In each culture, there is distinct way to sound polite. In Tagalog, we always add the word ‘po’ at the end of statements and requests for it to sound polite. In English, we replace can with would and we say please to sound polite.
In this blog post, I will tackle the different ways of being polite in the Chabacano society.
When asking someone to repeat himself, one would normally say: cosa ‘quel? While this doesn’t seem very rude, asking que is more polite.
When entering the house of someone for the first time, it is customary and polite to say: buenas. This word is also used for checking if somebody is at home. It is the equivalent of the Tagalog tao po or the Bisaya ayu. In English, there is no equivalent for this word probably because they use doorbells in the English speaking world.
I remember back when I was in high school and the Mayor was the late Maria Clara Lobregat. The late mayor during her days campaigned very aggressively for the usage of Chabacano in institutions like offices and schools. I remember one of my teachers (who was probably a Chabacanophile), enforced a different routine to start the class. Whereas before, the teacher comes in and the students stand up and say good morning ma’am _______________, she would instead say buenas when she comes in and have us (the students) say buenas tambien. I also remember that during this period, offices like the city hall would greet you buenas dias/ tardes/ noches over the phone.
In jeepneys (which is a public transportation similar to the bus), we say pabor or pasaje pabor to ask the one in front of us to pass the fare on to the driver at the front. This is the equivalent of the Tagalog pakisuyo or bayad po (the Tagalog in Manila at least).
When not hearing what somebody just said and asking that person to repeat himself, the polite way is to ask: que? When you are in familiar terms with somebody though or when you are speaking with somebody who is your equal, you can just ask: cosa ‘quel or cosa aquel? The same goes for si when responding in the affirmative. The formal term is si and the informal term is oo.
I remember that as a kid, my mom would always remind me to use the words si and que whenever I speak to the trycicle driver (a three wheeled vehicle used for public transportation), and my grandmother. Basically, I was taught to use ‘si’ and ‘que’ whenever I am speaking with someone who I don’t know or I am not very close with. Mostly, I use these words whenever I am speaking with a relative who I don’t know very well, with someone who I just met, or with people like the tricycle driver, the security guard, or the saleslady.
I have a friend who learned Chabacano from her father but grew up in Manila. She speaks Chabacano only with her family and recently with me. She never uses the word ustedes and instead uses kamo. She explains that this is because she speaks Chabacano only with her family so she always uses kamo. While this is true, some people prefer to use ustedes instead of kamo with everyone (formal or informal). Take me for example, I almost always use ustedes. The only time that I use the word kamo is when I try to harden my statement. For example when I say: cosa kamo, mga gago? (what are you, stupid?) Of course, if I use ustedes, then this statement would not have its intended effect.
For polite statements, use de ustedes instead of de inyo. I only use de inyo when I speak with my friends and it is only when I try to harden my statement like when I’m telling them off. Ninety nine percent of the time though, I use de ustedes.
You will find that the usage of ustedes/ kamo and de ustedes/ de inyo will vary from person to person. Some people use these words interchangeably. Some people choose which word to use depending on who they’re speaking with and/or the age and status of that person is. Some also (like me) will choose which word to use depending on the kind of statement I will deliver (regardless of who I’m speaking with).
Tu and uste are both formal words in the Chabacano de Zamboanga. Some families like my mom’s use uste for formal and voh/ for informal while other families like my dad’s use tu for formal and voh/vos for informal.
Now when somebody says goodbye to you, it would be good manners to say, “cuidao”. Cuidao is the equivalent of the English take care and the Tagalog ingat.