Chavacano language

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Philippine Creole Spanish (PCS)
Chavacano / Chabacano
Spoken in: Philippines 
Region: Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Cavite, Cotabato, Davao; some speakers in Semporna, Malaysia
Total speakers: 607,000 (2000) as per only in the Philippines
Language family: Spanish Creole
Spanish-based creole languages
 Philippine Creole Spanish (PCS)
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: none
ISO 639-3: cbk

Chavacano (as a proper noun, as a derivative of the Spanish adjective "chabacano," and as it is generally accepted in literature, the broadcast media, and Zamboangueños) or Chabacano (as the Spanish adjective) is the common name for the several dialects of the Philippine Creole Spanish spoken in the Philippines. The word chabacano - which the name Chavacano is derived from - is Spanish for "poor taste," "vulgar," "common," "tasteless," "tacky," or "coarse."

Chavacano speakers are concentrated mostly in Zamboanga City, in the provinces of Zamboanga, Basilan, Cavite, and in some areas of Davao and Cotabato. According to the official 2000 Philippine census, there were altogether 607,200 speakers in that same year. The figures could be much higher as the population of Zamboanga City far exceeds the census figure. Speakers are also found in Semporna, Sabah in Malaysia -- not surprisingly -- because this northern part of Borneo is close to the Sulu islands and Zamboanga Peninsula, and it was once part of Spanish Philippines until the late 19th century. Some people of the Muslim ethnic tribes of Zamboanga such as the Tausugs, the Samals, and of Basilan such as the Yakans also speak the language. In the close provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, there are muslim speakers of the Zamboangueño dialect or formally known as Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Some dialects based on the nearby regions are Castellano Abakay spoken in Davao and Cotabateño spoken in Cotabato. Castellano Abakay still has two-subdialects namely Catellano Abakay Chino and Castellano Abakay Japon. There are three known dialects of Chavacano which have Tagalog as their main substrate language: Caviteño, Ternateño, and Ermitaño (extinct). The other dialects have Cebuano as their main substrate language. Zamboangueño is the dialect with the most number of speakers, being the main language and official of Zamboanga City and the de facto language of Basilan Province.

The vocabulary is predominantly derived from the ancient/oldSpanish language, while grammar is mostly based on other AusthronesianPhilippine languages such as Tagalog and Cebuano. It is used in education, print media, television and radio.


Chabacano? Chavacano? Chabakano?

Zamboangueños usually (but not always) spell the word as Chavacano in reference to the language or to themselves as chavacanos, and they spell the word as chabacano referring to the Spanish meaning of the word and also to the language itself. Thus, Zamboangueños generally spell the word in two different ways. Caviteños, Ternateños, and Ermitaños spell the word as it is spelled originally in the Spanish language - chabacano. Davaoeños/Castellano Abakay, Cotabateños and especially those from Basilan province (de Basilan) tend to lean more on the Zamboangueño dialect spellings. It is important to take note that the dialects of the language are geographically-related. Thus, Ermitaño, Caviteño, and Ternateño are very similar to each other having Tagalog as their main substrate language while Zamboangueño, Davaoeño/Catellano Abakay, and Cotabateño are very similar having Visayan (mostly Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and some Tausug) as their main substrate languages. Tagalog words, though, are present in Zamboangueño and few other words from other austhronesian languages such as Ilocano, Subanon, Sama-Lauan, Sama-Banguingui]], Yakan, Tausug, Tau-Laut/Badjao and other austhronesian native Philippine languages, and from Italian, [Portuguese]], last but not but least from Native American language such as Quechua, [Taino]], Mexican-Indian, Nauht'l and others. Also, a Zamboangueño would call his dialect Zamboangueño or Chavacano de Zamboanga or Zamboangueño Chavacano, a Caviteño would call his dialect Caviteño or Chabacano de Cavite or Chabacano di Nisos, and etc. to emphasize the difference from one another using their own geographical location as point of reference.

