Origins of the Chabacano Insuga

The Chabacano insuga means to dry out some clothes in a clothesline. Of course, it can also mean to dry out anything in the sun. I recently found out that this word also exists in the Chavacano de Ternate. In the Caviteno dialect, it is also spelled as insuga. The meaning of this word in the TernateƱo dialect is to dry clothes or rice. In the Chabacano de Zamboanga, this word is also sometimes pronounced as ensuga.

I recently bought a book by Esteban De Ocampo on the Chavacano de Ternate. In his book, De Ocampo explains that this word comes from the Spanish ensogar. The problem with this statement is that ensogar can’t be found anywhere in the Spanish language. Of course, it is possible that ensogar may be a Spanish word that doesn’t exist in the standard Spanish dictionaries.

However, when I consulted the DRAE (Diccionario Real de la Ecademia EspaƱola) which is the ultimate authority in the Spanish dictionaries, I did find this word. The definition however is nowhere near the Chabacano meaning. According to the DREA, ensogar means:

*Atar con soga- To tie with rope

*Forrar algo con soga, como se hace con los frascos y redomas – To cover something with rope like one does with bottles and flasks.

Therefore, I won’t be concluding that the word does come from the Spanish ensogar. I am not also ruling out however the possibility that it came from this Spanish word.

Here are some sentences using the Chabacano insuga:

Chabacano: Ya insuga ya tu el mga mojao ropa?

English: Have you hung the wet clothes in the clothesline yet?

Chabacano: Necesita ba insuga conel puerco si ta cusi Lechon Kawali?

English: Does one need to dry the pork in the sun when cooking?

Chabacano: Luego ya yo ensuga con el camisa de aton, cuando alto ya el sol.

English: I’ll go hang the clothes in the sun later, when the sun is already high up.

I posted this article at Zamboanga de Antes (a facebook group) and here are the responses that I have received:

As you may have observed, some group members provided very interesting insights as to the origins of the Chabacano insuga. 

According to, the word enxugar in Portuguese indeed means to dry or dry with a towel. It is a synonym of the word secar which is present both in Portuguese and Spanish according to some forum posts.

I also did further research on the word soga as the second comment above is pointing out that the Chabacano insuga may come from the Spanish word soga and it does appear that a clothesline or any rope for that matter can be called a soga.So it does make sense for a person to say ensogar when referring to to put something on a clothesline.

According to one of the commenters below, this word could have come from the Spanish enjugar which means to dry according to

Whether it came from Portuguese or derived from the Spanish word soga is very debatable. We are talking about two languages with very great impacts on the Chabacano language. Therefore I think either of these two theories is correct.

For now, it is safe to say that the word comes from the Chavacano de Ternate which is the oldest Chabacano dialect and some would say is the mother of all Chabacanos.


  1. In standard Spanish is "enjugar"; but the form "ensugar" is archaic and dialectal Spanish. Portuguese "enxugar" is also a good candidate, of course.