LOOK: The Oldest Chabacano Text Ever Found!

Do you ever wonder how our ancestors spoke Chabacano in 1901? I'm sure you have heard that the Chabacano before was so different and much more Spanish-sounding than the one we speak today. Although traditional Chabacano still exists in some form through the formal Chabacano we hear in radio and TV programs, I don't think anybody living today will have firsthand information on how people in Zamboanga spoke Chabacano in 1901. Well, if you are curious about it, read on.


But first, let me give you some background information about 1901. According to Wikipedia, during this time, Zamboanga was under the independent republic of Zamboanga. This government however, at least in 1901, seemed to have been just a puppet government of the Americans. Later on, we shall see a tumultuous Zamboanga experiencing food shortages as well as several difficulties under the new government.

The following Chabacano dialogues that you are about to read are from the oldest known text in Chabacano (de Zamboanga). These Chabacano dialogues were taken from a manuscript which is actually just part of a bigger one which describes the culture of Mindanao. The manuscript was discovered by Mauro Fernandez who is a Linguistics professor at the University of La Coruña in Spain and he has graciously shared these dialogues with me. He presented them at a congress in Stockholm in June 2017. I sincerely thank him for allowing me to publish these dialogues which are a very important part of Zamboanga history. He believes that Zamboangueños have a right to gain access to these dialogues (more than scholars) so that they will have a better understanding of their identity and more pride in their heritage. He is currently preparing a more thorough scholarly article regarding these dialogues which will contain an in depth analysis.

For me, it is amazing not just to be able to read a conversation during those days in Chabacano but to be able to catch a glimpse on how people back then viewed current events as well. It is very rare that we get an opportunity to have an uncensored view on what life was back then. This is better than a newspaper article or a diary because it is reality presented in an unbiased manner.

The first dialogue has four characters (two children and their parents) featuring an early morning domestic life scene. We see two sleepy-heads being woken up by their mother for school and a housewife directing a household to prepare for the day ahead.

Ticang (upon waking up): Ache, Ache.
Ache: Nay.
Ticang: Disperta ya para cusi cape. Endo, Endo.
Endo: Nay.
Ticang: Disperta ya tamen vos para anda compra desayuno.
Endo: Cosa-cosa nay ay compra?
Ticang: O un peseta. Compra vos cuatro cen de bibinca, dos cen de poto, cinco cen de polvos de cape y cuatro cen de dulce; ay volve pa con vos cinco cen. Hace vos pronto cay ay anda pa vos tata na trabajo.
Endo: Nay…
Ache: Cucido ya nay el cape.
Ticang: Na entonces recoge ya el cama pate muda ya vos para anda na misa y na escuela.
Ache: Nay.

Etong: Ticang?
Ticang: Cosa?
Etong: Luego manda vos mi comida alla na casa de aquel chino si Panga, cay alla yo ay trabaja ahora.
Ticang: Oo.

Endo: Taqui ya nay el desayuno.
Ticang: Na, entonces arregla ya camo pronto-pronto para anda na escuela y desayuna ya.
Ache: Si Tatay, donde ya?
Ticang: Talla abajo ta amola su bolo; anda, llama, habla taqui ya el desayuno.
(They eat breakfast). Camo dos, antes de anda na escuela, pasa anay na iglesia ui misa ha?; cay quita cristiano; y mas que el presidente ya prohibi de anda na iglesia con el maga bata, anda camo siempre, cay camo gende ay asfixia alla. Primero Dios que nadie. Ya ui camo?
Ache & Endo: Nay. (after eating breakfast) Anda ya came, nay.
Ticang: Oo.
Etong: No olvida vos, Ticang, manda mi comida ha? (they go down)

The first thing that you’ll probably notice is how funny the names of these people are. But I guess this was how names were during that time (ache could be the Hokkien word for elder sister or the nickname for Ignacia). We’ll also notice that they actually cook their coffee instead of just making it. I asked my uncle about polvos de cafe and he said that this is grounded coffee beans and is drunk mostly by people who live in rural areas. He said that this is still sold today in markets in Zamboanga city although most people nowadays drink instant coffee. Another thing that we’ll notice in this conversation is the usage of the word desayuno (breakfast). The word desayuno is rarely used in Chabacano. I’m not sure if the usage of this word was widespread during those days. I asked my uncle about this word and he said that he knows the word and its meaning but he said that it is probably only used by people who also speak or know some Spanish. Even Camins’ dictionary does not contain the word desayuno, only Santos’ dictionary has this word. The word used in mainstream Chabacano for breakfast is almuerzo (same as in Mexican Spanish). We will, later on, see in the next dialogues that there is a high possibility of Ticang being able to speak or at least, having formally studied Spanish.

