Matigam Kaw?

Dinabaw 101 – an Introduction.

Matigam kaw? While literally meaning “Do you know?”, such a question in some parts of Davao are asked to initiate a discussion from speaking to knowing to understanding. Well it really means if you know and speak Dinabaw or Minandaya.

Dinabaw, Dabawenyo or Minandaya (all used interchangeably) or others would call, Kinamayo, is spoken mainly in Davao Oriental or East Coast. There are still a lot of speakers there, mainly old ones now and there are still some in Davao City. Like Filipino which is mainly Tagalog, Dinabaw is mainly Mandaya, with a sprinkling of Visayan or Tagalog or other immigrant dialects. Dinabaw is a hodgepodge, a hybrid, or a creole, a mix really. Dinabaw should really need a serious study (thanks to Karlo Antonio Galay David for the suggestion), if we can only encourage students of today to learn it and research about it, then we would fully understand it.

So, how do we revived it? How do we make people be interested in an otherwise dying albeit disappearing language? Do we have to protect it?

By studying it. By teaching it. At least. And then speaking and practicing it.

I am not really much of a speaker. While I grew up surrounded with it, I didn’t develop much interest in it.

Yes, it needs to be protected. Dinabaw is a dying language. There still a lot of speakers, but not really passed on. So those that speak are obviously not getting young anymore. Most of the from the families whose old are still speaking it, their young are presumably understanding, but not really speaking it, or maybe speaking it and adapting but sprinkling it with their own. Confusing?

While language in order to survive, has to change and adapt. Worrying is Dinabaw is struggling to survive if I may call it that if the younger doesn’t have much interest in it.


To state, Dinabaw or Minandaya is not really Mandaya, but there similarites because it is from the latter where you got the former. The language is to most who who understands and talk it, it is part of their identity. It is what makes them.

The vernacular sounds like as if in a heated discussion. It maybe loud, but not really. Years ago, when I go to visit relatives in Mati, it was a comforting chatter. Once you get past the Davao Oriental boundary, you hearing Dinabaw. I didn’t realize how comforting it was when I got to my adulthood. Not sure why, probably because I started missing. It is something from my past. It is my identity.

There are probably some nuances, words can differ from one place to the other. The tone or accent may differ too. I remember our help, both were Mandaya (my apologies for this as I don’t want to stereotype them, or be called racist or anything as I have some Mandaya blood in me), I could hear them talk in a singsong manner. Too different in how my relatives spoke with one another. The tone matters much. It is like a southern drawl, you have to learn where to put emphasis. So, the Cateel or the Caraga, the Mati or the Davao City Dinabaw will be subtle differences, they will call some by different names, but they will understand each other. Ah, the wonders of confusion.

There are some basics which has become part of a banner greeting. But it doesn’t do justice. Everywhere you go, you would see banners or billboards, saying Madayaw na pag-abot! Yes, the welcome sign. But nothing beyond that. It is self limiting. It is a discredit to the language, why would you stop there? There is more to the language please, than just the Madayaw. It seems those who wrote that, have not really promoted the language, there is just no next step. If you are to promote the language, use it in most of your marketing schemes, not just being stuck in the welcome sign.

Now, some basics (past the Madayaw).

Usog – Man
Bubay – Woman
Iso – Boy/Child
Budi – Girl
Panaw – Leave
Wain – Where
Unan – What
Pangan – Name
Dum – Night/Evening

And some greetings:
Kumusta da kaw? – How are you?
Hain kaw magkadto? – Where are you going?

We hope through the series of articles, we can explore it more. Dinabaw is not the conyo, but a breathing language. It is not Davao-speak using gani or man or anything in between. Hopefully we will end up with the more questions than answers. Then with those questions, we can proceed and discuss even further. For now, this will be a tall order, but doable. Let’s bring this language to the forefront, kay Dabawenyo kita! (because we are Dabawenyos!)

Sige, magpadayon kita.

If you want more: you can go to this site:

I am appreciative of those who helped in the writing and inspiration of these series, to Vicente Tionko and the rest of the Davao of the Past community who contributed their insights to making this a reality. As with the other articles of the website, this will go through a series of edits where corrections needs to be done. If there people who want to help out in the development of the series, I will gladly welcome them.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Victoria says:

    Ay, kadayaway isab agaw sin-i ha? Awon yaga research bahin ng Mandaya na tiniyaban sang-awon, pero inday daw yatibug ngawon. Tanawon ko kadi.


  2. Roslyn lapaz says:

    Sang mga eskwelahan sang davao oriental yatinga ako na yogamit ng “mother tongue” pera cebuano dialect kadi. Minandaya gawo para mga iso naton matigam ng tiniyaban naton.


  3. Emelina says:

    In Davao Oriental, I was always asked: “Matigam kaw Kinamayo?”


  4. Joy Diaz Grecia says:

    Kadyaway sad.i na initiative! Sikira agaw matibog da ngini. Aber di taga ngani ing kanak pamilya, but growing up in Baganga, Davao Oriental is a bliss. Yang kanak mga umpo, 7 and 3 y.o., yagbagas Davao pero puro mangkatigamay mag kinamayo. They are very comfortable using the kinamayo words na ‘ikayad”pabyon”sabanas”sagaw”amada’etc. Kinamayo ing kanami tiniyaban sang bay despite that ing ina ko ilongga asta ilocano ing kanak ama, I’m a proud kinamayo by heart! ❤❤❤


  5. Sister Maria Gilda Morales Peñafiel, RVM says:

    Taga Baganga, Davao Oriental ako. Kadayaway sin-i na initiative! It really caught my attention! I-push nato ngini kay sayang kung mamatay yan-i na tiniyaban. Malayo-ay da ing kanak mga panaw kay missionary religious sa ako. Yakatuon hasta matigam isab ako ng tiniyaban na lain pero dili ko gayud kalingawan ing kanak Davaoeño! Usahay ag agaw mawangi primero kung way kanak ka-istorya na Davaoeño pero, lima lang ka minuto, okay da. Hasta tono, klarohay dayon na taga Baganga na Davaoeño. The accent changes from one town to the other. And a native from Davao would know which town the speaker is from – Mati City, Taragona, Manay, Caraga, Baganga, Cateel, Boston. Kung awon kyalingawan ko, dugangi da mayo. Maybe there are geographical changes. Dugayay da wa ako maka-uli ngadto Baganga. I will always be proud of this paradise along the eastcoast of Davao where I grew up. This town is protected by the Blessed Mother of the Immaculate Conception, the town’s patroness. Pyaga-ampo ko gayud na ing mga taga Davao Oriental dili kalingawan in tiniyaban na Davaoeño and preserve the pristine beauty of the eastcoast of Davao. I hope many other Davaoeños will contribute and support this initiative. Count me in! I am based in Quezon City at the moment.


  6. Raffy Castillo says:

    Please continue this initiative to preserve and propagate this dialect we call Dinabaw. I grew up hearing this dialect spoken but unfortunately was not passed on after my father’s generation.


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