Origins of the Chabacano Mete

Sometimes, if you don’t speak a language, there is a tendency to guess the meaning of words that are frequently used but you fail to understand. In Chabacano, there are so many words today whose definitions are being changed because the speakers (mostly parents) fail to explain the meaning of words to their audience (the children). I heard recently that Chabacano is now being taught in pre schools and that is really wonderful news for Chabacano enthusiasts. This will prevent the next generation from failing to understand the meaning of Chabacano words and subsequently change it.

In this blog, I give some examples of this phenomenon happening in Chabacano. A good one is the word menta. It turns out that the “real” meaning of the word menta is to mention but today its meaning has changed to to blame or accuse someone. I can imagine somebody from the 1900s using this word would say something like this:

Mario: No bos menta conmigo (meaning don’t mention my name or don’t mention that it was me who did it). Hinde yo ladron.

From the sentence above, it’s not hard to imagine how a non speaker of the Chabacano de Zamboanga would ultimately derive to the conclusion that the word menta means to blame or accuse somebody. The same thing actually happened to me. I have never spoken Bisaya but always try to when a Bisaya speaker is around. I have always thought that the word tikalun referred to a liar. This was because my high school classmates would always use this word to describe a person who I thought of was a perennial liar. A few days ago (after having this notion for more than ten years), an acquaintance told me that it actually means a person who is boastful. You can imagine my surprise when I heard this.

So this brings us to the main topic which is the Chabacano word mete. Camins defines the word mete as to get in, to place, or to put in. Meanwhile Santos defines it as to insert, to put in, to interfere with, and to meddle with. Meter has similar but a wider array of usages in the Spanish language.

In today’s Chabacano the word mete largely means to touch something that is not yours and sometimes to bother someone as to pester that person. Here is a conversation between three people using the word mete and its two definitions.

Ya usa si Maria el laptop de Pilar sin permiso.
Pilar: Hoy Maria, ta mete man bos mio laptop?!
Maria: Ay sorry, ya olvida yo pedi contigo permiso.
Ya mira si Pilar que tiene cosa ta hace si Maria na Facebook.
Pilar: Na cosa man bos ta hace na Facebook?
Maria: Envia yo message con Joy, aquel novia ahora de Philip.
Pilar: Ay señor, no mas ya bos mete con Joy. Alegre ya sila dos de Philip.

Here is an English translation:
Maria uses Pilar’s laptop without her permission
Pilar: Maria, why are using my laptop?
Maria: Sorry, I forgot to ask for your permission.
Pilar sees that Maria is doing something on Facebook.
Pilar: So what are you doing on Facebook?
Maria: I’ll send a message to Joy, Philip’s current girlfriend.
Pilar: Can’t you leave Joy alone? She and Philip are happy now.

I asked an old speaker of the Chabacano de Cotabato give some examples using this word and these are his contributions:

Chabacano: No mete este kay hende este de tuyo
English: Don't touch this for it's not yours

Chabacano: Ta mete gayod este si talpolano na mga de ila problema. 
English: This (certain someone) is really interfering with their problems


  1. buenas tardes to do, senyor jerome!
    I am a high student from Negros Oriental and is impressed about your articles pertaining on the Chabacano de Zamboanga language but I was confused when I encountered the Chabacano word "abla" courtesy of my Chabacano transferee classmate. Can you please tell me on what abla means but I suspect that it is either a noun or a verb.....
    muchas gracias!

  2. "Meanwhile Santos defines it as to insert, to put in, to interfere with, and to meddle with."

    In Spanish the latter two definitions would be reflexive (meterse), e.g. ¡No te metas conmigo! Don't mess with me!

    ¡No te metas en lo que no te importa! Mind your own business! (literally: Don't meddle in what doesn't matter to you)

    In Caviteño, meté means "to put" or more specifically "to put in" as opposed to poné. On a related note, the antónimo of meté is sacá and the antónimo of meté is quitá.

  3. Abla is a verb meaning to say. I hope this helps.

  4. Oops, correction to my post:

    "the antónimo of meté is sacá and the antónimo of poné is quitá.

  5. Tikalun in Ilonggo/Hiligaynon (well, in South Cotabato Ilonggo) is "constant liar"...but it can also refer to as someone who is boastful to the point of lying. :)