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Cavite's Chabacano Dialect

Foreigners who came to the Philippines are surprised to learn that everywhere, everybody, old and young, man and woman, speak English. English has been the medium of conversation between the Filipinos and other nationalities. It almost become the national language of the country despite the emphasis and stress laid down by the government to make Pilipino (Tagalog) our national language. And more surprised are these foreigners to find that more than one hundred dialects are spoken by the people, all different and distinct from one another. Among these one stands out quite unique, for it is composite in character, and unlike the rest, is not inherent with either the aborigines of the islands or the outside peoples who came to inhabit the country.

A short account of the origin of this dialect will, indeed be very interesting.

The Spaniards, we all know, migrated to the Philippines in three waves: one when the islands were first covered by Magellan in 1521; another, when a large number of disloyal and rebellious Spaniards were deported from Spain and subsequently came to settle in these islands; and the last, when Spain sent here her colonizing expeditions to claim and take full possession of the country.

It has been recounted by many Caviteños that according to their forefathers, the second group of Spaniards who migrated here about the early part of the sixteenth century, scattered themselves in the islands so that some came to settle in the towns of Cavite and Ternate, both of the province of Cavite, others in Zamboanga and the rest in Manila. These Spaniards mixed themselves with the natives and even married with Filipinas. This association had forced both parties to learn mutually the language of the other. While the Spaniards strove hard to learn Tagalog, the Filipinos, in turn, devised means of expressing their own by mixing Spanish with Tagalog as in the case of Cavite, Ternate and Manila; and Spanish with Visayan Ilongo and Moro, in the case of Zamboanga. Changes, and improvements, if improvements we can call them, had, of course been introduced since its origin. Although some of the expressions still retain their original form, others had become dramatically symbolic and metaphoric in nature especially those spoken in Zamboanga and Ternate.

A mere cursory examination and study of the dialect will suffice to give one the idea that its real origin was due to nothing but the mispronunciation of the Spanish words. for instance, the Spaniards would say: "vente aqui" (come here), Caviteño or the Manileño would say it thus: bini tu aqui. And again in Spanish "de donde vienes?" (Where do you come from?) In Caviteño or Ternateño: donde tu ya bini? One notes that some of the words are exactly Spanish in every sense and sound, while the rest are simply misunderstood and mispronounced as such. The progress and the development of this medium of conversation between the Spaniards and the Filipinos continued all throughout the seventeenth century when the islands were fully colonized by Spain. More Spaniards settled in the islands especially because they found it to be favorable for their Navy yards. In Cavite settled the officialdom of the military group and in Manila, the cream of the Spanish Socialites.

One example of the many original and self-contrived Cavite Chabacano is this: tu un daldalero. The word "daldalero" was derived from the Tagalog word "daldal" which means in Spanish "charlar" or "charlatan" as used in the sentence in Chabacano. In English it means talkative.

Now, then, in Ternate we find that the Chabacano used there is not only different from our Chabacano (I say our because I am a Caviteño) because of these symbolic and metaphoric allusions, but also because they are uttered in a certain manner and expression which carry the same kind of musical tone. One example of their metaphoric Chabacano is this: ta sali ya el prusision, which means that the rice in the pot is already boiling. This is altogether absurd as far as Spanish is concerned, despite the fact that the words are real Spanish in the mispronounced term. Again they say: cumi uno buta dos. This phrase is now enigmatic for one who can not really grasp its meaning. But the thing is really very simple. When you eat a clam what do you do? You eat the meat and throw away the shells. The meat represents one and the shells two. Thus the expression - eat one and throw away two.

Zamboanga mixes the Visayan, Ilongo and Moro in their Chabacano, for example: pasa ki banda anay. Note that "pasa" is Spanish and so with "ki" for the mispronounced "aqui," but banda anay is Ilongo and Moro. In Cavite, Ternate and Zamboanga the Chabacano is still spoken today, but in Manila it is gradually disappearing. In the district of Ermita, Malate, Paco, Trozo and Binondo, where it used to be the dialect of the people, one will rarely find it spoken now. And the Chabacano of this generation is no longer the same Chabacano of the old, for besides the Spanish-Filipino mixture in it, it has also added the American. Very often we hear people especially the student class say? absent eli na lecture ayel. "Absent" and "lecture" in the sentence are English. This is now our present Chabacano, made up of Spanish, Filipino and American blend.

From a compilation by Godofredo S. Samonte, Cavite City.



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 Date this page was last edited - 02/20/2003