Meet the foreigner who can proudly speak Bekinese
The Foreigner Who Speaks Tagalog is a subject of awe. “Mabuhay!” or “Mahal kita,” when spoken by a foreign artist, can surely send fans into fits of frenzy. See: Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. It also helps if the foreigner in question is good looking, hence, the popularity of Eat Bulaga’s You’re My Foreignoy and the success of Brazilian models in local show business.
Now that fame is just a viral video away, foreignoy-we are wholly embracing this term for the sake of this story-internet sensations become popular online, like the American who cooks adobo, the Canadian who speaks Cebuano, the Frenchman who sings Pusong Bato, and the British-Filipino boyband who shows off pranks.
As the CHED memorandum to stop teaching Filipino in college remains on hold, think about this: Do you love your mother tongue as much as this foreigner does?
The art of Tagalog
Wil Dasovich, a 24-year-old Filipino-American model, is a famous foreignoy on YouTube. He demonstrates his fluency in Tagalog and all its variations, including malalim na Tagalog, salitang kalye, and Bekinese or Tagalog gay lingo. Wil was only taking a break from his business in the US, but he ended up staying in the Philippines for good. He isn’t a household name yet. But to the followers of his YouTube channel Tsong and Tsonggo, he’s a star.
Wil started posting videos on his channel in 2014. His first video was “10 Hours of Walking in Manila,” a social experiment inspired by “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.” Wil’s video showed how Filipinos typically treat foreigners roaming around Manila. Unlike the woman who experienced street harassment from catcallers, Wil and his friend were praised and admired by both men and women.
After the success of his first video, Wil began The Art of Tagalog series. We’ve seen plenty of white hunks, charming chinitas, and beautiful Caucasians speaking and singing in Tagalog. But seldom do we see foreigners who are good at speaking salitang kalye and Bekinese.
To date, Wil’s The Art of Tagalog series has accumulated almost half-a-million views, all thanks to viewers who enjoy watching foreigners say words like gorabels, flangak, toma, and ikasa mo men!
‘Tagalog is cool, man’
Wil is still learning how to speak Tagalog in a country that considers speaking English a status symbol. While most Filipinos say “nosebleed” to poke fun at their own (and other people’s) English skills, Wil says “balingoyngoy.” When we say “haggard,” Wil says “Haggardo Versoza.” When tambays say “Wala akong pera,” Wil says “Wa atik, wa datung.” And most of all, while some of us dream of having a mestizo or mestiza jowa, Wil claims that he only dates proud Tagalog speakers.
“I’m trying to make it pauso that Tagalog is cool, man. Filipino is cool, all the different styles of Filipino: salitang kalye, bekinese, malalim, the true Tagalog, makata. It’s an ever-evolving language. There’s always different styles, and it’s rich in culture. You should be really proud of your own language,” Wil said.
Bold enough to speak Beki
Understanding jargon and slang is a plus, but actually speaking gay lingo is a feat of its own.
So when Wil says Bekinese phrases like Tom Jones (gu-Tom = hungry), Chanda Romero (t’yan = tummy), Mahalia Jackson (mahal = expensive), and words like wit, wiz, wititit, witchelles, witchikels, wizel, witteles, and witwitwit sabi ng ibong tiririt to mean a gazillion beki ways of saying “wala” or “nothing,” some viewers were quick to make assumptions about his sexuality.
Even the certified bekimons in his video went kyota kinabaliw (crazy) at his eloquence in Bekinese.
“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,” he said.
Wil’s convincing delivery of beki words has made it hard for some viewers to separate Real Wil from YouTube Wil.
“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.
Pretty much secure of his sexuality, Wil only speaks Bekinese out of entertainment. In trutility, salitang beki is actually one of his favorite variations of Tagalog.
‘It doesn’t make you cool speaking English’
Living in the Philippines for more than two years now, Wil has been exposed to the colonial mentality of Pinoys. The Philippines is the third largest English-speaking nation in the world, but Wil has encountered lots of Filipinos who aren’t natural English speakers: They mimic a nosebleed, stutter, and try hard to “be spoken in dollars” when talking to him.