Coffee with poto (puto) and bibinca (bibingka) was probably common breakfast fare in those days but what I couldn't understand was the word dulce It may be a type of sweetener for coffee because bibinca and poto are already sweet and so it doesn't make sense to have dessert after eating them. Today, we use the word azucar for sugar.

This is how a present day puto and bibingka (rice cakes) look like:




A peseta is equivalent to twenty centavos. My uncle said that he can recall the word peseta still being used when he was a kid. I’m not sure when the peseta was abolished but it was still probably in use back then (even after it was abolished) as a synonym for twenty centavos since the cost of goods back then were only a few centavos each.

Another peculiarity we can observe from the dialogue is the phrase hace vos pronto which might be an archaic way of saying apura vosAy volve pa con vos cinco cen means five centavos will still be returned to you but the word volve in today’s Chabacano does not anymore mean to return (something), it usually means to go home. We now use the word devolve for the word return. While Chabacano dictionaries will tell you that volve also means to return aside from to go home, there are only a few people today who are aware of this other meaning.

In the conversation between the mother Ticang and the father Etong, we see the word manda (to send) which is also probably only used by people who are acquainted with Spanish. It is unclear though if this was used by people before interchangeably with the modern Chabacano equivalent which is envia knowing all the while that this word is Spanish and not Chabacano.

Growing up, I've always known si as a formal or polite way of saying yes and this dialogue, we can observe that as far back as the early twentieth century, oo was the way to answer in the affirmative in intimate situations. We also see that parents used vos and kamo with their kids and with each other. Unfortunately, the dialogue doesn't show what kids used with their parents. In my mom's family, I observed that the parents used vos with their kids as well as elder siblings with the younger ones. Meanwhile, the children used uste with their parents as well as younger siblings with the older ones.

In the last part of the dialogue, we see Ticang asking her kids to pass by the church to hear mass before going to school even though this was prohibited by the president (of the Zamboanga republic). I guess for the revolutionaries back then, the catholic church was the symbol of the Spanish yoke and therefore, going to mass was prohibited. In this part of the conversation, we also see an expression that is clearly Spanish, primero Dios que Nadie.

Mas que means even though. This is old Spanish and this is where the Chabacano masquin/misquin comes from. My uncle said that people still say mas que in Chabacano although I think that these people would probably be old timers. The word asfixia means to suffocate and I’m not sure whether this was used a lot in those days. Today, I think the more known word is sufoca. I asked my uncle about the form: prohibi+de+verb and he said that this is used up to today (although, I have not heard anyone using it.). An example sentence that we can make out of this form is ya prohibi de maneja coche con el maga borracho (the drunk were prohibited from driving).

Now let’s talk about the different ways of calling your parents in Zamboanga. I would hear Mamang and Papang, Mama and Papa, Mommy and Daddy, but never Nanay and Tatay. So it's probably safe to conclude that this way of calling parents does not exist anymore though I know that this continues to exist in other provinces.

In the next dialogue, we will see how the ordinary Filipino felt about the Philippine revolution. I think it was in a film titled El Presidente where I saw that there were people complaining about Katipuneros taking away their rice. In history books, we really don’t get to read whether the Philippine revolution was popular among the people to whom it would've mattered the most, the Filipinos. It is important to remember as well that the revolution that we studied in school never talked about the revolutions in the other parts of the archipelago. In fact, the revolution that we read about in history books was known as the Tagalog war among the Spanish.

