Differences Between The Chabacano of Zamboanga and the Chavacano in Cavite city
July 14, 2020

Just a few hours ago, I encountered a very interesting blog called Habla Chabacano. The said blog is about Cavite city and it's Chabacano. I found this amusing because I speak Chabacano de Zamboanga. As I read the posts in Habla Chabacano (which were partly in Chabacano), I quickly spotted the differences/similarities between the two Chabacanos.

First off, the Chavacano of Cavite looks more Spanish sounding than that of Zamboanga. The sentence structure is also closer to Spanish.

Here's an example:

Chavacano de Cavite: Cosa ta haci Gina?

Enlish: What is Gina doing?

Chabacano de Zamboanga: Cosa ta hace si Gina?

Spanish: ¿Qué está haciendo Gina?

As you can observe, the Chavacano de Cavite comes closer to Spanish in terms of grammar. In Chabacano de Zamboanga, you would use the word si (which comes from Tagalog), added to the subject if it's a person. Meanwhile, the Chavacano de Cavite uses only the name of the person (without the si) for subjects which are persons (just like in Spanish)

Chavacano de Cavite: Ya culda yo di na ve otro mga vianda ta comi mga Caviteño como bacalao, croquetas, almondigas, etc.

English: It brings to mind other dishes Caviteños eat, such as bacalao, croquetas, almondigas, etc.

Chabacano de Zamboanga: Ya puede yo acorda maga otro comida de Caviteños como el bacalao, croquetas, almondigas, etc.

Spanish: Recuerdo las otras viandas que los caviteños comen como el bacalao, croquetas, almondigas, etc.

This brings me to something I spotted in the Chavacano de Cavite. Most words in the Chabacano of Zamboanga and Cavite are similar but with minor differences in terms of one or few letter(s) only.


bien chabacano.png

As you can see above the r and e in Chabacano de Zamboanga is sometimes an l and i in Chavacano de Cavite, respectively. The ue in the Chabacano of Zamboanga sometimes becomes u in the Chabacano of Cavite.

While the Chabacano de Zamboanga is said to be 20% Tagalog and Bisaya, the Chabacano de Cavite seems to be 20% Tagalog.

Another difference is how we say because. In Zamboanga, we say kay/cay, while in the Chavacano of Cavite city, it is kasi. To show intensity, we use the word bien. For example, bien caliente which means it is so hot. In the Chavacano of Cavite city, they add an -ng- at the end of the word and repeat it, much like in Tagalog. For example: kiereng kiere which means to love or like so much.

Both languages use daw to show that what they're saying is not their idea. Both languages also use ta in front of verbs. They also use ya similarly (to show past tense).

I noticed as well that in the Chabacano of Cavite city, they sometimes shorten haci as ci. Example: ta ci siksik todo which means she's squeezing in all her stuff.

I must admit that there were sentences which I couldn't understand (or at least decipher how it came to be). The thing is I never did any research for this blog post. Big booboo, I should've at least asked the blog owner what some sentences (which I couldn't understand) meant.

Chavacano de Cavite: Di ci babysit Dale mañana cun Marcos kasi tiene fundraising sana Leslee y Alyssa. Ta cumbida comigo kasi tiene daw silent auction. No ma niso di pudi anda na airport ha, kasi di pinta casa esti mi marido.

Here's what I think it means in English: Dale is going to babysit Marcos tomorrow because Leslee and Alyssa will have a fundraising event. They invited me because there will be a silent auction. We won't be able to go to the airport anymore okay? Because my husband still has to paint the house.

Here's what that would look like in Chabacano de Zamboanga: Man babysit si Dale con Marcos mañana kay si Leslee pati/y si Alyssa tiene un fundraising event. Hinde mas kame puede anda na airport kay mio marido nesecita pa pinta conel casa, ha?

The Chabacano that I know is the modern Chabacano. But even the modern Chabacano is now becoming 'more modern'. The modern Chabacano is currently undergoing another evolution. The migrants who come here are putting certain words in the vocabulary of Chabacano. For example, today you would hear some people saying: nuay pa ka come? The correct form (that I know) is no hay pa tu come? Most of the people who talk like this are people from the nearby provinces who come to Zamboanga city to work. These people then influence other people and now we have a lot of young people who speak like this. Whenever I hear my friends talking like this, I usually tell them off.

The problem that Chabacano de Zamboanga faces is nothing though compared to the Chavacano de Cavite because the latter is virtually dead. I am hoping that the local governments can do something about this problem. Let us love the Chabacano language because it is unique and it's a legacy of the 400 years of history that Spain and Mexico gave to us.

Habla Chabacano! Conversa Chabacano!

This article had originally been published in the Bien Chabacano blog, a site dedicated to the Chavacano de Zamboanga language, last October 2007 and was the blog's first post written by language enthusiast Jerome Herrera. Please read the original article here.