There are also other alternate names and spellings for this language depending on the varieties and context (whether hispanized or native). Zamboangueños also sometimes call and spell their variety as Chavakano. Caviteño is also known as Caviten while Ermitaño as Ermiteño and Ternateño as Ternateño Chabacano o Chabacano di Bahra. Davaoeño is also Davaweño, Davawenyo, Davawenyo Zamboangenyo, Castellano Abakay, or Davao Chabacano/Chavacano. Cotabateño is also known as Cotabato Chabacano/Chavacano or Cotabateñ.

Speakers from Basilan consider their Chavacano as Zamboangueño or Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Historical development


On June 23 1635, Zamboanga became a permanent foothold of the Spanish government known as San José Fort. Bombardment of Muslim attackers, harassments of Muslim pirates and the determination to spread Christianity forced friars to request Spanish reinforcements. Zamboanga or San José Fort was also a crucial strategic location.

The military authorities decided to import labor from Luzon and the Visayas. Thus, the construction workforce eventually consisted of Spanish soldiers, masons from Cavite-who comprised the majority, sacadas from Cebu and Iloilo, and those from the various local tribes of Zamboanga like the Samals and Subanons.

Differences in dialect and culture made it difficult for one tribe to communicate with another. To add to this, work instructions were issued in Spanish. The majority of the workers were unschooled and therefore did not understand Spanish but needed to communicate with each other and the Spaniards. A lingua franca developed and became a full-fledged language still in use today, mainly in Zamboanga City.

From then on, constant Spanish military reinforcements as well as increased presence of Spanish religious institutions and educational institutions have fostered the Spanish creole.

Caviteño / Ternateño

The Merdicas were a tribe of Malays of Ternate in the Moluccas which was a small Spanish colony. Before this Ternate was a Portuguese colony. In 1574, the Merdicas volunteered to come to Cavite to support the Spanish against the threat of invasion of the Chinese pirate, Limahong. The invasion did not occur but the community of Merdicas settled in a place called Barra de Maragondon at a sandbar at the mouth of the Maragondon River. Today, the place is called Ternate and the community of Merdicas continued to use broken Spanish which came to be called Ternateño or Ternateño Chavacano.



Donde tu anda?
( ‘Where are you going?’)
Ya mirá yo con José.
( ‘I saw José.’)
Ele ya empezá buscá que buscá con el sal.
(‘He/She began to search everywhere for the salt.’)
Ele ya andá na escuela.
(‘He/She went to school.’)
Si Mario ya dormí na casa.
(‘Mario slept in the house.’)
El hombre, quien ya man encuentro tu, amo mi hermano.
(The man [whom] you met is my brother.)
El persona con quien ta conversa tu, bien bueno gayot.
(The person you are talking to is very nice indeed.)

Another Sample of Chavacano de Zamboanga

Trenta’y cuatro kilometro desde'l pueblo de Zamboanga, el Bunguiao que un barrio chico estaba como un desierto. No hay gente quien ta queda aqui. Abundante este lugar de maga animal particularmente como puerco, gatorgalla, venao y otro mas pa. Maga pajariador lang ta visita con este lugar.

'Bunguiao, a small village, thirty four kilometers from the city of Zamboanga, was once a wilderness. No people lived here. The place abounded with wild animals like pigs, wildcats, deer, and still others. The place was visited only by (bird) hunters.'

(Caviteño / Ternateño)

Nisós ya pidí pabor cun su papang.
(‘We have already asked your father for a favor.’)

Another Sample of Chavacano de Cavite

Puede nisos habla: que grande nga pala el sacrificio del mga heroe para niso independencia. Debe nga pala no niso ulvida con ilos. Ansina ya ba numa? Debe haci niso mga cosa para dale sabi que ta aprecia niso con el mga heroe. Que preparao din niso haci sacrificio para el pueblo. Que laya? Escribi mga novela como Jose Rizal?

Translation in Zamboangueño:

'Quiere decir, puede nosostros habla cay el que grande sacrificio gale ya ofrece nuestro maga heroe para obtene nosotros con nuestro independencia. Entonces, no debe nosostros olvida con ellos. Ancina gane, hende ba? Necesita nosotros manda sabe con todos que nosotros ta aprecia con nuestro maga heroe y nosotros preparado tambien sacrifica para con el nacion. Quemodo ese nosotros hace? Maga clase de novela como ya escribi si Jose Rizal, el nosotros hay escribir tambien?'