The next dialogue will also show us how the Americans suppressed the dominant religion and the Spanish language in the archipelago during that time. I bet you never read that happening in your history book. I was at first confused by the presence of the Americans in the manuscript. The dialogues imply that the Zamboanga republic and the Americans coexisted during the time when this manuscript was created. I initially thought that the Presidente being talked about was General Vicente Alvarez and from my reading, he was Presidente of the Zamboanga republic only until 1899. But according to the Wikipedia article on the Zamboanga republic, it looks like the Republic became a puppet government of the Americans in 1899 and in March 1901 the Americans allowed the Republic to hold elections wherein Mariano Arquiza was elected as president. In the next dialogue, we also see people complaining about taxes and about airing their grievances to a civil commission (most probably the Taft commission).

Buchang: Buenos dias, ñora Ticang.
Ticang: Buenos dias, ñora. Subi uste.
Buchang: Ay! Temprano pa gayot ya bene yo aqui con uste.
Ticang: Na, na amo man. Cosa ba aquel?
Buchang: Ay! Ñora Ticang! Ta habla yo con uste como hermana, anoche mal cenar gayot came.
Ticang: Na porque man?
Buchang: No hay gayot came ni un chiquito.
Ticang: No hay ba trabajo el de uste marido?
Buchang: Tiene ñora, pero cuanto lang aquel su tres reales de jornal, palta pa para na comida lang.
Ticang: Gende pa ba ustedes ta corta el sementera?
Buchang: Genda pa ñora, pero maga cuatro dia pa puede ya man curta. Este pa maga gente ta espia lang, que no hay quien ta bisia el sementera ta anda sila curta.
Ticang: Ay de veras; con este tiempo de hambre, si no ustedes bisia gayot gende man ustedes ya pode aprovecha nada.
Buchang: Ay ñora, por eso si Candoy, todo el noche alla ta durmi na sementera; y con todo ese anteanoche cinco gente gayot estaba ta hace sangut el palay, y al gritar canila si Candoy, duru y parejo gayot sila cas-cas.
Ticang: Ay! Cosa ya man gane este tiempo! Nunca gayot ya observa carestia como ahora ni ya subi el precio del ganta del arroz hasta cuatro reales.
Buchang: Quilaya uste, cuando el tiempo del Republica ta decomisa todo el arroz y no hay pa pode sembra ninguno cay no sabe pa quita aquel si quilaya ba quita ay queda.
Ticang: Ay de veras! Cosa ya tiempo aquel? Ni no hay mas respeta ni el maga iglesia, cay todo gayot ya saquea.
Buchang: Si ñora, hasta el maga tela colorao, el maga cinta, el maga galon ya hace divisa-divisa el maga militar del Republica.
Ticang: Ay bueno lang si ese; ya saca-saca el maga vestido del Padre, el maga muebles y hasta maga alajas. Jesus, Maria y Jose! Ta profana gayud sila todo, por eso gende na ta sale el castigo de Dios aqui na Zamboanga.
Buchang: Sila cuidao; sabe uste, ta para gayot mi pelo cada vez acorda yo todo el que ya pasa.
Ticang: Cosa man.
Buchang: Na, yo ya bini gayot para suplica con uste, si puede anay dale presta conmigo cinco peso, hasta acaba lang el corta del de amon sementera.
Ticang: Si ñora; para ese lang, cosa ba, tiene ba uste que hace compra?
Buchang: Gende ñora; ay paga lang came el contribucion del sementera con el alcalde.
Ticang: Ay, ta cobra gane, no?
Buchang: Si ñora.
Ticang: No ba ustedes reclama?
Buchang: Ya reclama yo ñora con el mismo alcalde, pero gende man ele ta hace caso.
Ticang: Ay yo ya reclama con el mismo presidente, que no puede came paga ese dos por ciento de contribucion.
Buchang: Na cosa man ya habla con uste?
Ticang: No hay man aquel habla nada, y habla lang ele que todo el mundo tiene que pagar ansina dao.
Buchang: Si sigue este ansina, ay perece man el pueblo.
Ticang: Na cosa man; el maga gente aburrido ya gane con ese contribucion, y ta ui yo habla con el maga gente que preparao dao alli algunos para reclama con el Comision Civil si bene.
Buchang: Ay bene dao gane, no?
Ticang: Ay bene dao ñora.
Buchang: Na cosa man dao sila ay habla?
Ticang: Ay suplica dao sila que mengua el cuota del contribucion, si puede, cay el pueblo ahora pobre demasiao por causa del apizootia y del incendio.
Buchang: Ñora Ticang, ta manda uste pa na escuela con el de uste anac?
Ticang: Ta manda ñora, cay si falta dao na escuela ay multa dao.
Buchang: Pues yo no hay mas manda con mi anac tiene ya un semana.
Ticang: Porque man?
Buchang: Cay el maga maestro no quiere mas dao manda aprende catecismo pate el maga libro español; y todo el libro que tenia tanto de Religion como el de lengua español ya recoge ya dao y no quiere mas manda lleva na escuela.
Ticang: Ansina ya, cay no quiere dao el maga americano, quiere lang que aprende ingles el maga bata.
Buchang: Na ya mira ya uste ese?Todas las cosas esta sucede ahora el que gende uno ta pensa.
Ticang: Ay, de veras, y no sabe pa quita el que de bene.
Buchang: Na ñora Ticang, ay anda ya yo.
Ticang: Ñora; o, talli ese cinco peso.
Buchang: Muchas gracias lang con ustedes.

