In Nick Joaquin's story "The Order of Melchizedek", Sid and Mrs. Borja are trying to retrieve a card that Sid had pushed down an edge of the upholstery in a taxi. The girl who has washed the taxi tells them she sometimes finds things that had been forgotten in taxis:

Sometimes I look in the cars first, but not always , no-just to see was something forgotten. Sometimes a magazine, or a fallen coin. Very often, panties. Aie, por bida man guid, I would not touch those, no, not even if golden.

What does "por bida man guid" mean? I have been unable to find the phrase online. "Bida" reminded me of "vida", as in the Spanish phrase "en mi vida" ("never in my life"), which would make sense in this context. (The Philippines were a Spanish colony from 1565 to 1898.) But it could also be a phrase from one of the local languages, such as Tagalog or Cebuano.

  • I suspect it will mean something akin "Even for my life, I wouldn't touch them, man"
    – Ángel
    Oct 23, 2020 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


Wiktionary identifies ‘porbida’ as one word in the Cebuano language.

Pinning down that language is itself something of a goose-chase. A user on Quora, Ray Hart, who says they are in the Philippines explains:

Visayan is the language group. There are dozens of languages in that group some of them are close enough to be mutually understandable, others are not. However, almost all of these people say they speak Bisaya if you ask them. Cebuano is the label academics like to use as a blanket term for the largest group of mutually understood local languages. However, in real life, Cebuano, is the dialect that is spoken by people from around Cebu and uses a lot of words not used anywhere else. Trying to say Cebuano is the same as Bisaya is a lot like saying English spoken in Glasgow is the same as practiced by Shakespearean actors and the same as South Texas English, Valley English, and Filipino English.


If this is accurate and there are lots of variations on the theme, that may explain why it is proving so difficult to find a translation online.

Google Translate features Cebuano, but fails to translate the phrase in question.

Wiktionary’s entry for Porbida says:


used to express anger, irritation, disappointment, annoyance, contempt, etc.

And identifies it as a Calque of Spanish ‘por vida’.

From that I think we can assume that the whole phrase is an interjection so in some sense the literal meaning is not essential to understanding it’s function.

Personally, and reading it with Scottish eyes, it is tempting to translate it as ‘God forbid’, with God being the ‘man guid’/ good man. But that would be treating Cebuano as a kind of pidgin, which I don’t think it is.

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