In English:

'We can say what great sacrifices our heroes have done to achieve our independence. We should therefore not forget them. Is it like this? We should do things to let it be known that we appreciate the heroes; that we are prepared to make sacrifices for our people. How? [should we] write novels like José Rizal?'

Text samples


Zamboangueño Chavacano

El Tata Todopoderoso,
creador del cielo y del tierra,
y con JesuCristo, el Unico hijo de Suyo, el de Nuestro Señor,
con quien ya concebí por medio del poder del Espiritu Santo,
y ya nacé con La Virgen Maria.
Ya padecé durante el tiempo de Poncio Pilato,
Con Ele ya crucificá, ya murí, y ya enterrá,
ya andá Lé con el mana muertos,
y na tercer día ya resucitaé Lé entre con el mana muertos,
ya subí Lé na cielo y ya sintá Lé na mano derecha del Dios Tata.
desde allí hay vené Lé otra vez
para juzgá con el mana vivos y mana muertos.
ta creé yo con el Espiritu Santo,
con el Santa Iglesia Católica Apostólica,
con el Comunion del mana Santos,
y el perdon del pecado,
con el Resurrección del mana muertos
y con el vida eterna. Amen.

Lord's Prayer

Zamboangueño Chavacano
Zamboangueño (common)

De atón Tata que tallí na cielo,
bendito el de Ustéd nombre.
Mandá vené con el de Ustéd Reíno;
Hace el de Ustéd voluntad aquí na tierra,
igual como allí na cielo.

Dále conamón el pan para cada día.
Perdoná el de amón maga pecados,
como ta perdona también kamé con aquellos
quien ya pecá conamón.
Y no dejá que hay caé kamé na tentación
sino librá conamón de mal.

Zamboangueño (formal)

Nuestro Tata Quien talli na cielo,
bendito el de Usted nombre.
Manda vené con el de Usted reíno;
Hace el de Usted voluntad aqui na tierra,
igual como alli na cielo.

Dale con nosotros el pan para cada dia.
Perdona el de nuestro mana pecados,
como nosotros ta perdona con aquellos
quien ya peca con nosotros.
Y no deja que nosotros hay caé na tentacion
sino libra con nosotros de mal.

Caviteño Chabacano

Niso Tata Qui ta na cielo,
quida santificao Tu nombre.
Manda vini con niso Tu reino;
Sigui el qui quiere Tu aqui na tierra,
igual como na cielo!

Dali con niso ahora,
niso comida para todo el dia.
Perdona el mga culpa di niso,
si que laya ta perdona niso con aquel
mga qui tiene culpa con niso.
No dija qui cai niso na tentacion,
pero salva con niso na malo.

Ternateño Chabacano

Padri di mijotru ta allí na cielo,
quidá alabaó Bo nombre.
Llevá cun mijotru Bo trono; Viní con mijotru Bo reino;
Siguí cosa qui Bo mandá aquí na tiehra,
parejo allí na cielo!

Dali con mijotro esti día,
el cumida di mijotro para cada día.
Perdoná quél mgá culpa ya hací mijotro con Bo,
como ta perdoná mijotro ‘quel
mga culpa ya hací el mga otro genti cun mijotro.
No dijá qui caí mijotru na tintación,
sinó hací librá con mijotro na malo.

Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary)

Zamboangueño Chavacano

Dios te salve, Maria!
Lleno Usted de gracia;
El Señor es talli con Usted.
Bendita Usted entre todas las mujeres,
y bendito el fruto del de Usted vientre, si Jesus.

Santa Maria, Nana de Dios,
roga para con nosotros mana pecadores,
ahora y na hora de nuestro muerte tambien. Amen.

Ternateño Chavacano (Chabacano de Ternate)

El Saludu di Anghél Gabriel cun María

Ta saludá yo cun buh, María, quidá alegri buh! Llenu buh di gracia!
El Siñor t’allí cun buh!
Ya bindicí Diós cun buh comu unicu mujer na todu, Benditu buh na todu el mga mujer
y ya bindicí Diós tamién cun Jesús, el Fruta di buh bahriga!

