Chabacano in the Age of Facebook

It's very interesting how Facebook has crept into our daily lives, making it a necessity, an infrastructure even. I mean how many successful companies today exist that don't have Facebook pages?  Some studies even claim that we spend at least eight hours on average every month on Facebook but let's face it, for most of us, we're on Facebook far more than just eight hours a month.

One thing that I'm sure many don't know is that Facebook is helping Chabacano form a standard when it comes to its orthography. Chabacano has been a spoken language for the longest time. This accounts for the fact that there are no standards when it comes to spelling in Chabacano. The author, Camins, who wrote a Chabacano dictionary, even said that one of the problems that he encountered while writing his dictionary was how to spell the Chabacano words.

Let's now take a look at some examples of different ways on how Chabacano words are being spelled today.

One of the places wherein you will see Chabacano words spelled in Spanish is in updates posted by TV Patrol Chavacano on their Facebook page.

In this update, we see that the Spanish acepta becomes accepta in the Chabacano Zamboanga. This is a case of Chabacanizing English words. We also see the word pronto being spelled as fronto. This is probably a case of trying too hard to spell Chabacano words in Spanish. Cusi (from the Spanish cocer) meanwhile is spelled in Spanish as it is pronounced in Chabacano.

In this second example, we see the Spanish alrededor becoming alreredor in Chabacano. We also see the Spanish word favor being spelled as pabor. As in the case of cusi, this happened because favor is pronounced as pabor in Chabacano.

Here we see that mañana is spelled as maniana. I'm sure the writer knew that mañana is spelled with an 'enye' but probably didn't know how to type it on the computer (like me). Next, we see an apostrophe in todo'l, this implies that the writer knows that todo'l is a contraction of todo and el. Not a lot of people who speak Chabacano realize this.

In this update, we see the Spanish acerca being spelled as it is pronounced in Chabacano, aserca. The Tagalog/ Cebuano kami, on the other hand, is spelled in its original Tagalog and not as how Zamboanguenos pronounce it (kame).

Here, we see the writer spell the Spanish mañana in Tagalog. We also see no hay spelled as nuay, which is how it is pronounced. The word commemora is a Chabacanized English word (from commemorate). The Spanish difunto is spelled as it is pronounced in Chabacano (defunto). And e also see that pais is spelled as paiz (probably a case of the author trying too hard to spell Chabacano words in Spanish).

In the next examples, we shall look at how people at the Zamboanga de Antes Facebook group spell Chabacano words. These people speak and write in the traditional Chabacano very well as you will see below.

If you noticed, these people spell Chabacano words as they are pronounced but in Spanish. Some Tagalog words are spelled in their original form and some are spelled in Chabacano as they are pronounced in that same language.

One of the good things that arose from the recent conflict in Zamboanga city is the rekindling of the Zamboangueños love and passion for her beloved ciudad de Zamboanga. Didn't you just feel utter hatred for those people who disrupted the peace in Zamboanga city? I know I did. We saw a lot of messages of concern on Facebook written in Chabacano during this time. To me, this was a proclamation of solidarity among people who don't normally write in Chabacano. Falta ya lang, canta kita todo el cancion Zamboanga Hermosa y grita Viva Zamboanga! 😂

But for the most part, this gives us a glimpse on how the average Zamboangueño spells Chabacano words. 

In this post, buenas was spelled using Tagalog. the same goes for que tal, cosa, and preñada. Emperma (from enferma) was spelled as it is pronounced. We also see a Chabacano mixed withTagalog and English words.

This Chabacano post also borrows a Tagalog word (dapat instead of debe). Many Chabacano words here are also spelled using Tagalog.

Below are more Chabacano posts with frequent borrowing of English and Tagalog words.

Sure, we have been using Chabacano in writing text messages but we always feel like the spelling in text messages doesn't matter since only one person would read it anyway. With public posts on Facebook, we feel like our messages are being broadcast to the world and thus we feel more conscious when it comes to the spelling of Chabacano words in our posts.

It may not happen immediately, but I think that it will only be a matter of time before people will clamor for a standard on Chabacano spelling to be established. People will start asking cosa ba gayod el amo spelling?

The advent of social media also allows us to study and observe the occasional written conversations in Chabacano. It also makes sure that these conversations will be made available to be studied by our posterity.

For example, the oldest recorded conversation in the Chabacano language that we can study today is a transcript of several dialogues in the Chabacano language in 1883 which were sent in a  letter to Hugo Schuchardt (a German linguist). With social media, however, our conversations can now be examined by our posterity even thousands of years from today! So if you are reading this in the year 3052, congratulations! I didn't expect mankind to make it that far. I always thought that we would self-destruct even before the current century had ended (I'm writing this in 2013 A.D.). 😃😃😃


  1. Personally, in most cases I prefer that Chabacano spelling follow the original Spanish spelling in the manner of Jesús Balmori's writings. As an example, please refer to Na Maldito Arena published in 1917.

  2. El razon por causa no hay kita sujeto desde elementaria hasta colegio que ta enseña el Lenguaje Chavacano o el dialecto Zamboangueño. Y no igual como el Tagalo que hasta ahora ta insistí manda conaton todo mana jendeh Tagalos aprende de ila lenguaje por eso porzao ellos manda enseña con el Sujeto de Tagalo (the invented and articifial filipino language DAO).

    Yo tambien si escribi ta precura gat yo usa el correcto ortografía.
    Ese "cusi" mali se.. debe escribi "Cocí" to cook mientras el "Cosé" aquel cose con el roto camisa.

  3. did you know that a lot of the chavacano words are also tied up to the Portuguese language , especially words ending in templao, encargao, entrao.. Lets not forget that Magellan was Portuguese, circumnavigating under the Spanish flag, most of men he brought along were Portuguese, including all other expeditions that followed after Magellan...

  4. I believe that the ao could have also come from Spanish since Spanish speakers also tend to drop the d in words ending in ado when speaking informally or in certain locales. Nontheless, it is also plausible that this came from Portuguese. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hello, Jerome!

    Regarding the previous comment that stated that -AO must have been influenced by Portuguese, my personal opinion is that NO, it is not a Portuguese characteristic to drop the -D- in words ending in -ADO. This tendency only occurs in informal Spanish in order to shorten the syllable of words like this; for example, TEMPLAO instead of 'templado', ENCARGAO instead of 'encargado' etc. I myself have studied the Portuguese language for purpose of comparison with the Spanish language and nowhere did I find this colloquialism in the Portuguese language.

    What I have found to be an influence of Portuguese in the Chabacano language is the use of the preposition NA as in 'na iglesia', 'na casa', 'na escuela' etc. because it is actually a contraction of the preposition EM (in, on, at) and the feminine article A (the), thus the contraction NA. In Portuguese the above examples are stated 'na igreja' (in the church), 'na casa' (at home), 'na escola' (in the school).

    I hope I have made a clarification on this aspect common in Portuguese and Chabacano.

    Indeed, it is fun learning languages. The more languages you try to learn, the many things you discover in their similarities and differences. Amazing!

    César Jr.