In the first part, we see that good morning was still buenOs dias in those times and not the buenAs dias as we now know it today. We’ll also see that instead of saying come in, the host says, come up. This was probably because houses those days were built on stilts in rural areas and stone houses in cities or towns normally had two stories, the second story housing the living area and bedrooms and the ground floor serving as a stable for horses, a kitchen, or a warehouse. Thus, it was in the second story that one would normally entertain visitors at that time.

The word chiquito I know exists in Caviteño and it means small. In this conversation, we see that the word chiquito is used more or less to mean the same thing. This word is in Camins’ dictionary, but it’s not used that much anymore in contemporary Chabacano de Zamboanga. The expression ta habla yo con uste como hermano/hermana means I'm speaking to you, not as a stranger but a brother/sister. There are only a few people using this expression in today's Chabacano.

According to an article, I found in Wikipedia, the Philippine real was the currency in use until 1852 when the peso was introduced at the rate of eight reales to one peso. The three reales in the conversation could have been equivalent to 0.37 pesos or less than half a peso. The word jornal (daily wage) is a word that is not used very much today, Chabacano speakers today simply say sueldo.

1901 must have been a very difficult time for the people of Zamboanga who were experiencing severe hunger and inflation. We even see in the dialogue that there were people who would go as far as stealing palay. I don’t think the usage of the word corta to mean harvest is still heard of nowadays. It is possible, though it is only known among people who own rice fields. The word sementera is a word still used today though younger people especially those who grew up in urban neighborhoods probably wouldn’t know it.

We also see how religion-centric people were during those days saying Zamboanga was being punished for all the disrespectful deeds that the military of the Republic committed against the churches. The catholic churches during those days with the cura parroco were probably the symbol of the Spanish yoke and thus they absorbed the brunt of the anger of the revolutionaries.

In the conversations above, we can also see the frequent usage of the form al+verb (in its Spanish infinitive form). In present day Chabacano, I’m not sure if this is still used. What I tend to hear is the form al+Chabacano verb (e.g. al abaja, al come, al senta, etc).

One of the things that surprised me from this dialogue was the widespread usage of hende, na (instead of ya), kamo, sila, kame, kay, man, gayot/gayod, bisia, sanggut (and other words from different Philippine languages) even during those times. I mistakenly thought that people during those times spoke a Chabacano which was almost Spanish.

In the same dialogue, we see Ticang and Buchang talking badly about the revolutionaries. I initially didn’t understand the words saquea (to loot), cinta (ribbons), and divisa (insignias) but Mauro Fernandez graciously explained them to me and it turns out that these are Spanish words.

A divisa looks like this:

Source: www.amilitarmineira.com.br


The Chabacano profana (desecrate) is not in the Chabacano dictionaries that I have nor could it be identified by the Chabacano speakers whom I know. The word carestia is still in use these days but only by a few people. Ui habla obviously comes from the Spanish oir hablar (to hear talk of), This is not in use anymore today. De bene (will happen or come) sounds like Ternateño and Caviteño. In those variants, the future tense marker is de.

