LOOK: This Was How Chabacano Sounded During The 1800s!

The following Chabacano dialogues were found in a letter sent to Hugo Schuchardt (a German linguist) in 1883 by Jacinto Juanmartí, a priest. The letter contained a transcript of five Chabacano dialogues that took place somewhere near Pollok (Polloc), in Cotabato. Here are the first two dialogues.

First Dialogue

-Buenos dias ñora Tona.

-Buenos dias señora Petrona.

-Buenos dias.

-Que tál yá camó aquí.

-Bueno ñora, mas que camé ta pasa un poco de miseria por causa del tiempo, yá tené gayot yó que vené aquí con vós, para hace lang comigo favor de emprestá un caban de palay hasta cortá lang el de amon palay cerca yá mán, y gendé ná ay tardá, de modo que camé al acabá cortá, gendé canamon ay quedá nada de lo que ay puedé recogé; cay cosa mán vós, el puerco todas las noches tá hacé gayot mucho perjuicio; y camé bien rendido yá de tanto visiá, además de ese el que tá pídí pá camé prestá con el maga chino? ¡Ay señor! si nó quitá tené paciencia, no puede más gayot mi cuerpo aguantá de tanto pensá este amon vida.

-Cosa quitá puede hacé, sinó paciencia ya láng, mirá V. camé gane tiene ya dao donde tá esperanzá, tá pasá pá camé trabajo, y ustedes pá?

[2] Ná quilaya man vós, algunas veces por no tener camé por donde, tá salí yó mariscá, si Pedro ta andá man corte... todo yá el remedio tá hacé camé por esté de amon vida, y no hay gayot siempre por donde.

-Na bueno, ay dále yó con usté el palay; y si usté puede pagá ná corte como V. tá jablá bueno, y si V. no puede pagá, mandá yá lang aquí canamon lo que puede alcanzá y los demás dejarlo yá.

-Na Dios paga yá lang con vós hija, malisud pá mán ansina tá tené uno deuda, y si no tá puedé pagá, macá juyá lang; este pá maga chino, gendé ná tá piá dao ni con ninguno; ansina mán tá contá comigo endenantes si Pedro.

-Yá preguntá usté con el maga chino si deveras?

-No hay, peró ansina gayod dao ta jablá aquellos, cay tá man suudmud yá dao silá de tanto dale prestá con el maga gente y no hay dao quien tá pagá

-Si usté recibí lavada?

-Ná entonces yá murí yo, sabe yá mán cajáa vós que tá sintí yó todo mi cuerpo; ahora gane yá  [3] hace lang yó puersa vené, cay no hay camé que comé este dia

-Abá... abá...  ñora Tona.

-Cay tá pensá vos tá mán balibát lang yó con vós? gendée gayót hija

-Por eso con ese de usté hijo cay grande yá, mandá usté hacé todo el trabajo, y no dale gusto con ese man manumbalay, como tá mirá yó algunas veces.

-Ná, ay andá yá yó hija ...  adios ná caniño todo.

The first dialogue is about somebody asking for a "rice loan". The first thing that struck me was the usage of ñora which is also in use in the Chabacano de Zamboanga. In the dialogue, we see the speakers using ñora and señora interchangeably. I also found it interesting that the other transcript (Chabacano de Zamboanga dialogues in 1901) that Mauro Fernandez sent to me also contained a dialogue wherein somebody was asking for a loan.

In the first dialogue, one of the speakers say: yá tené gayot yó que vené aquí con vós, para hace lang comigo favor de emprestá un caban de palay. The usage of the expression ya + tene que + verb to signify had to (do something) also occurs in the 1901 Chabacano de Zamboanga dialogues but does not seem to appear anymore in modern day Chabacano de Zamboanga.

El puerco todas las noches tá hacé gayot mucho perjuicio; y camé bien rendido yá de tanto visiá. In this sentence, what grabbed my attention immediately was the usage of todas las noches. In the modern Chabacano de Zamboanga, the equivalent of this phrase is todo'l (todo el) noche. I am uncertain whether at some point in the distant past, todas las noches was employed in the Chabacano de Zamboanga as well. The word visia means to watch out (for something) or to make rude observations on other people, this word exists in the present day Chabacano de Zamboanga.

We also see the word malisud which comes from the Cebuano or Hiligaynon word lisud meaning hard. Add ma in front and it becomes a Chabacano adjective. This word is in use up to today in the modern Chabacano de Zamboanga along with dificil which also means hard or not easy.

