Conyo: The Philippine Language That Defined a Social Class

Masungi Georeserve, Philippines
Masungi Georeserve, Philippines | Photo by Mark Felix Pisan Jr. on Unsplash

The Filipino language is widely spoken in the Philippines, but there are a variety of languages across the archipelago. These may be native to a particular area, depending on the island group. In some cases, a group of slang words and phrases emerged from daily conversations and gave birth to a new type of language, such as conyo.

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Mines View Park, Baguio, Philippines

What conyo really means

If you search for the origin of the word conyo, the results might surprise you. The meaning of the Spanish word conyo, or coño, refers to the female genitalia. It’s a common Spanish idiom, often tagged as vulgar, that’s usually used by locals to emphasize a certain emotion.

Yet in the Philippine context, the word has an entirely different meaning. The word conyo often refers to a language where people speak Taglish — a combination of the English and Filipino languagesin a fussy way. Using this language may also exhibit that speakers have limited knowledge of either language and have to code-switch.

It’s not just a language

The conyolanguage is prominent among youth in the upper class. It’s usually heard in everyday conversations among high school and college students who study at expensive colleges and universities. It has become more than a language, as the term has been used to describe people as conyo, since these people (who are often wealthy or social climbers) speak this language and have certain characteristics or mannerisms: They are up-to-date with the latest gadgets, do not know how to ride public transport, and own expensive belongings.

Because of such observations, some locals have stereotyped people who speak in this manner as “conyo kids,” even when they don’t belong to the upper class. Rich kids, on the other hand, are instantly dismissed as “conyo kids” because of their social status. Either way, there have been negative views about the use of the language or culture of conyobecause it suggests that there’s a need to incorporate the English language into the native dialect and that only well-educated people speak it.

Common conyo phrases and signs

Do you know someone who unintentionally speaks conyo or who proudly speaks this way? Here are common phrases you’ve probably heard or characteristics you’ve observed from them:

They insert words such as make or so into their sentences.

You’ve probably heard some students say, “Let us make pasok to class,” or “Let’s go to class.” They also say, “Don’t make me lakad na,or “Don’t make me walk any further.” In some cases, they use so, such as “It’s so sarap,” or “It’s very delicious.”

They love to reply in abbreviations.

Ask them if they’re coming to the party tonight, and you’ll get a message that says “G!” which means they’re game for it. Having an unfortunate moment? They’ll tell you it’s “BV” or “bad vibes.”

They usually don’t know how to commute.

Because people who are identified as conyo usually come from wealthy families, they are often unaware of how to use public transportation. They’ll either bring a car or take a cab to get to their destination.

They know the latest trends and the most expensive brands.

You’ll probably observe that they replace their phones every time a new smartphone model is available on the market. And, when it comes to signature brands? They know how to distinguish a fake item from an original one.

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