Origins of the Chabacano Era

The Chabacano era is one of the many words that when used by a Chabacano speaker will tell you that that person is very fluent in the language. This word has multiple uses in the Chabacano de Zamboanga language.

In the Chavacano de Zamboanga Compendio y Diccionario by Rolando Arquiza Santos, the author explains that the word can mean perhaps and almost.

Here are some examples given by the book mentioned above.

Chabacano: Ya olvida yo era llama contigo.
English: I almost forgot to call you.

Chabacano: Ya visita era tu con ele.
English: Perhaps you should have visited him.

Note that you only use the word era to mean almost when you mean that you almost were or weren't able to do something but still ended up not doing or doing it (respectively). Here is another example:

Chabacano: No hay era yo puede mira American Idol.

English: I nearly forgot to watch American Idol.

In the Chabacano de Zamboanga handbook by Camins, he translates the word as the English 'should have'.

Here are some more examples.

Chabacano: Era ya hace tu acaba tuyo estudio.
English: You should have finished your studies.

Chabacano:  Ya dormi era anay yo.
English: I should’ve slept first.

A note on word order, the word era (when used to mean 'should have') can come at the beginning of the sentence or after the noun.

For forming these sentences in the negative (i.e. should not have), put no hay at the beginning followed by era.

Now let’s turn the two sentences above negative.

Chabacano: No hay era yo hace acaba mio estudio.
English: I should not have finished my studies.

Chabacano: No hay era anay yo dormi.
English: I shouldn’t have slept yet.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Chabacano era comes from the Spanish imperfect subjunctive tense. Here are some examples of words in their past subjunctive tense: hablara, comiera, viviera. In Camins’ dictionary, he explains that the Spanish equivalent of the Chabacano era is debiera haber.

Another usage of era (which was suggested by one of the comments below) is for attenuation. Here is an example.

Chabacano: Ta habla lang man era yo...
English: I was just saying...

Note that the sentence above can also exist without the era in it.


  1. I super like your blog! Keep on posting about the chavacano language! :D

  2. “Note that you only use the word era when you mean that you almost weren’t able to do something but still ended up doing it”

    It seems to me that the inverse is also possible: when something negative almost happens to you (or someone else) but finally it doesn’t happen and you are saved. Consider this example, I have found it some ten years ago, in an Internet forum (“Serioso y Pendehadas”):
    Ya consulta yo con mi nobia abogada, ya cay ya era le na su silla cuando ya relata yo tu problema conele!

    Mauro Fernandez (from Spain)

  3. Yes. That's right. This is another usage of the word era. Thanks for the information.

  4. Couldn't it also have a meaning of attenuation? As in:
    "No mas rabia, ta pregunta lang man era yo"