In the dialogue, we see the usage of pode alongside puede. I think the word pode is no longer used these days and only puede exists. The phrase todo el mundo to mean everybody comes from Spanish and is not anymore used today. Today we say todo ‘l gente. The same can be said for the form: tiene+que+verb, today we say necesita+Chabacano verb. I also noticed that in the conversation above, que was always used to say 'that' (e.g. ya habla si Buchang que…..) whereas today we normally say kay or na. It appears that there was an obvious distinction between kay (because) and que (than) before than today.

The dialogue also talks about the taxes being imposed by the Republic on its citizens. Based on the conversation, we could conclude that people were being asked to pay a tax of 2% which was why Buchang was asking Ticang for a five peso loan. The same dialogue also talks about school attendance during that time. As you probably have guessed, the word falta in the conversation means to be absent. I am not sure if this meaning of falta is still in use today but the common meaning of falta is to lack (something) in present day Chabacano. Some people also use this word to mean to do something bad to someone (e.g No hay gane yo con vos falta, I never did anything wrong to you). In Spanish, the word falta can mean to be absent from work or school. What was surprising to me was the mention of a 'penalty' if you don't send your kids to school. But then again, the entire Philippine Islands was under martial law during American occupation and let's not forget the Balangiga massacre.

The third dialogue is about Ticang going to the house of a man who hit her child. When she arrives, she doesn't find him but talks about what had happened to the daughter of that man. In the end, she realizes that there was a misunderstanding and tells the daughter not to talk about her coming to the house to her father.

— Ñora?
— Donde vos tata?
— No hay aqui, ñora.
— Donde ele?
— Ya anda na sementera, dos sila de manang.
— Ya bene yo aqui cay tiene yo reclamo con ele.
— Cosa de uste reclamo?
— Ya pega dao con aquel de mio anac.
— Quien ta habla con uste?
— Quien ta habla conmigo? pues aquel de mio bata; ta sube na casa de amon, ta
yora, yora; pati colorao pa aquel de suyo cara; cay ya dale dao con ele palmada;
ha, porque ansina ele conmigo? Pobre, tambien, aquel de mio anac, si no hay ele
culpa; ta bisia dao, aquel de amon carabao, e cay descuida un poco lang,
ya entra, dao, na de iño palay, y ta come un poquito lang; cuatro, lang dao, o cinco
bilog; y ya anda alla vos tata, ya acaba, dao, todo el malo sale de su boca, y
despues ta dale soco con ele, pate palmada pa; cosa ese? si tiene reclamo,
porque no ta visa conmigo? para puede yo castiga con ele?
— No uste incomoda, ñora Ticang, cay tiene culpa siempre aquel de uste anac: ta
juga, juga siempre con Andoy, aquel de suyo uban y no ta pensa
mas con el carabao, y ta entra na de amon semillero, y todo, todo ya echa perde;
ya llega ya si Tatay; cosa? gindi ba incomoda con tanto perjuicio? ya regaña ele; pero no hay pega palmada; ta mira yo; ya dale lang con la mano na espalda.
— De modo que el carabao ta tropea el semillero?
— Si ñora; poco gani el que ya come; pero mucho gayot el que ya echa perde.
— Ah; si yo sabe que ansina, gindi man era yo ay bene aqui. Bueno;
no mas camo habla con vos tata que ta reclama yo ha?
— Gindi ñora.
— Adios.
— Adios.

In the dialogue above, we see the word siempre being used in two ways. One to mean always (this is actually not being used anymore), and the other to mean still (which is very much in use today). The third meaning of siempre is of course (like in Tagalog). I wasn't sure how to translate the word incomoda in the sentence above.

According to Lipski’s research in Chabacano/Spanish and the Philippine linguistic identity, Zamboanga was the most Spanish-speaking area of the Philippines in the mid 19th century. It is highly probable then that Spanish existed alongside Chabacano in Zamboanga city during the times that this text was created.

