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cHABACANO pOET(1892-1973)


A few poets in Chabacano left for posterity their footprints. One of them is the talented writer Eliodoro Ballesteros. The sonnetist of the old town of San Roque, located between Cavite Puerto and Caridad, saw the light of day born on 18 February 1892. His family resided at Padre José P. Burgos Street.

Our investigative effort has unearthed solely two published works in Chabacano. The first of Ballesteros’ poems has eight stanzas and is titled Piesta (Fiesta).[1] This poem had gained worldwide renown when it saw print in a book published in Madrid in 1965. The lengthy work is an invitation for everyone to attend the famed fiestas in honor of the Virgen de la Soledad. Both Caviteño and non-Caviteño  folk take pride in the fact that the canonically crowned Marian image has been venerated at her shrine right in the heart of the echanting city for over three hundred years now.

Ballesteros’ fine verses depict the festive ambiance during the first two weekends of November. The well-known fiestas of Cavite City continue to draw numberless devotees and pilgrims  from nearby towns and provinces. According to Soledad Borromeo-Buehler, the annual fiestas are the most fitting occasion for Caviteños to flaunt their Latin lust for life—as manifested by the musical dianas at dawn, legendary religious processions, the colorful caracol, exquisite delicacies and drinking sprees and fireworks.  Ballesteros’ fitting verses say it all:




     Para todu el mana visita qui ta viní

na piesta di la Vilgen de la Soledad,

patrona del ciudad di Cavite.

El piesta di Cavite el más alegri piesta  

Qui aquí na esti pruvincia nisós ta celebrá, 

Polqui na mucho casa cun baile y olquesta. 

Todu el mundu cuntenti, pues todu ta  alegrá.

Musica banda banda, jeepney, auto y calesa   

Ta circulá un calli desdi el amanecel,             

Qui ta causá cun todu gran dolol de cabeza

Y qui para algunus alegrías y placel.

Todu el calli principal y adentro del iglesia      

Llenong‑lleno di genti y nuay dondi pasá,  

Pues el qui ta padecí di ataqui di epilepsia       

Puedi acabá el risuello y su muelte causá.     

El visita, anti todu, ta viní na Cavite                

Polqui diviltí quieri na aquesti ciudad,             

Qui al lligal insiguida, más qui nuay cunvite        

Ta andá rezá primeru ante la Soledad.


Na plaza el maná vieju, el jovin y el muchachu

Ta dali dali vuelta para ilós diviltí.                   

Mientras na un isquina algún qui otru borrachu

Cun el pulís ta pulpiá; cun todu ta imbistí.

Al lligal a las doce, cun prialdad di calambri,    

El maná genti ta andá buscá algun qui comel

Y si nuay cunucidu, para pasá su hambri         

Na restauran ta llivá cun su suegra y mujel.  

Al acabal di ciná y llenu ya el barriga,         

Di andá na castillu dispués del prusición,

Allá el mandurukut y el mana siga-siga          

Su agosto ta hací cun gran satispacción    

Amigu e porasteru: Aunqui cun disingañu

Qui ta incuntrá al viní na piesta di nisós

cun puntualidad siempri viní di añu en añu

Qui el puelta di Cavite ta abielto para vusós.


To all the guests who come to the  

fiesta of the Virgen de la Soledad,                      

patroness of Cavite City.

The fiesta of Cavite is the happiest one

that we observe here in this province.

For in many homes are bands and dance.

There is contentment and joy in everyone.

Music’s everywhere. Jeepney, car and calesa,

cruise the street since daylight,

causing a big headache to one and all,

yet, for some, a source of joy and delight.

People completely crowd the main street

and in the church, no way to get through.

And, if one’s suffering from epileptic fits,

it can suppress his breath, causing his death.

A guest, most of all, visits Cavite,

for he wishes to enjoy himself in this city,

though no one has invited him, upon arrival,

he proceeds to pray before Our Lady.

The old  folks, teenagers and children

take pleasure from strolling in  the park;

at a corner a drunk engages a policeman

in an altercation, a nuisance to  everyone.

At twelve noon, the famished ones go and find

something to eat. If he doesn’t have a friend,

he takes his mother-in-law and his wife

to appease their hunger at a restaurant.

After supper, already with filled bellies,

they go to the fireworks after the procession.

There pickpockets and toughies

have a grand time with great satisfaction.

   Friends and strangers: you might get disillusioned

when you come to our fiesta,

Always come punctually year after year,

for the gates of Cavite are open for you.


Ballesteros’ second poem El Chavacano Caviteño [2] saw print in the souvenir program of the oath-taking rites of Círculo Chabacano Caviteño officers and members of 1968-1969.  The Caviteño bard had first recited it himself at the Montano Auditorium in Cavite City during the inauguration of the Círculo on 26 September 1964. The verses depict the linguistic ancestry and characteristics of the local Caviteño variant. Ballesteros urged fellow Caviteños to be proud of their “holy, grandious heritage.” He hoped that every native son of Cavite City would always and everywhere speak Chabacano, offspring of the long-lasting marriage of “the Tagalog and Spanish languages” which was taught to him by his dear parents.  Speaking the local tongue is not that bad, it does not signify the repudiation of Tagalog, English or Spanish. Knowing Chabacano is continuing the tradition of countless generations of authentic and “legitimate” residents of Cavite City, or as Ballesteros calls them “caviteños di cara y corazón.”

