Chabacano in the Age of Facebook

It's very interesting how Facebook has crept into our daily lives, making it a necessity, an infrastructure even. I mean how many successful companies today exist that don't have Facebook accounts?  Some studies even claim that we spend at least eight hours on average every month on Facebook but let's face it, for most of us, we're on Facebook far more than just eight hours a month.

One thing that I'm sure many don't know is that Facebook is helping Chabacano form a standard when it comes to its orthography. Chabacano has been a spoken language for the longest time. This accounts for the fact that there are no standards when it comes to spelling in Chabacano. The author, Camins, who wrote a Chabacano dictionary, even said that one of the problems that he encountered while writing his dictionary was how to spell the Chabacano words.

Let's now take a look at some examples of different ways on how Chabacano words are being spelled today.

One of the places wherein you will see Chabacano words spelled in Spanish is in TV stations and radio stations. Let's take a look at some updates posted by TV Patrol Chabacano on their facebook page.

In this update, we see that the Spanish acepta becomes accepta in the Chabacano Zamboanga. This is most probably because this Chabacano word stemmed from the English accept and was just hispanized to become accepta (much like what happens in Spanglish). We also see the word pronto being spelled as fronto. This is probably a case of trying too hard to spell Chabacano words in Spanish. The writer probably thought that since most words like flores, and fino are pronounced as plores, and pino respectively in Chabacano, then pronto would probably be spelled as fronto. Cusi (from the Spanish cocer) meanwhile is spelled as it is pronounced but in Spanish.

In this second example, we see the Spanish alrededor becoming alreredor in Chabacano. We also see the word favor being spelled as pabor. As was stated in the first example, this happens because favor is pronounced as pabor in Chabacano.

Here we see that manana is spelled as maniana. I'm sure the writer knew that manana is spelled with an enye but probably didn't know how to type in on the computer (like me). Next we see an apostrophe in todo'l, this implies that the writer knows that todo'l is a contraction of todo and el. Not a lot of people who speak Chabacano realize this. 

In this update, we see the Spanish acerca being spelled as it is pronounced in Chabacano, aserca. The Tagalog kami on the other hand, is spelled in its original Tagalog and not as how Zamboanguenos pronounce it, kame.

Here, we see the writer spell the Spanish manana in Tagalog. We also see the Spanish no hay spelled as nuay, which is how it is pronounced. The Spanish conmemora is also spelled as it is pronounced, commemora. The same goes for the Spanish difunto which is pronounced as defunto in Chabacano. Pais is spelled as paiz

In the next few examples, we shall look at how people at the Zamboanga de Antes facebook group spell Chabacano words. These people speak and write in Chabacano very well as you will see below.

If you noticed, these people spell Chabacano words as they are pronounced but in Spanish. Some Tagalog words are spelled in their original form and some are spelled in Chabacano as they are pronounced in that same language.

One of the good things that arose from the recent conflict in Zamboanga city is the rekindling of the Zamboanguenos love and passion for her beloved ciudad de Zamboanga. Didn't you just feel utter hatred for those people who disrupted the peace in Zamboanga city? I know I did. We saw a lot of messages of concern on Facebook written in Chabacano during this time. To me this was a proclamation of solidarity among people who don't normally write in Chabacano. Falta ya lang, canta kita todo el cancion Zamboanga Hermosa y grita Viva Zamboanga!

But for the most part, this gives us a glimpse on how the average Zamboangueno spells Chabacano words. 

In this post, buenas was spelled using Tagalog. the same goes for que tal, cosa, and prinada. Emperma was spelled as it is pronounced. We also see code switching (Tagalog and English).

This one also uses Tagalog words. Most Chabacano words are also spelled using Tagalog.

Sure, we have been using Chabacano in writing text messages but we always feel like the spelling in text messages doesn't matter since only one person would read it anyway. With Facebook public posts, we feel like our messages are being broadcast to the world and thus we feel conscious when it comes to the spelling of Chabacano words.

It may not happen immediately, but I think that it will only be a matter of time before people will clamor for a standard on Chabacano spelling to be established. People will start asking, "cosa ba gayod el amo spelling"?

The advent of social media also allows us to study and observe the occasional written conversations in Chabacano. It also makes sure that these conversations will be made available to be studied by our posterity.

For example, the oldest recorded conversation in the Chabacano language that we can study today is a transcript of several dialogues in the Chabacano language in 1883 which were sent in a  letter to Hugo Schuchardt (a German linguist). With social media however, our conversations can now be examined by our posterity even thousands of years from today! So if you are reading this in the year 3052, congratulations! I didn't expect mankind to make it that far. I always thought that we would self destruct even before the current century ended.


  1. Personally, in most cases I prefer that Chabacano spelling follow the original Spanish spelling in the manner of Jesús Balmori's writings. As an example, please refer to Na Maldito Arena published in 1917.

  2. El razon por causa no hay kita sujeto desde elementaria hasta colegio que ta enseña el Lenguaje Chavacano o el dialecto Zamboangueño. Y no igual como el Tagalo que hasta ahora ta insistí manda conaton todo mana jendeh Tagalos aprende de ila lenguaje por eso porzao ellos manda enseña con el Sujeto de Tagalo (the invented and articifial filipino language DAO).

    Yo tambien si escribi ta precura gat yo usa el correcto ortografía.
    Ese "cusi" mali se.. debe escribi "Cocí" to cook mientras el "Cosé" aquel cose con el roto camisa.

  3. did you know that a lot of the chavacano words are also tied up to the Portuguese language , especially words ending in templao, encargao, entrao.. Lets not forget that Magellan was Portuguese, circumnavigating under the Spanish flag, most of men he brought along were Portuguese, including all other expeditions that followed after Magellan...

  4. I believe that the ao could have also come from Spanish since Spanish speakers also tend to drop the d in words ending in ado when speaking informally or in certain locales. Nontheless, it is also plausible that this came from Portuguese. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hello, Jerome!

    Regarding the previous comment that stated that -AO must have been influenced by Portuguese, my personal opinion is that NO, it is not a Portuguese characteristic to drop the -D- in words ending in -ADO. This tendency only occurs in informal Spanish in order to shorten the syllable of words like this; for example, TEMPLAO instead of 'templado', ENCARGAO instead of 'encargado' etc. I myself have studied the Portuguese language for purpose of comparison with the Spanish language and nowhere did I find this colloquialism in the Portuguese language.

    What I have found to be an influence of Portuguese in the Chabacano language is the use of the preposition NA as in 'na iglesia', 'na casa', 'na escuela' etc. because it is actually a contraction of the preposition EM (in, on, at) and the feminine article A (the), thus the contraction NA. In Portuguese the above examples are stated 'na igreja' (in the church), 'na casa' (at home), 'na escola' (in the school).

    I hope I have made a clarification on this aspect common in Portuguese and Chabacano.

    Indeed, it is fun learning languages. The more languages you try to learn, the many things you discover in their similarities and differences. Amazing!

    César Jr.