Swardspeak: The Secret Gay Language Going Mainstream in the Philippines

Just after college, I went out west to Los Angeles and spent 2 wonderful weeks in a Filipino home and loved it.  Before going to L.A. to stay with my college friend, she informed me that there was going to be English, Spanish, and Filipino / Tagalog spoken.  I reminded her that I had heard her speaking all three over the phone before, mixing them all within the same sentence.  I decided to study up on a couple of Tagalog phrases, but it turned out I'm not much of a linguist.


Wil Dasovich faired so much better than I did.  As we learn from Vice.com, Wil planned to take a couple month backpacking adventure across the Philippines after college, but it turned into 3 years and counting as he now calls the island nation home.   Not only is he a model, he's also a well-known YouTube personality and a very good speaker of Tagalog.  Through him we learn more about a variation of Tagalog called Swardspeak.


Tagalog itself is only spoken as a first language by a quarter of the population, so it's no surprise that Dasovich would hear a hodgepodge of words and phrases. It's within this ethnolinguistic melting pot that he first encountered Swardspeak (aka Bekinese and Bekimon). A coded lexicon mostly spoken by gay men, Swardspeak draws from English and Tagalog, as well as Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Japanese. It's what might be referred to as an "anti-language," the lingua franca of an "anti-society"—in this case, the Philippines' gay subculture.

Swardspeak is both playful and mind-bogglingly complex. Many terms come from the names of celebrities, brands and a cornucopia of other colorful sources. "Walang Julanis Morisette," for instance, translates to "there's no rain," a play on a lyric from Alanis Morissette's single "Ironic"—"it's like rain on your wedding day." It is language as pun, as inside joke, as subversion—and it is as metaphorical as it is ephemeral.

"When I finally understood gay lingo, I thought it was hilarious—the use of celebrity names as words, the intonation," he recalls. Filipinos are surprised to find foreigners who can fluently speak Tagalog, let alone Swardspeak. "And when I began speaking it, people thought that was hilarious. So I went out of my way to learn it."


If you know Tagalog, you'll be way ahead of most of us when you watch the video below. I was lost since my Filipino is basically nonexistent, but if you know Filipino, then you may find this video entertaining.



Swardspeak seems like a little more creative gay slang than we that speak English use.  What have we LGBTers added to the English language lately?  Yaaaaaaaaaaasssssss,  Gold Star, Size Queen? Ugh. Yeah, not that impressive.  But historically, we were a little more creative since there was a British gay slang or British secret language at one time.


In many ways, the historic trajectory of Swardspeak parallels Polari, a British gay secret language that was widely spoken among gay men and theater types in the early-to-mid 20th century.

Polari was popularized in the mainstream by two notably campy characters, Julian and Sandy, on the 1960s BBC radio show Round the Horne. As society slowly became more open, certain words from Polari crept out of London's gay pubs and into commonplace British slang. By the time the UK Sexuality Offences Act legalized private homosexual acts in 1967, Polari fell into disuse and all but disappeared. This decline could be accredited to the stigma associated with using it as it came to embody camp stereotypes in Britain, but gay men also had fewer reasons to speak an anti-language as culture became more hospitable. Only time will tell if Swardspeak will eventually follow the path of Polari to irrelevance and eventual cultural neglect.

Just as cultural trends change, so do Swardspeak words' definitions evolve and quickly shift, like a verbal jazz which riffs upon and constantly reinterprets the world at large. "There are many words that started in gay lingo that people use, many that people don't realize started that way," Dasovich says, increasingly aware of the influence Swardspeak has on the language he uses every day. And this is perhaps what makes Swardspeak a singular, and singularly modern, language: "It's always evolving—sometimes rapidly." – Vice.com


Thanks Wil for letting me know that my "How to speak Tagalog" guide from 1997 won't get me that far with the guys in the Philippines. We'll have to brush up on a lot of things before we journey there. But seriously, if you are giving lessons, please send us the link to sign up.



Alright, yes, I am sure many of you want to know so here is the answer to the almighty question, "Is Wil gay?"


Because of his fluency in Bekinese, people started doubting his sexuality. But this guy is so Pinoy at heart and knows how to answer ala "Mister Universe"

  • “That never really frightened me because I’m comfortable with my sexuality and I’m not afraid to speak the beki language. Even if people did think I was gay, I wouldn’t be offended because I don’t think being gay is a negative thing at all. I’m a big believer in equality. I wanna show that you shouldn’t be ashamed of anything. Bekinese is another side of Tagalog that I wanna show people and make them aware of it. The play of words is really fun," he said, according to Pacifiqa. – gra.says.com


And for our LGBTers / readers that are from the Philippines or know Tagalog, is Swardspeak that popular?

Is is more so called Bekinese? 

Is it called Bekinese because of Becky? 

What are the phrases we should know?

Okay, I wikipedia's Swardspeak and found some examples.  Click on image for larger view so you can see what Antibiotic, Fillet O'Fish, and Thundercats mean.  Thundercats (OMG!)

For more info on and from Wil, see the two resources below.

1) Lifestyle Hotshots: Wil Dasovich’s Where-Tos and What To-Dos in Exploring the Philippines

and for more videos from Wil's official YouTube page visit.

2) Wil Dasovich (Tsong and Tsonggo)


And here's an extended video that I just couldn't understand, but some of you may.



h/t:  Vice.com


What do you think?