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Starting 5ive: ‘Bek,’ ‘Swak,’ and Other Pinoy Terms

May 8, 2015
If you have played your heart out for ice tubig or have crawled like a baby after losing a “lusutan” round, chances are you already know what these, uhm, words mean. But where did they come from? That’s what we’d like to know too.


“Caidiiiic!” You say to yourself, after releasing a shot from downtown with “0.4 seconds left,” over two imaginary defenders. Swak (more on swak later)! The crowd goes wild in your head, and you go into that celebratory pose you’ve rehearsed many times before.

American singer Beck. Totally unrelated to this article.
A photo of American singer Beck. Totally unrelated to this article.

Out of nowhere, mid-postgame interview, a stranger picks up the ball and hangs on to it for a bit. You snap out of your hoop daydream and before he can even start his dribble, you call out: “Bek!”—with conviction, with both arms semi-outstretched and in position for a catch-and-shoot. The stranger nods at you and passes you the ball. A clear understanding is established, and the non-moment is over.

What isn’t clear, however, is the origins of “bek” itself. Is it a shortened “balik”? Or is it a bastardized “back,” as in “give it back”? If you have an answer for us, please let us know. In the meantime, as an experiment, the next time you’re out there shooting hoops, say “balik” or “back”—or “back shoot” if you’re feeling Splash-y—and tell us how it goes.



It’s the Pinoy version of “swish,” obviously, and is the sound typically emitted by the points scored by the likes of James Yap or Jimmy Alapag. “Swak” has also evolved into many off-the-court things, mostly unrelated to the sound a net makes when it’s at the mercy of a shooter’s touch.

Hear that?

Here’s the real Caidiiiic showing us what swak looks and sounds like when you’re 47 years old and dropping 54 points on NBA legends:



Because not all Pinoys can dunk, most had to master the art of the lay-up—the stronger the “pektus,” the better. While the etymology of the word “pektus” is unknown, several PBA players have mastered the technique as shown below by the Pambansang Reverse.

The late, great Master Rapper Francis Magalona also recorded a song called “Pektus” in the 90s, but we doubt he was referring to the same thing.



Also “buwakaw” or “buhaya,” this is something you don’t want to be known as, unless you have Smush Parker and Kwame Brown as teammates.

The science behind “bakaw” or being a ballhog is always open to debate, but know that once you’ve been tagged as such, it would be very difficult to move on. Just ask Melo.



The “ala-hoy” shot is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever see in basketball, and is proof of the existence of basketball gods.

It is best described as a circus shot, but “ala-hoy” just sounds more reckless and as zero chill as the act itself. PBA legends Samboy Lim and Vergel Meneses had a lot of these moments in their prime, if only because they can hang in the air longer than most defenders.

Here’s Trevor Booker of the Utah Jazz taking ala-hoy to a whole new level.

Honorable mentions: Butata. Kalawit. Bengga.

If there are other Pinoy terms we missed, let us know in the comments or tweet us using the hashtag #Starting5ive para swak.