But then here he is, trying hard to learn Tagalog, implementing his own zero-English policy, and jotting down new Tagalog phrases in sticky notes just so he can memorize all of them. The sticky notes have covered an entire wall in his bedroom.
“I wanna show people that it doesn’t make you cool speaking English. Tagalog is a really cool language,” he said.
Apart from Filipinos ridiculing themselves with “nosebleed” jokes, the most absurd thing that Wil can’t get over with was encountering Filipinos who can’t even understand simple Tagalog.
“It’s pretty crazy. Sometimes I wanna tell them, ‘I think you’re pretending.’ Pero minsan naiinis ako sa kanila ‘cause you’ve been here your entire life but you don’t even speak Filipino. Ito ‘yung linggwahe niyo, this should be your first language,” he said.
It might seem ironic for Filipinos to heed the advice of a foreigner, but if a Foreigner Speaking Tagalog is what it takes for Pinoys to be proud of their own language, then Wil is all for it.
“I just wanted to show my perspective bilang isang banyaga na natututo ng Tagalog that other people don’t really get. No one’s really talked about this and broke down Tagalog from a foreigner’s perspective,” he said.
With help from his Am-boy friends and his American dad, the videos “Foreigners Speak Salitang Beki” and “Foreigners Speak Salitang Kalye” trended on YouTube last August. His social experiment received positive feedback. Now, he updates his YouTube channel with a daily vlog series called “Wil’s World.”
Although he’s half-Filipino, Wil truly feels like a foreigner in the Philippines. For 22 years, he spent his life in the US with his American dad and his Filipina mom. She didn’t teach him Tagalog, which explains why he’s curious to learn the language.
Wil’s first visit in Manila was “for vacation lamang.” Wil was frustrated with his house-painting business in the US, and he never expected that a different life awaited him in the Philippines. In the US, he had to knock on the doors of his neighbors to offer them his house-painting services. He was rejected many times.
So when a talent scout approached him while he was eating in Greenbelt…
“Nagulat talaga ako. ‘Are you like serious?’” said Wil.
He eventually landed a modeling contract. And now, he’s also a rising vlogger.
Learn it the hard way
Wil started his own Filipino 101 lessons as soon as arrived in the Philippines. Lesson One was “to interact only with Tagalog speakers,” the first of whom was his mom.
“If she tries to speak to me in English, I just say ‘What?’ and act like I don’t understand what she’s saying. And I would do that with anyone else.”
Learning Tagalog was hard for Wil because he had to learn it from scratch. He jotted down every Tagalog word he heard, memorized them, and arranged these words to form awkward phrases like “kuya, bili ito.” Not bad for a sari-sari store transaction, but baluktot enough to make people laugh.
“Kahit tumatawa na lahat ng tao sa’kin, I was just persistent in speaking Tagalog.”
He lived and breathed Tagalog. He tuned in to local radio stations, recorded teleseryes, and listened to them before he went to sleep.
He took learning Tagalog so seriously that he was even called “racist” by his friends because he didn’t hangout with foreigners who can’t speak the language.
“Nakaka-stressful talaga the whole process of learning, like may sayad talaga ako.”
While most Filipinos practice a perfect American accent, half-American Wil memorizes bekinese and salitang kalye. And as Juan Dela Cruz grooms himself for the American Dream, Wil, a foreigner, tries his best to become a Filipino. Maybe it’s just part of the Filipino psyche to seek validation from foreigners before we can appreciate our own culture.
Wil’s baluktot Tagalog still gets ridiculed, but for him, being laughed at only pushes him to do better.
“As they’re mocking me, they’re laughing with me at the same time. They’re being entertained by me. Minsan it’s hard kapag tinutukso nila ako, but as long as they’re happy, that’s what keeps me doing it.”
The screenshots were taken from Wil Dasovich’s YouTube videos.
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