Santá María, Madri di Diós:
Hací rizá para mijotru, mga genti culpabli,
agora y cuandu di murí ya mijotru.

Angelic Salutation (Hail Holy Queen)

Zamboangueño (Chavacano de Zamboanga)


Dios te salve, Reina!
de Nuestra vida, Nuestra Nana, de Nuestra esperanza.
con Usted nosotros ta llama, mana desterrados hijos de eva.
con Usted nosotros suplicando, suspirando
y llorando na valle de lagrimas.

de Nuestra abogada, vira el de Usted ojos
de misericordia para con nosotros.
y despues del de nuestro destierro, manda mira con nosotros,
el bendito fruto del de Usted vientre, si Jesus.
O Lastimosa, O Amorosa, O Dulce Virgen Maria. Amen.

Gloria Patri

Zamboangueño Chavacano (formal)

Gloria con El Tata, con El Hijo,
y con El Espiritu Santo.
Igual como na principio,
ahora y siempre para
los siglos de los siglos. Amen.

Ternate Chavacano

El Gloria cun el Santísima Trinidad
Gloria cun el Padri, cun el Hiju, y cun el Espíritu Santo.
Comu ‘quel principiu, ansina agora y siempri, y para na todu tiempu.

Acto de Arrepentimiento (Act of Contrition)

Zamboangueño Chavacano (formal)

Pesame, Dios mio, de todo corazon de aberos ofendido,
pesame de todos mis pecados por el infierno
que mereci y por el cielo que perdi, pero mucho mas
me pesa porque pecando ofendi a un Dios tan bueno
y digno de todo mi amor. prometo firmemente,
con la ayuda de vuestra gracia, confesar mis pecados,
hacer penitencia y cambiar mi costumbre. Amen.

Angelus (Angelus)

Zamboangueño Chavacano (formal)

L.: El Angel del Señor ya lleva el mensaje con Maria.
T.: y ELE ya concebi por medio del Espiritu Santo.
L.: taqui el muchacho del Dios/Señor.
T.: hace conmigo conform, Usted ya habla.
L.: y ya queda LE entre con nosotros.
T.: roga para de Nuestra, Nana Santa de Dios.
L.: para nosotros hay puede merece el mana promesa de JesuCristo.
T.: Nosotros Reza: O Señor, vacia el de Usted gracia na de nuestro mana corazones,
para que nosotros, con quien ya manda sabe el encarnacion de JesuCristo,
el de Usted Hijo, por medio de un mensaje de un Angel, hay gana nosotros el
gloria del resureccion por medio de su pasion y cruz. nosotros ta pedi este
por medio de JesuCristo, Nuestro Señor. Amen.


Forms and Style

Chavacano (especially Zamboangueño) has two levels of usage for words: The common or familiar and formal.

In the common or familiar form, words of local origin or a mixture of local and Spanish words predominate. They are used ordinarily when conversing with people of equal or lower status in society and in the family, with friends and acquaintances. Their use are of general acceptance and usage.

In the formal form, words of Spanish origin predominate. They are used when conversing with elders and those in authority. They are also used especially when conversing with people of higher status in society and family. They are used in speeches, education, media, and writing.

The following examples show a contrast between the usage of formal words and common or familiar words in Chavacano:

English Chavacano (Formal) Chavacano (Common/Familiar)
slippery rezbaloso/resbaladizo malandug
rice morisqueta canon
rain aguacero ulan
dish vianda comida
braggart/boastful orgulloso hambugero/bugalon
car coche auto
housemaid muchacho/muchacha ayudante/ayudanta
father papa tata
mother mama nana
grandfather abuelo lolo
grandmother abuela lola
small chico/chiquito diutay
nuisance fastidio malihug
hard-headed testaduro duro cabeza/duro pulso
slippers chancla chinelas



