Tracing the Evolution of the Filipino Language

The development of Filipino language has undergone a dynamic process that reflects the country's diverse cultural and historical influences. From the use of Tagalog, the country's official language, to the incorporation of Spanish, American, and other indigenous languages, the Filipino language continues to evolve with time. The emergence of Salitang Balbal or slangs, adds another layer of complexity to Filipino language, as it reflects the unique identity and creativity of Filipinos. While some may view slangs negatively, it's undeniable that it has become an integral part of Filipino communication and culture, making it a compelling and insightful topic for an essay about Filipino language.

The speech and language evolves, and the use of slangs is keeping up with it.

History of Filipino Slang

The evolution of language has been great to the point where it has been reflected to one’s culture. Surely, how the Filipino language has evolved had an influence from different groups in the society. Part of the history of language in the country is the formation of Slangs or Salitang Balbal. Slangs have taken tons of faces – from inversion of words to the Bekimon language, the invention of these words have brought impact to a group’s culture. Lots of these words have a surprising origin and if one’s going to use it, it’s important to know it was formed.

Throughout time, the Filipino language has evolved just like us, humans. Although there is a basic usage of the Filipino language, there are certain groups of people who invent words of their own that would only be limited to them. These words are can be called slangs. Slangs somehow came from small groups of people that somehow gain popularity due to its often usage. The list of salitang balbal goes on and one would be surprised on how it originated.

Lots of various salitang balbal are continuously being added to the list of slangs commonly used by Filipinos. Surprisingly, many slangs that are used today have originated in the 19th century. Tadbalik or the reversing of words was commonly used in the 70’s. Words like “erpat” (father) and “erpat” (mother) are examples of Tadbalik. Studies showed that the invention of slangs is reflected to the type of groups like the gay community who have their own language the Bekimon. It’s true that more slangs will be created but it’s important to know how these words originated.

Although lots of Filipino slangs are gaining popularity these days, surprisingly, there are many commonly used slangs that can be traced back not so long ago. Most of these common slangs came from the 70’s people. The inversion of words can be considered as one of the most influential movements that happened in the history of the Filipino language. Words like “astig” came from tigas while “amats” came from tama. There are even people who would reverse each word in their sentence. Some may consider it as dumb, but some may see it as an art of usage of language.


The Philippines may be considered as the country that has the most variety of languages.

From the two basic languages, Tagalog and English, to the different dialects in various area (e.g. Ilokano, Bicolano, Kapampangan, etc.), Filipinos have a unique way of communicating. However, as the country progress, more and more languages, most of them are unusual, are added to the list of dialects that Filipinos use. Conyo, Jejemon, Bekimon, and other slangs are considered as Salitang Balbal. At par with the evolution of the country’s language is the usage of these slangs. Due to the often usage of these words, the normal conversation of the people are being turned into a creative one. Some may view this in the negative way, but others consider this as a way of expression.

Words like “werpa” (reversed from power) and “lodi” (from idol) are gaining popularity these days. Although the inversion of words originated in the last century, there are people who would argue that the usage of these colloquial terms is a “de-volution” of the Filipino language. However, some people, even influential ones like Juan Miguel Severo, think that the usage of these slangs is a way of expressing oneself. Maybe that’s the reason why the usage of salitang balbal has spread all over the country and had been used often in almost every conversation.

In a country where the LGBTQ+ community is accepted, it is almost unavoidable to know few things about their culture. One of these is their language. “Swardspeak” or “Gay Linggo” is the name of the language of the gay community in the Philippines. Almost everyone in the country, disregarding the gender, has used at least one gay language and some of them don’t even notice using it. Words like “Char” or “Waley” has been used by a lot of people even by the straight ones. Gay Linggo has been considered as a medium of expressing freedom by the gay community, making its way to the Filpino culture.

The Filipino language has evolved so much that tons of salitang balbal has been added to the pile of Tagalog slangs. These words have been used so often to the point where it is now considered as part of the country’s culture. The usage of slangs has been incorporated in the Filipino language and a lot of people have used these words in almost single one of their conversations. Filipinos are fond of using slangs.

Consequently, salitang balbal has now been considered as a language of everyday use.


