I was riding a jeepney in Zamboanga city when I heard some students talking in Chabacano. They were speaking with a very heavy Chabacano accent so I was surprised to hear many of them mixing Tagalog words with their Chabacano. It seems that even with highly fluent Chabacano speakers (this was at least my assumption), code switching is fast becoming the norm. It also appears that code switching is becoming a fad and not just being done out of necessity. Whereas before, people will fall back on a word from another language only when they do not know the Chabacano word for it, people today seem to employ words from another language even for very simple-everyday-words. I also noticed that when code switching, Tagalog is now becoming the language of choice alongside English.
There seems to be a perceived notion that to mix English with Chabacano is cool and that speaking in pure Chabacano will make one sound uneducated or baduy. I am not sure though if this notion traverses age and socioeconomic status. In Manila, the story is rather different. There, you will find educated people speaking in pure Tagalog without any shame in doing so and when they do use English words, it is very minimal or only for things not found in Tagalog such as: computer, cupcake, and baseball. These words are also, by the way already incorporated into Filipino (the politically correct name of Tagalog), their spelling tagalized: kompyuter, kapkeyk, beysbol. Such is the power of elevating the standards of a language by means of establishing a language commission and implementing aggressive efforts to formalize and regulate it.
In the 1930s, Tagalog was chosen to be the base of a standardized national language. However, even up to the 1970s, there were very few Filipinos who could speak this language. In recent studies however, it has been found out that more than 80% of Filipinos now speak this language. This is certainly good news because the consensus is that we need a national language to bind us and to foster nationalistic fervor in us, the bad news is that all of this comes at a price: our local Philippine languages, the link to our regional identities.
As Zamboanga city has a lot of good schools, she receives a good deal of migrant students whose language, primarily are either Tagalog, Bisaya/Cebuano, or Tausug. Inside jeepneys, I can hear students speaking Chabacano with one person and Tagalog with another. Assuming that a Chabacano speaker does not speak Bisaya, he/she will speak in Tagalog to the Bisaya speaker. Many of these migrant students will be found in private elementary and high schools, colleges, and universities. In city funded elementary and high schools, the story is different. Migrant students in city funded elementary and high schools will often be compelled to learn Chabacano as they are in the minority.
In the pueblo (downtown), it is very noticeable that the language of commerce is now Tagalog. I think that business establishments are now requiring their employees to speak in Tagalog. Employees attending food stands in the malls will by default, speak to you in Tagalog but will speak in Chabacano (if they know how to) once you reply to them in Chabacano. It appears that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of recent migrants in Zamboanga city which made this group of people a strong economic force that businesses are now forced to adjust to their language preferences.
In the restaurants, it is now very hard to find a Chabacano speaking waiter. The same is true for salesladies in the department stores.
Zamboanga city has always been a melting pot of different languages. Migrants, in the past, learned to assimilate and eventually became fluent Chabacano speakers. But this was in the past, when many Zamboanguenos did not speak Tagalog. Today, most Zambonguenos already know how to speak Tagalog (with varying degrees of fluency) and migrants are finding out that they do not anymore need to learn Chabacano to live in Zamboanga city. In the jeepney, it will be evident who the unassimilating migrants are. These are the people who when you say pabor (as the means to convey your request to hand your fare money to the driver in the front seat) will ignore you.
In the media, the Chabacano is changing. My uncle who watches a lot of Chabacano news programs observed that the Chabacano being used in these programs is now becoming lasang. Lasang is a Chabacano slang which means nonsense. He said that he heard the anchor once use rapto for the word 'rape'. This is obviously a case of coining words based on their similarity to the English word.. In a plaque of commemoration, I saw the following inscription: ya desvela na fortaleza del nuestra senora la virgen del pilar este dia 5 de julio de 2012. This inscription means unveiled at the fortress of our lady of pillar this 5th of july of 2012. Desvela (I think) is a term meaning to remove one's veil (or maybe it was term coined by the author of the inscription in the plaque). This most probably stems from words with the prefix des- like descarga which means to remove one's load or descansa which means to remove one's tiredness. These events are becoming more and more rampant in Chabacano. Along with code switching, it is a glaring sign that fluency in this language is entering an all time low.
The refusal of the local government to take on a more active role in the Chabacano story is unfortunate. A regulating body for the Chabacano language should help implement standardization in this language which has always been a spoken one but so far, there have been no efforts to establish one. Chabacano could potentially be what Tagalog is today if a Chabacano language commission were to be established. The establishment of a Chabacano language commission shall also settle disputes regarding its spelling, accepted and unaccepted words and expressions, and pronunciation.
The state of the Chabacano today is becoming lamentable. Let me sound the alarm bells as early as now. Unless more aggressive preservation efforts will be implemented, the day will come when Chabacano will only be spoken inside the home. This prediction is bleak but it is not without merit.