                                                El Chavacano Caviteño

    Nisós el maná heraldo di esti local dialecto

Qui ta anunciá na mundo bajo el brillo del sol,

Como un herencia santo, grandioso y nuay depecto

Compuesto del lenguaje tagalo y español.

    Desde tres cientos año di convivencia grato

Qui ya tini Cavite cun el Conquistador,

Ya nací el chavacano qui nisós cada rato

Ta plática cun gusto, cun orgullo y honor.

    Formao esti di un mezcla di culurao y blanco

Qui ya risulta di rosas esti combinación;

 Culurao el tagalo, el castellano el blanco

Y rosas el chavacano—nisós convelsación.

    Cuando pa yo chiquito sabe ya yo chavacano

Polqui mi tata y nana cunmigo ya insiñá;

Y esti nisós dialecto todu mi compoblano

Agora y para siempre no debí di ulvidá.

    Esti un prenda sagrado llenu di armonía

Qui ya alumbrá na mi vida comu un sol di virtud,

Polqui en chavacano ya escribí yo poesía

Cuando ta hací paliqui yo na mi juventud.

    Cun nisós ta hací zorra di esti nisós idioma

Polqui esti dicí un idioma di español pilipit,

Pero para el di Cavite el chavacano es aroma

Concentrao na su hueso y hasta na su litit.

    El maná istranjero qui tieni maná tienda

Na esti nisós ciudad pol puelza ta aprindí

El chavacano para evitá el contienda

Cun el maná cumpradol cuando ilós ta vindí.

    Siguro ustedes sabe qui entre nisós paisano

Ta usá  su dialecto cuando ilós ta platicá,

Y ansina nisós debí usá el chavacano

Cun nisós compoblano más qui dondí incuntrá.

    Hací del chavacano comu pan di cada día,

Pues todu el caviteño di cara y corazón

Debí usá esti dialecto di música y poesía

Comu un medio apropiao na su convelsación.

    El saber chavacano no siguro tan malo

Para el qui ta quidá na esti nisós ciudad;

Esti no un renuncia del inglés o tagalo

Y hasta del castellano na esti moderno edad.

    Idioma chavacano, comu caidu del cielo

Qui ta usá el caviteño na mucho generación.

Ta pildí pocu poco su valor y su vuelo.

Na todu el maná barrio di esti nisós región.

   Por eso, Ñol Ilustre, Jepe del Policía,

Ya organizá insiguida un grupo o sociedad

Para qui el caviteño di nochi y di día

No ulvidá el chavacano na esti localidad.


The last stanza refers to the Círculo Chabacano Caviteño that was set up by Mr. Ilustre, then police chief of Cavite City. The association “ya libantá no sólo para propagá y conservá el dialecto chabacano sino para silbí di guardia para el bondad di nisós ciudad,” as Roberto Ting Reynoso, its president, had proclaimed in his inaugural speech in 1972. The roster of distinguished members included José de la Cruz, Arturo Topacio Sr., Eliodoro Ballesteros, Alfredo Paredes, Justiniano S. Montano, José de la Cruz, Arturo Topacio, Sr., Natividad Nazareno, Rosauro Villareal, Elpidia E. Bonanza, Virgilio Salazar, Elpidia Bonanza, Virgilio Salazar and Ricardo Manaban. Its active members rose to over a hundred  in 1968. The association organized civic parades and literary programs, especially on the anniversary of the “Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite” every  12th day of September. The Círculo Chabacano Caviteño is now extinct, but Chabacano Caviteño lives on.

Ballesteros likewise authored exquisite Spanish religious poetry. His cousin José Ballesteros composed solely Spanish verses published in magazines and newspapers of the American period, besides translating several English and Tagalog songs into Spanish.

Three beautiful sonnets to Our Lady of Porta Vaga flowed from Eliodoro’s inspired pen: namely, A la Santísima Virgen de la Soledad (To the Most Holy Virgin of Solitude), Homenaje (Homage) y Ante tu trono (Before Your Throne). The three religious odes reveal the poet’s deep personal devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, like a faithful interpreter of the people’s centuries-old profound Marian piety.

Eliodoro Ballesteros passed away on 21 June 1973. He was 81. Existing Cavite City Hall records indicate the cause of his death as toxemia that was brought about by intestinal obstruction.[3]

  Researched by Prof. Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos


[1]El chabacano, in Oficina de Educación Iberoamericana, La lengua española en Filipinas: datos acerca de un problema, Madrid  1965, 23-24. Hispanist and Ballesteros’ contemporary Guillermo Gómez Rivera attributes the authorship of this Chabacano poem to the Caviteño bard. See Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos, El chabacano de Cavite, ¿Crepúsculo del criollo hispanofilipino?, in Linguae et Litterae 1 (1992) 12.

[2] Círculo Chabacano Caviteño President Mr. Roberto Ting Reynoso, who had migrated to the United States of America, keeps the souvenir program where the poem was published.

[3]Sunnie de la Torre researched the important dates in Ballesteros’ life and cause of his death.





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