We also see the word quilaya in action as early as 1883 in the Chabacano in Cotabato. This word means how and appears in the present day Chabacano de Zamboanga as well. We also see the expression no hay por donde which still exists in the Chabacano de Zamboanga today. This expression roughly means to not have any means of surviving.

Second Dialogue

-Ninang ...

-Nora

-Donde vós?

-Taquí ñora.

-Cosa vós tá asé

-no hay ñora

-Si Ninoy dondé yá mán?

-ya andá ñora na Simuhay man tiangui, cay cosa vá usté quiere con ele

-No hay, ay mandá lang era yó componé el techo del amon casa cay tá gutiá man aquel si tá man ulán.

-Dejá usté, cay al volver ele luego, ay jablá yó.

-Cosa el de iño ulam

[4] no hay nada ñora, yá andá gane yó na tiangui endenantes, no hay gayot nada que puedé comprá.

-Yá jablá comigo sí Nita, taba dao tá llevá pescao el maga moro?

-Nosé ñora, cay yó aga pá estaba allá, y no hay man yó mirá ní un pescao

-Sí Biboy yá andá vá na sugut mirá venao?

-Nóse ñora, tallí man cajá si Nita, preguntá usté si yá andá ó no hay.

-No hay dao allí

-Ná, no ay vá ustedes conversá del pescao?

-Yá conversá gane camé peró gendé na su casa sinó enfrente del escuela

-Ná, entonces esperá yá lang quitá luego sí llegá si Biboy cay siguro gendé cajáa ay paltá venao, cay cada véz man silá andá na Sugut, siempre ta trae uno.

-Si no puedé yó luego llegá aquí banda caniño, evos yá lang comprá magá tres libra de carne venao; já Ninang?

-Ñora

-Ay andá yá yó.

-Ñora

In the second dialogue, we see evidence that the Chabacano in the dialogue was spoken in an accent where the speaker might omit the letter 's' as can be observed in the word taba which is obviously estaba. If you listen to Chabacano speakers in the rural areas of Zamboanga city, there are still people who speak Chabacano with this accent.

We can also observe that when answering in the affirmative to the ñora, the speaker just says ñora instead of oo or si. Obviously, this is a sign of respect and is maybe unique to Filipino culture.

I think it is curious to see that the word used for the verb 'to rain' in the dialogue above is man ulan. This is quite a surprise to me because I thought that the Spanish llover would have been used instead.

Here is something interesting. In the office, when they asked me how to say 'goodbye' in Chabacano, I told them that it's anda ya yo (because this is what I and most people say when we take leave. In the second dialogue, we see the ñora also saying anda ya yo when she took leave of Ninang.

Another thing that we can observe from the dialogue is that the unit of measurement used during that time was libra (pounds) and not kilograms or grams like today. We also see that we used to have deer (venao) back then in certain places, we probably hunted them to extinction. 😢😢😢😢

In case you were wondering, all the V.s in the dialogues refer to uste. here is a list of some words in the two dialogues which you may not have understood.

Deuda (debt) *not found in either Camin's or Santos' Chabacano dictionary, common modern Chabacano equivalent is debe

Marisca (to gather shellfish) *found only in Santos' Chabacano dictionary, not used often especially in modern Chabacano

Trae (to bring)  *not found in either Camin's or Santos' Chabacano dictionary, common modern Chabacano equivalent is lleva

The word balibat is found only in Camins' Chabacano dictionary and is a noun defined as excuses to avoid joining or participating. In the dialogue, the word is used as a verb (ta man balibat) and obviously means to make excuses to avoid doing something.

The word manumbalay is not found in either Camins' or Santo's Chabacano dictionary but the Spanish translation of the dialogues indicate that man manumbalay means to go from house to house.

If you wish to view the full transcript of the five dialogues, it is available here. The transcript is owned by Mauro Fernandez, a linguistics professor at the Universidad de La Coruna in Spain, who has written several scholarly articles about Chabacano. The Spanish translation was made by the same person who wrote or transcribed the dialogues, who is evidently well versed in both languages as the Spanish translation is actually more of an interpretation.

After reading the five dialogues in the transcript, I realized that the Chabacano in Cotabato and Zamboanga during the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century were very similar and almost the same. From the transcript, we can observe that the past, present and future tense marker in Cotabato's Chabacano is the same as what we have in the Chabacano de Zamboanga. The pronouns (camo, ustedes, amon, vos, evosuste, quita, yo, comigo, su, de iño, caniño, canaton, canino, canamon, and con ele) are the same in both languages.

The absence of tu and nosotros can be observed in both languages during this time period (late 19th century). Is it possible that tu and nosotros only appeared in the Chabacano de Zamboanga much later? Maybe in middle of the first half of the 20th century?