When regarding slang as part of the Filipino language, the perspectives of people are divided. Some see it negatively – they would consider the usage of all slangs as “jejemon” and should be avoided at all times. Meanwhile, others consider it as part of the evolution of language that would consequently be part of everyday communication. Different thinking and judgements are in the minds of Filipinos when it comes to using slangs. Maybe that’s the reason why its usage are only limited to a certain group or the circle they would consider close.

As time passes by, Filipinos are becoming fonder of inventing and using slangs. The invention of these colloquial words has been a way for a lot of people to add spice in their communication. Disregarding whether a person is rich or poor, many Filipinos have created slangs of their own. Whether these slangs are understandable by a limited group or many, it is certain that etymologists gained curiosity on why Filipinos are amused in inventing their own language.

Although the usage of slangs is gaining popularity nowadays, there are still people who think that those who invent and use it are feebleminded. They have viewed it as “baduy” or “jejemon” and shouldn’t be part of the Filipino culture. However, there are more people of would consider the invention of slangs as part of the evolution of language. As language evolves, words are part of it. Therefore, Salitang Balbal shouldn’t be viewed as a de-volution of language but people should think of it as part of evolving.

A survey was conducted on students in a year level to see how often they use slang. The results showed that the students only use slang around the people whom they consider as “close friends”. The usage of slangs by these students are only limited to what they would consider as their social circle. Furthermore, the results also showed that they barely use slangs when conversing to professionals, like teachers, and people who are older than them. This shows that people can control how often they use slangs. Although its usage is starting to become a normal part of everyday communication, slangs can be limited to one’s group.


Slangs always start in a small group.

Whether it’s their circle of friends or group with commonalities, the invention of slangs always seem to be limited to a certain group at first before gaining popularity. Gay community, UV Express Drivers, Jejemons, and even the youth have slangs that are only understandable in their group. The use of these words had strengthened not only their communication but also their socialization with each other. Slangs are considered a way of expression. Therefore, the groups who create slangs of their own don’t only improve the way they converse but also the way they express themselves on others and in the community.

Although slangs became widely popular during the 19th century, people who use it are still evident today. In fact, most of them are kids. A lot of parents and elderlies are having a hard time understanding words that are used by the youth today. It’s because the slangs that kids invent today are confusing at first but if you get to know its meaning and origin, you’ll be fascinated on how creative the minds of these kids. Starbs, scoobs, and carps are sample of these new slangs created by this generation.

UV Express Language: Understand what Manong Driver is talking about. Retrieved from: riding a UV express, one could not avoid but notice the unusual words the drivers are saying to each other in their walkie talkies. It may sound a weird way of communicating but these words are in fact their codes for specific locations. “Malaking Bilog” is the Welcome Rotonda while “Backdoor” refers to a shortcut. Indeed, even the drivers of UV Express have invented their own slangs that would make their communicating easier. These shows that various slangs are created in a certain group and the understanding of it can only be limited to them.

Other than the Gay Linggo or Bekimon, another language that is considered as slang is the Jejemon. Around the year 2010 is the rise of the Jejemon community. It is the name of the group of people who dresses up with large shirts and colourful caps. However, the thing that caught the country’s attention is the way they type or text words in their phones. “Eow Poh! Jejeje” (Hello po! Hehehe). At first, it’s hard to read the text but for the Jejemons, it is how they communicate. Divided are the judgments of many Filipinos. Some says that Jejemon will negatively affect the use of language but others say that Jejemon has its limits.


Slangs are continuing to be part of the development of speech and language in the Philippines. However, how people perceive the invention of these words varies from one another and from time to time. The use of salitang balbal gained its popularity in the 19th century. Since then, different slangs were invented and used by a lot of Filipinos. The usage of these words have been passed down from generation to generation to the point where you can hear them being used by the kids today. At the same time, the perspective of Filipinos regarding the usage of slangs also varies. Some see it negatively while others consider it as part of how language evolves.

One would be surprised on how the creation of slangs today have become more complicated compared to how people from the past used slangs. During the 19th century, slangs were invented simply by inverting the syllables or letters of words. However, the way kids create slangs today are more confusing but creative at the same time. "Starbs" may look like one is asking to have coffee but its meaning is actually copy. Starbs came from Starbucks which sells coffee, the tagalog of coffee is kape and kape rhymes closely to copy. Therefore, when someone says "Bro, can you give me a starbs of Stranger Things?” the person is actually asking for a copy of the said series.

03 December 2019
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