5 Signs That Prove Chabacano Is In The Brink Of Extinction

1. The language of commerce in downtown Zamboanga is now mostly Tagalog

Recently, my mom who is currently based in Pagadian, visited Zamboanga city. Much to her surprise, the language of commerce in downtown Zamboanga is now mostly Tagalog. But she said that it is worse if you try to visit the KCC Mall de Zamboanga, where practically none of the mall employees speak Chabacano. She even said that it is now only in churches that one will hear Chabacano being spoken. Although I think she might have been exaggerating that last part.

I made the same observation when I visited a local fast food restaurant. The restaurant employee spoke to me in Tagalog and looked very surprised when I responded in Chabacano. It was as if she couldn't comprehend that someone would want to converse in Chabacano!

2. The emergence of Chagalog

While riding a Jeepney once, I heard a student use the word kapitbahay in a Chabacano sentence which really surprised me because judging from her fluency in the language, I expected that she knew the Chabacano word for kapitbahay. It was only much later that I became aware that borrowing and mixing words from Tagalog is becoming a fad when speaking Chabacano. What was even more surprising to me was the fact that they were borrowing words from Tagalog when just a few years ago, Chabacano speakers were only borrowing words from English.

A few days ago, in an online forum, I read something that really cracked me up. Somebody was complaining about some people saying makaiyak instead of makallora or makayura. Then somebody answered, ''wag tu, uso ese ngayon". 😂😂😛

Here are some posts that I found online using the word makaiyak.

"Shet. Makaiyak na makakilig el MMK. Hahahahaha pero el issue, nuay pa kame syempre resa. Hahahahaha"

"nuay gad sila man text makaiyak huhu"

"Aww. Makaiyak. Manada ya gad nuay ya sen porkawsa kuneste gera oh! :("

This, my friends, is Chagalog.

3. Fluency in Chabacano is entering an all time low

In the media, the Chabacano is changing. My uncle who watches a lot of Chabacano news programs observes that the Chabacano being used in these programs is now becoming lasang. He said that he is always hearing the anchors coining or inventing Chabacano words based on their similarity to the English equivalent. It's like Spanglish, wherein carpet becomes carpeta. This word though is made up and is considered incorrect.

Lasang is a Chabacano slang which means nonsense. Camins' dictionary defines lasang as: to tell tall tales.

These events are becoming more and more rampant in Chabacano. Along with code switching, it is a glaring sign that fluency in this language is entering an all time low.

In the 1930s, Tagalog was chosen to be the base of a standardized national language. However, even up to the 1970s, there were very few Filipinos who could speak this language. In recent studies, however, it has been found out that more than 80% of Filipinos now speak this language. This is certainly good news because the consensus is that we need a national language to bind us and to foster nationalistic fervor in us. But the bad news is that all of this comes at a price: our local Philippine languages, the link to our regional identities. I hope that someday, the local government will be able to establish a regulating body for the Chabacano language. A regulating body for Chabacano will definitely strengthen its position among the many languages that are spoken by the people in Zamboanga city today and will even make teaching the language easier.

4. It is uncertain if Chabacano can survive the recent influx of immigrants to the city

Zamboanga city has always been a melting pot of different languages and I think much of Chabacano's fate lies in whether the most recent influx of migrants to the city will have Chabacano speaking children or will become Chabacano speakers themselves.  Migrants, in the past, learned to assimilate and eventually became fluent Chabacano speakers. But this was when many Zamboangueños did not speak Tagalog. Today, most Zamboangueños already know how to speak Tagalog (with varying degrees of fluency) and migrants are finding out that they do not anymore need to learn Chabacano to live in Zamboanga city.

5. Many Zamboanguenos think lowly of Chabacano

A few years ago, I met somebody (in Manila) who said that he was from Zamboanga city and when I asked him if he spoke Chabacano, he answered poco lang. But when I started speaking to him in that language, I discover that his Chabacano is so much better than mine. 😂 So I was like what is wrong with these people? Why are people embarrassed to say that they speak Chabacano?

The funny part is that a lot of people outside of Zamboanga city think that Chabacano is super posh. If you are living under a rock, posh is the new word for sosyal. In fact, my Chabacano speaking friend in Manila frequently tells me that when his friends hear him speak in Chabacano over the phone, they always comment that the language sounds so beautiful. It is cool to speak Chabacano! What's not cool is speaking unnecessarily in Tagalog when the person you're speaking to can perfectly speak Chabacano! All around the country, and the world even, there is so much interest in the Chabacano language that I fail to understand how Chabacano speakers can be so oblivious to the prestige that surrounds their language!

Make no mistake about it! The state of Chabacano today is lamentable. Let me sound the alarm bells as early as now! Unless more aggressive preservation efforts will be implemented, the day will come when Chabacano will only be spoken inside the home. This prediction is bleak but it is not without merit.

Conversa Chabacano!