Another thing that can be observed from the transcript is the presence of certain phrases that adhere to Spanish grammar such as otra cosa, todas las noches, algunas veces, no se and buenos dias (which are no longer present in today's Chabacano de Zamboanga) as well as old Spanish words like mas queendenantes and ansina (which are present in today's Chabacano de Zamboanga). One will also observe the usage of lo que which can be seen in the traditional Chabacano de Zamboanga but never appears in the modern Chabacano de Zamboanga (either formal or informal).

It was a surprise to me that words such as cay, camo, maga, gane, pa, gayot, lang, gende (hinde), va (ba), caja (gaha)suudmud (sumud) and man were already in use during these times. Another surprise was the usage of si in front of names of persons. I guess that if there is one thing that we can conclude from this transcript, it is that Hiligaynon and other Philippine languages made a mark on the Chabacano language much earlier than we had previously thought.

Here are other sentences that grabbed my attention from the dialogues and my observations on them.
  • Camó gayot siempre tá pillá.
  • Ná... si manang no quiere gayód cré¡ no sabe vá  V. que si manong firme yá lang tá hacé ansina comigo?
In the two sentences above, we see the words siempre and firme coexisting with each other in the Chabacano of Cotabato in 1883. Both words mean always. In the first sentence, we see the word pilla which is pelea (from the Spanish pelear) in the modern day Chabacano de Zamboanga.
  • Para no lang yó avergüenzá con el maga gente.
  • Malisud pá mán ansina tá tené uno deuda, y si no tá puedé pagá, macá juyá lang.

  • Más quen delante de quien
  • Mas que camé ta pasa un poco de miseria por causa del tiempo
In the phrases and sentences above, we see two sets of words with the same definition, one creolized and the other not creolized, existing in the same time period in the Chabacano of Cotabato.
  • Ya jablá era endenantes, y no ahora cay tá hacé yo otra cosa.
In the sentence above we see the word era which is being used like it is today in the Chabacano de Zamboanga. You can read more about the Chabacano era here. Another word in the sentence above which exists today in Chabacano de Zamboanga is endenantes which means a while ago. The word jabla in the sentence above is curious because it suggests that the word habla was pronounced with the Spanish j instead of the Spanish h (which is silent) in the Chabacano of Cotabato during this time period. This word is pronounced as habla (silent h) in the the Chabacano de Zamboanga.

According to a publication by John M. Lipski and Salvatore Santoro titled Zamboangueño Creole Spanish: "Differences between Cotabato Chabacano and ZM are subtle, and mostly involve a few lexical items and pragmatic choices, e.g. of pronominal address; for all practical purposes they are the same language (Riego de Dios 1976, 1978, 1989)".

According to the book: Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas by Stephen A Wurm, Peter Muhlhausler, Darrell T Tryon: "Zamboangueno spread to Cotabato city and Davao city, Basilan Island, the Sulu Archipelago and Jolo Islands around the turn of this century (Lipski 1986)". if this statement were true, this probably means that the Chabacano in the transcript was the same Chabacano that was spoken in Zamboanga city during that time period.

According to an acquaintance, the Chabacano in Cotabato has some Maguindanaoan words in it but is still Chabacano de Zamboanga in grammar. Because it is largely accepted that the Chabacano in Cotabato developed from the Chabacano de Zamboanga, all this should not come as a surprise at all.

In the words though, of one native speaker of the Chabacano of Cotabato, "it (Chabacano in Cotabato) is a dying language, one can count how many Chavacanos there are in Cotabato city". 😱😱

I am not sure whether the modern day Chabacano of Cotabato and Zamboanga are very similar to each other also but I have tried asking somebody who speaks the Chabacano of Cotabato to translate some English sentences into his Chabacano for me and it looks like this language is the same as the Chabacano in Zamboanga even today.  I am pretty sure that there are some differences in the words that we use but then this also happens within Chabacano-speaking communities in Zamboanga city. One group may use the word empena, while the other may say prenda. One family might say principia, and another one might use empeza.

These conversations took place more than 130 years ago and it is really amazing that we get to study them today. It is a fascinating glimpse into the life of our ancestors who had to deal with rulers exacting tributes, with farm-destroying pigs, with unforgiving creditors, and other hardships of life. But amid all these difficulties, we see our ancestors helping out each other in what is a great example of the Bayanihan spirit in action. 😁😁

12 comments:

  1. Jerome, I think it still exist in today's Chavacano (Zamboangueño) the sentence Ya+Verb+Que..
    Though i am not sure if my way of writing is the same as it is.
    Examples how i write.