Unlike Spanish, Chavacano nouns do not follow gender rules in general. In Zamboangueño, the article 'el' basically follows every singular noun. However, this rule is not rigid (especially in Zamboangueño) because the formal vocabulary mode wherein Spanish words predominate almost always is the preferred mode especially in writing. The Spanish article 'la' for feminine singular nouns do exist in Chavacano. When in doubt, the article 'el' is safe to use. Compare:

English singular noun Chavacano singular noun (general and common) Chavacano singular noun (accepted or uncommon)
the virgin el virgen la virgen (accepted)
the peace el paz la paz (accepted)
the sea el mar la mar (accepted)
the cat el gato el gato (la gata is uncommon)
the sun el sol el sol
the moon el luna el luna (la luna is uncommon)
the view el vista la vista (accepted)
the tragedy el tragedia el tragedia (la tragedia is uncommon)
the doctor el doctor el doctora (la doctora is uncommon)

And just like Spanish, Chavacano nouns do have gender but only when referring to persons. However, they are always masculine in the sense that they are generally preceded by the article 'el'. Places and things are almost always masculine. The -o is dropped in masculine nouns and -a is added to make the noun feminine:

English singular noun Chavacano singular noun (masculine) Chavacano singular noun (feminine)
the teacher el maestro el maestra
the witch el burujo el buruja
the engineer el engeniero el engeniera
the tailor/seamstress el sastrero el sastrera
the baby el niño el niña
the priest/nun el padre el madre
the grandson/granddaughter el nieto el nieta
the professor el profesor el profesora
the councilor el consejal el consejala

Not all nouns referring to persons can become feminine nouns. In Chavacano, some names of persons are almost always masculine and doesn't always end in -o. Examples: el alcalde, el politico, el negociante, el ayudante, el chufer

All names of animals are always masculine preceded by the article 'el'. Examples: el gato (gata is uncommon), el puerco (puerca is uncommon), el perro (perra is uncommon)

Names of places and things can be masculine or feminine, but they are considered masculine because the article 'el' always precedes the noun: el cosina, el pantalon, el comida, el agua, el camino, el trapo

Plural nouns

In Chavacano, the Spanish articles 'los' and 'las' have almost disappeared when naming plural forms of persons, places or things (whether masculine or feminine). They have been replaced by 'maga'. Maga comes from the native Tagalog or Cebuano 'mga'. This rule applies whether in common, familiar or formal mode.

There are some Chavacano speakers (especially older Caviteño or Zamboangueño speakers) who would tend to say 'mana' for 'maga'. 'Mana' is accepted and quite common especially with older speakers, but when in doubt and almost always, the article 'maga' to pluralize nouns is safer to use.

English plural noun Chavacano plural noun (masculine) Chavacano plural noun (feminine)
the teachers maga maestro maga maestra
the witches maga burujo maga buruja
the engineers maga engeniero maga engeniera
the tailors/seamstresses maga sastrero maga sastrera
the babies maga niño maga niña
the priests/nuns maga padre maga madre
the grandsons/granddaughters maga nieto maga nieta
the professors maga profesor maga profesora
the councilors maga consejal maga consejala

Again, this rule is not rigid (especially in Zamboangueño). The articles 'los' or 'las' do exist sometimes before few nouns and are accepted: los caballeros, los dias, las noches, los chabacanos, los santos, las mañanas, las almujadas, las mesas, las plumas, los cosas

When in doubt, it is always safe to use 'maga' to pluralize singular nouns: maga caballero, maga dia, maga noche, maga chabacano, maga santo, maga dia que viene (this is a phrase; 'maga mañana' is uncommon), maga almujada, maga mesa, maga pluma

In Chavacano, it is common for some nouns to become double when pluralized: maga cosa-cosa (maga cosa is uncommon), maga casa-casa (maga casa is common), maga gente-gente (maga gente is common), maga bata-bata (maga bata, 'child', is common), maga juego-juego (maga juego is common)

In general, the letters -s, -as, -os to pluralize nouns in Spanish have also almost disappeared in Chavacano. The singular form of the noun generally retains although it becomes plural because of the preceding article 'maga' or 'mana':

maga caballeros (wrong) maga caballero (correct) maga dias (wrong) mana dia (correct)