Today, when we speak Chabacano, it is difficult not to slip in some English and Filipino words. I think this was also the case during those times. People spoke Chabacano, slipping in some Spanish from time to time (code switching and borrowing words). People in those times might have been conscious of this phenomenon and could identify what were actual Spanish and Chabacano words. Today though, nobody can tell. Some expressions or words which are really Spanish might just be identified as traditional Chabacano or Chabacano hondo instead of Spanish.

The final dialogue takes place when Endo and Ache goes home from school and Ticang is preparing the family's meal.

Endo: Nay! Nay!
Ticang: Cosa?
Endo: O, ya dale canamon el maestro cartilla de ingles.
Ticang: Na para cosa man sirve ese caniño?
Endo: Na para sabe conversa ingles.
Ache: Ay nay?
Ticang: Cosa?
Ache: Na escuela ba, ya quita el cruz pate todo el maga cartel de español.
Ticang: Na porque man?
Ache: Cay ya manda dao el maga americano. Pate ya habla pa dao que no mas reza-reza na escuela ni antes ni al acabar de lee.
Ticang: Na, cosa quita pode hace? El que manda, manda. Pero camo no olvida siempre con Dios, ha? y siempre que puede, anda camo na misa y alli reza camo de corazon y pido con la Virgen para ampara canaton ha?
Endo & Ache: Nay

Etong: Cusido ya alli?
Ticang: Oo Endo! Ache! Echa ya camo la comida.
(The food was served)

Present day Chabacano compared to 1901 Chabacano

Here are some Chabacano sentences that I took from the text and a contemporary Chabacano version.

1901 Chabacano: Hace vos pronto cay ay anda pa vos tata na trabajo

Contemporary Chabacano: Apurra vos (or pronto vos) cay ay anda pa vos (or de vos) Tata na trabajo.


1901 Chabacano: Luego manda vos mi comida alla na casa de aquel chino si Panga, cay alla yo ay trabaja ahora.

Contemporary Chabacano: Luego lleva vos mi comida alla na casa de aquel chino si Panga, kay alla yo ay trabaja ahora.


1901 Chabacano: ¿No ba ustedes reclama?

Contemporary Chabacano: Hende ba ustedes (ay) reclama?


1901 Chabacano: No hay man aquel habla nada, y habla lang ele que todo el mundo tiene que pagar ansina dao.

Contemporary Chabacano: No hay man aquel ele cosa ya habla, ya habla lang ele que todo’l gente necesita daw paga conese .


1901 Chabacano: Pues yo no hay mas manda con mi anac tiene ya un semana.

Contemporary Chabacano: Pues yo no hay mas manda entra na escuela con mi anak tiene ya un semana.


1901 Chabacano: Na, cosa quita pode hace? El que manda, manda. Pero camo no olvida siempre con Dios, ha? Y siempre que puede, anda camo na misa y alli reza camo de corazon y pidi con la Virgen para ampara canaton ha?

Contemporary Chabacano: Na cosa kita puede hace? El cosa sila manda, ay segui kita. Pero no gayod kamo olvida con el Dios ha? Y cuando puede, anda kamo na misa y alla reza kamo con corazon y pedi con la virgen para dale proteccion conaton, ha?

Ampara meaning to protect is not used that much today and since I wanted this to be the contemporary version, I opted to use dale proteccion. Siempre que puede means 'whenever you can' and is not being used nowadays either.

According to Mauro Fernandez, a Jesuit priest called Jose Clos (who wrote the language section of the entire manuscript) asked a Chabacano speaker to write down the dialogues found in the manuscript. The current copy that Mauro Fernandez has is actually just a copy of the original text sent to Manila from Zamboanga. Some parts were difficult to decipher and thus we see some errors in the transcription. I took the liberty of changing some words which didn't fit the context and replaced them by ones which I deemed were more appropriate.

The spelling used in the manuscript was Spanish. All accent marks were removed and the spelling of certain words were changed to make them easier to read. The annotations enclosed in parenthesis were originally in Spanish. 

Reference:
Fernández, Mauro (2017). “Los primeros textos en chabacano de Zamboanga”. Paper presented at the ACBLPE ConferenceStockholm University, June 13-15, 2017.