. Notice the cook’s effort and sing the spaghetti praises! Your hearty appreciation just might score another invite to the next food-fest.

2. O, wacky naman, wacky!  Smiiile! (Oh how about a wacky shot, wacky! Smiiile!)

Are you the birthday party’s designated (or self-appointed) photographer?  Take the more formal group photos for posterity, but don’t forget to loosen up the vibe and ask everyone to ham it up for the camera!  Going wacky makes for good energy. And besides, who doesn’t appreciate a guest who makes the party even more fun?

3. Sobrang nag-enjoy ako. Sa uulitin, ha! (I really had fun. ‘Til the next, okay?)

After the birthday party, do more than just thank the hosts. Candidly let them know that you had a fantastic time. The casual yet warm “sa uulitin”, expresses how much you’d  love to experience their hospitality again — a sweet bonus that’ll level up your guest etiquette by a couple notches.

4. Habang tumatagal, lalo kang gumaganda/gumagwapo! (As the years go by, the more beautiful/handsome you look!)

Instead of saying the usual “You look great!” to the birthday celebrant, pay this more thoughtfully crafted compliment instead.  Filipinos can be sensitive about their age going past 31 — the last number in the kalendaryo (calendar).  This phrase makes the celebrant less self-conscious of the fact.

Before You Go

Filipinos are warm and welcoming birthday party hosts. Be the kind of guest that people love to have over by saying any of these simple Tagalog phrases. Speak kindly and be appreciative.  Remember: just like the classic baked spaghetti you’d find in a Filipino birthday party, graciousness never goes out of style.

Start here, if you’re interested in learning more Tagalog.

Marie Gutierrez

Filipino (Tagalog) is my native language, but with more than 15 years experience writing professionally in English, I am uniquely qualified to flex my semicolons to help others learn this magnificent language and let you in on cultural insights that you won't get anywhere else.


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