Some treat it as a manifestation of one’s economic status. Others use it to gauge intelligence (or stupidity). However, there are those who believe that Davao-Tagalog, more commonly known as ‘Conyo,’ is just part of the Ateneo culture – an identity Ateneans have built over the years – and, to some extent, an implication of resistance against ‘Tagalog Imperialism.’
Ano man gud yan uy?
Conyo is typically described as a manner of speaking that combines English, Filipino, and Bisaya in a “posh” way.
Palanca Awardee, short story writer, and Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) Alumnus Karlo Antonio David defined “Davao-Tagalog”, which he prefers to be called as “Davao Filipino”, as “Tagalog spoken as a native language in Davao and neighboring areas, with heavy influences of Cebuano.”
He separates it from Davao Conyo or “AdDU Conyo.” According to him, Davao Conyo, as how most Ateneans use it, is “Davao Tagalog codeswitched with English.”
It can be observed that the statement “Kumain na tayo,” when spoken in Davao Tagalog, becomes “Magkain na gud tayo be” and, in Davao Conyo, “Mag-eat na gud tayo be.”
Why Davaoenos, particularly students in AdDU, speak this ‘language’ may be attributed to several reasons.
Others say that speaking the standard Tagalog cannot really be pulled off perfectly by most, leading them to resort to mixing Cebuano words in the way they speak. This has also become a trend, influencing others who do not really speak in Davao Tagalog to use the same manner of speaking.
David said that one can add a “social-climbing dimension” to the reasons why people speak Davao Tagalog. Conyo-speaking students are labelled by most as “posh” and “stylish”. They possibly can speak in standard Tagalog but intentionally use Conyo in order to “fit in.”
Nevertheless, Conyo grows and stays alive in the city. Interestingly, it evolved along with implied rules observed in every sentence that comes out of the mouth of every Davao Tagalog speaker.
Despite its informality, Davao-Tagalog also has its own rules; it is not just random, severely unpredictable mixing of Cebuano, Tagalog, and English terms. In fact, an “AdDU Conyo” speaker can easily spot if one is “doing it the right way” or if he needs to learn more about the “Conyomandments.”
In his Master’s thesis entitled “Davao Filipino and its Literary Possibilities”, David provided a list of grammatical rules based on the observed contrasts between Davao and “standard” Tagalog.
These rules cover not only how to use verbs properly in Davao Tagalog but also the proper word choice and use of Cebuano interjections, conjunctions, and prefixes among others.
For example, the prefix nag- should be added to a verb to make it simple past tense so that the speaker says “nagkain” instead of the standard Tagalog “kumain.” Speaking in Davao Conyo also compels one to use Cebuano interjections like “gud” and “baya” and excessive “uys” in their sentences.
These rules established implicitly by Davao Conyo speakers make the language more interesting and peculiar. The question now is how it is received by the public, both inside and outside of AdDU.
Conyo: Kaganda or ka-annoying?
When in AdDU, one can surely hear people talk in Davao Tagalog and, at the same time, see students roll their eyes in disdain of the said manner of speaking.
For David, however, Davao Tagalog is something Davaoeños should embrace.
“I love Davao Tagalog with a passion,” he expressed.
In fact, David has written numerous short stories, poems, and plays in Davao Tagalog that have been published online and on print.
Others are amazed by its peculiarity and how people are really innovative when it comes to language.
For some, however, speaking in Conyo is an implication of the speakers’ lack of mastery in speaking either the English or Filipino language. But even one intentionally wants to speak in Conyo, there are those who express that they still find Conyo annoying and exceedingly unnatural it’s already pretentious.
“Annoying siya kay gina-mixed ang languages and naay certain tone na makairita sa maminaw. Ang mga naga-Conyo sad kay naga-pretend na na-belong sa higher classes.”
On the defense of the Conyo speaker, others argue that people should learn to recognize that we have different manners of expression.
De-Tagalization and Manila imperialism
Davao Tagalog is not just interesting. For some, it can be a deliberate way of lessening the influence of one of the elements of the influential Manila culture: the Tagalog language.
“Poor clueless victims of Manila imperialistic brainwashing [are] taught since birth that they have to speak like Mike Enriquez,” David expressed in an interview, adding that it is a sign of rich diversity and confluence in Mindanao.
Davao Tagalog can be considered “de-Tagalization”, a process which David defined in his study as the disassociation of the Philippine national cultural elements from the Tagalog ethnicity, and a “manifestation of resistance against Manila imperialism.”
However, while it is true that Davao Tagalog allows Davaoeños to deviate from the standard Tagalog that has been seemingly forced to them, there are those who express that how it allows the mixture of Tagalog words may lead to the endangerment of the ‘pure’ Cebuano language.
A study by Leslie Love Dolalas, for example, concluded that the massive replacement of Bisaya words with Tagalog in Conyo does not develop Binisaya language but “promotes language shift from mother tongue to Tagalog.”
However, David argues that Davao Tagalog implies linguistic variety, and, as stated on his thesis, “insisting on linguistic purism is denying the area of that linguistically diverse identity.”
“Leave the purism to the backward thinking people from the linguistic motherlands. Mindanao is the land of cultural confluence, and we must not let Luzon and Visayas get in the way of that. The same way we didn’t let them prevent a Mindanawon being elected President,” he added.
However, whether or not speaking in Conyo is fueled by the desire to end Manila imperialism, it cannot be denied that this manner of speaking sometimes results to stereotypes people hold against those who speak it, especially Ateneo students – fancy, pretentious, finicky. However, like what some people expressed, there may be something beyond speaking in Conyo that is much more meaningful than a manifestation of undesirable attitude, something deeper than a display of riches.