    Ya compra yo el que no hay na casa.
    Or
    Ya compra yo el cosas que no hay na casa.

    No más ya gane que come, jugá lang siempre na gallera.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aron. Aquel na transcipt, otro el structure: ya+tene+que+verb.

      Porjemplo:

      Ya tene yo que compra el que no hay na casa

      Ya tene yo que compra el cosas que no hay na casa

      =) Gracias por tu comentos!

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    2. Aaah . . Double verb gale ...


      Modifier(ya)+Verb(tené)+Conjunction(que)+Verb(vené)

      Got it...

      But how sure are we that this gramatical structure no longer exist in the Comtemporary Chavacano?

      Delete
    3. Well, I have never encountered this grammatical structure but let's see what other people have to say. :D

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    4. Yeah! You're right! ^_^

      Like what I've encountered from someone who is a Zamboangueño from far away Barrio by asking me "¿Cosá su gracia?". Well, at first I didn't know that what he was asking me is my name as in "¿Cosá su nombre?".. jajaja
      i will never forget thus encounter in my life...

      Another example is this, the "Permiso" when you'll pass between two person are talking. Whereas when in Pueblo we just simply said "pasa yo". Since then, I started to use Permiso everytime I pass by in between two or three people talking.

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  2. Yes. Both Cotabateño Chavacano and Castellano Abakay (Davaoeño Zamboangueño) are offspring of Zamboangueño.

    No wonder, We can easily communicate with R. Riego de Dios a Cotabateñ who is currently in ZDA but been outside the country for years.

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  3. Agree!
    In my case, I used empeña over prenda, Rescata, Amarea over buyuñg, segui línea over man pila, morisqueta over canon, i also use both Kita/Kame and Nosotros, I also used frequently Vosotros over Ustedes, I also used both Ellos and Sila, I also used both Acerca de and Sobre de over Por causa de if what I mean is About Me, I also used Taoyu over Toyo, Genibre over Jisnibre, Refrigerador over frigerador, et.al.

    So for me, I may suggest that our Linguists should study everything about Chavacano its past, Middle and Contemporary.

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  4. We also have many Chavcanos in Semporna, Sabah and their Chavacano is called Zamboangueño as most of them came from Zamboanga City and have stayed their even before the creation of a new country called Malaysia.

    I had this opportunity when i have a classmate in College who is from Semporna, and who is only veru fluent in Chavacano and Bahasa Melayu.

    What nice about her is that, She don't mixe up her language. If she speaks in Chavacano, she speaks it fluently and purely without Anglicism or Tagalism and same when speak in Bahasa Melayu.

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  5. I am not a Chabacano speaker and I should study it more, but I noticed that the Chabacano from the late 19th century was a bit more close than its roots. Today it looks like more close to the Filipino languages, but still retain lots of things, which is amazing considering how many changes happened in more than a century. Good job on this article, amigo, I enjoyed to read it!

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  6. The ya + tene + que + verb construction exists in the Chabacano de Cavite where it becomes ya + tiene + que + verb.

    Por ejemplo:
    Nisós ya tiene que andá na misa todo el domingo.

    Regarding gracia:
    As previously mentioned, ¿Cuál es su gracia? = ¿Cuál es su nombre?.

    It's considered an archaic, although polite form of asking someone's name when ¿Cuál es su nombre? or ¿Cómo se llama usted? was considered too abrupt or blunt to ask of someone. It is referring to gracia del bautismo (o sea el nombre que por la "Gracia de Dios" se le pone a la persona que le convierte como miembro de la fe Católica.)

    I have only heard it used in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in the Mexican countryside, mainly by older people.

    JPS

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    Replies
    1. Hola desde el Sur de Espana! Excelente articulo Jerome y,muy buena tu colaboracion con el profesor Mauro Fernandez.En cuanto a vigencia actual,sabeis algo sobre numero de hablantes de cotobateno o chabacano abakay?creo recordar datos,ya antiguos sobre hablantes en Cotabato de Margarita Riego de Dios,pero actuales no conozco.Muy interesantes las aportaciones de JPS sobre el uso de "su gracia" en el caviteno en relacion al comentario de Aron.Pregunto a JPS,si puede informarnos si hay iniciativas nuevos para revitalizar el caviteno,a nivel local.Un fuerte abrazo a todos,joaquin

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  7. Myrna P. AngelesJune 15, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Entertaining and historical. Well just like human beings languages/dialects evolve. Slower of course than climate change.

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