Observations on A Pilot Study on the Dialects of Philippine Creole Spanish

I have just read a study done by Maria Isabelita O. Riego de Dios regarding the different Chabacano dialects. In her study she compares the different words used in the Chabacano dialects of Zamboanga, Ternate, Cavite (city), and Cotabato.

Maria Isabelita O. Riego De Dios is an RVM sister and she produced a dictionary on the Chavacano de Cotabato with a Zamboangueño, Ternateño, and Caviteño Chabacano equivalents.The following are some observations on her work: A Pilot Study on the Dialects of Philippine Creole Spanish.

One of the first observations that she makes in her research are that there are words like the Cotabato and Zamboanga Chabacano gordo wherein the ‘r ‘ becomes an ‘l’ in the Chabacano dialects of Cavite and Ternate.  This is a very peculiar phenomenon but it affirms the theory that the Chabacano of Zamboanga underwent some hispanification over the last centuries. This theory appears in the study of John M Lipski on the Chabacano de Zamboanga. This also explains why a significant number of words which appear to be creolized in the Chabacano dialects of Ternate and Cavite are actually in their original Spanish state in the Chabacano of Zamboanga.

I remember writing an article in this blog about the differences between the Chabacano dialects of Cavite and Zamboanga and saying that the Chavacano de Cavite seems to sound more Spanish than our Chabacano. I received a ton of comments then from Zamboangueños that my statement was incorrect and that the Chabacano de Zamboanga is more Spanish than the Caviteño variant. So now, I am saying that I stand corrected. After researching about my lengua materna over the years, I now realize that the Chabacano de Zamboanga is more Spanish than its counterparts in Luzon. I can just picture out how happy the hispanophiles would be in Zamboanga with that statement.

Another observation De Dios makes is that the word alcansa in the Chabacano languages of Zamboanga, Cotabato, and Cavite becomes encansa in the Chavacano de Ternate. However, any speaker of the Chabacano de Zamboanga knows that the word encansa also exists in our Chabacano. It isn’t included in the dictionaries though because everyone knows that the real word is alcansa and so encansa is treated like it is just a different way (or a slang way) of saying alcansa. In the dictionary of De Ocampo on the Chavacano de Cavite, this word is listed as inkalsa.

The researcher also says that the word nape is different in each Chabacano language: tangkugu in the Chabacano de Catobato, batuk in the Chavacano de Ternate, selebro in the Chavacano de Cavite, and ombrura for the Chabacano de Zamboanga. It should be noted though that the word for nape in the Chabacano de Zamboanga is also tangkugu. Camins, his dictionary, spells it as tancugu. Santos meanwhile spells it as tancúguh. Nowhere in the Chabacano de Zamboanga dictionaries did I find the word ombrura.

This concludes my preliminary entry on De Dios' work.

A copy of the dictionary mentioned in this post can be downloaded here.


  1. I have been interested in Chabacano for a while (as a first-language speaker of a Northern Luzon language that isn't Tagalog,) and I wanted to say -- keep up with the amazing work!

  2. The Spanish term for nape is "cogote" so the chabacano de cotabato or zamboanga term isn't that far off. The same term is also most likely the origin of the tagalog term "kokote" as in "gamitin mo iyang kokote mo!"