The Chavacano de Ternate Criatura

Ay, naku! Ya kái el criatura na escalera.

This is a sentence I found in a book titled The Ternateños written by Esteban A De Ocamp. It is written in the Chavacano de Ternate dialect.

I found this sentence quite funny mainly because of the word criatura. I couldn’t believe that the word for a kid in the Chavacano de Ternate is criatura. Criatura in Spanish literally means creature.

I was very surprised however when a Mexican friend used this word to mean children (offspring) when we were chatting online. So I did some research on this word and it turns out that criatura can also mean 'a child', or 'an infant' in Spanish.

This word, however (to the best of my knowledge) never appears in the Chabacano de Zamboanga.

For everyone's benefit, the sentence that appears at the beginning of this entry means 'oh my, the child fell from the stairs'.

Camins' Chabacano dictionary does not have the word criatura. Santos' dictionary does have it and defines it as creature.


  1. Criatura is quite prevalent in Ternateño and Caviteño Chabacano.

    In Spanish, it is also very common to hear "¡Que criatura más preciosa!" when one would say "What a darling child!" in English.

    I find it rather amusing that you haven't heard it used in this context.

    Perhaps the Chabacano spoken in Mindanao has already strayed further from Spanish than its counterpart in Luzón.

  2. It's very difficult to conclude that "the Chabacano in Mindanao has already strayed further from Spanish than its counterpart in Luzón" based on just one Spanish word that is absent in the Zamboanga variety but present in the Luzon variety. :D

    1. I would definitely not make any conclusion based on one single word.

      There are other factors which might support my reasoning. Of the top of my head, I can think of several pronouns (independent & possessive) and verb forms with man- construction. These have definitely strayed from Spanish and initially caused me a little difficulty in understanding the Mindanao variant.

      I also notice that in Zamboangueño there are a lot more Visayan loan words than Tagalog loan words in Caviteño or Ternateño.