However, the use of adding -es to some nouns is quite common and accepted, and sometimes nouns ending in -cion can be pluralized by adding -es: maga meses, maga mujeres, maga mayores, maga tentaciones, maga contestaciones, maga naciones, maga organizaciones

Still, it is safer to use the general rule (when in doubt) of retaining the singular form of the noun preceded by the article 'maga' or 'mana': maga mes, maga mujer, maga mayor, maga tentacion, maga contestacion, maga nacion, maga organizacion


Chavacano pronouns are based on native (Tagalog and Cebuano) and Spanish sources; many of the pronouns are not used in either but may be derived in part.

In Chavacano de Zamboanga, there are three different levels of usage for certain pronouns depending on the level of familiarity between the speaker and the addressee, the status of both in family and society, or the mood of the speaker and addressee at the particular moment: common, familiar, and formal. The common forms are, particularly in the second and third person plural, derived from Cebuano while most familiar and formal forms are from Spanish. The common forms are used to address a person below or of equal social or family status or to someone is who is acquainted. The common forms are used to regard no formality or courtesy in conversation. Its use can also mean rudeness, impoliteness or offensiveness. The familiar forms are used to address someone of equal social or family status. It indicates courteousness, and is commonly used in public conversations, the broadcast media, and in education. The formal forms are used to address someone older and/or higher in social or family status. It is the form used in writing.

Additionally, Zamboangueño is the only variety of Chavacano which distinguishes between the inclusive we (kita) - including the person spoken to (the addressee) - and the exclusive we (kame) - excluding the person spoken to (the addressee) - in the first person plural except in the formal form where nosotros is used for both.

Below is a chart comparing the personal pronouns in three varieties of Chavacano.

  Zamboangueño Caviteño Ternateño
1st person singular iyo
2nd person singular evo(s) (common)
vo(s) (common)
tu (familiar)
uste(d) (formal)
3rd person singular el
1st person plural kame (exclusive)
kita (inclusive)
nosotros (formal)
nisos mijotro
2nd person plural kamo (common)
vosotros (familiar)
ustedes (formal)
vusos ustedi
3rd person plural sila (common & familiar)
ellos (formal)
ilos lojotro


The simple form of the Zamboangueño verb is identical to the vos imperative form of the Rioplatense Spanish verb. Compare:

  • Zamboangueño: continuá (continue)
  • Rioplatense: ¡Continuá! (Continue!)

  • Zamboangueño: preguntá (to ask)
  • Rioplatense: ¡Preguntá! (Ask!)

  • Zamboangueño: andá (go)
  • Rioplatense: ¡Andá! (Go!)

Exceptions, however, include dale, and others.Template:Stub-section

Archaic Castillian words and False Friends: Spanish words that have changed in meaning

Chabacano has preserved plenty of archaic Spanish words in its vocabulary that modern Spanish no longer uses; for example:

En denantes - a while ago (Spanish: hace un tiempo)

Take note that "En denantes" is an archaic Spanish phrase. Modern Spanish would express the phrase as "poco antes de hoy" or "hace un tiempo," but Chabacano still retains this archaic Spanish phrase and many other archaic Spanish words.

On the other hand, some Spanish words have evolved or have acquired totally different meanings in Chavacano. Hence for Spanish speakers who would encounter Chavacano speakers, some words familiar to them have become false friends.

Some examples of false friends are:

Cerilla means 'earwax'. (In Spain, cerilla means 'match'; Although in Latin America its meaning is 'earwax'.)
Siguro/Seguro means 'maybe'. (In Spanish, seguro means 'sure', 'secure', or 'stable'.)
Siempre means 'of course'. (In Spanish, siempre means 'always'.)
Firmi means 'always'. (In Spanish, firme means 'firm' or 'steady'.)
Masquen means 'even (if)'. (In Spanish, más que means 'more than'.)


Chabacano is apricot for Mexican Spanish speakers. Although apricot is albaricoque in Spanish, in Mexico 'chabacano' is an apricot variety, to be exact.

See also


SIL code: cbk
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: none
ISO 639-3: cbk


External links

Original Source

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