1. The Roots and Routes of Chavacano
Between book and book I was reading at the Sevilla University I found some spare time to write a few notes about the Zamboangueno dialect. Of course these notes were written with the Spanish readers in mind, from their point of view I looked at our dialect. It might be of interest to the Zamboanguenos to know how outsiders look to this unique dialect. These days the center of talk is the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America by Colum- bus. The encounter of people and cultures that brought about the process of the Discovery of America and the Philippines resulted in the apparition of the criollo languages. One of these criollo languages is still alive in southern Philippines with a double name: Cavacano for inter- national consumption, or Zamboangueno for the Zamboanga people. While most of the criollo languages in America and the pacific area are about disappear and in some cases they have become historical relics, the Chavacano dialect enjoys good health and it is expanding due to being used continually on radio. More than half a million people are using regularly this dialect. The more you study about dialect, the more complicated you find its origins. We have left be- hind that traditional face when it was considered a badly spoken Spanish or broken Spanish without fixed grammatical rules, and that could be the way, that seems to called chavacano, a word, by the way, that seems to be of Portuguese origin, not Spanish at all. Could we say that Chavacano is a Spanish-Malayan dialect with Spanish words and Malayan mentality, with Andalucian color and nursed in a boa? Well, the explanation of all these terms is enough topic for the next writing. The basic route of Chavacano could be Lisboa - West African coast – Malacca – Ternate (Moluccas). Today it is a commonly accepted theory that the base of the criollo languages was in the “factorias” of negro slaves from the Atlantic coast of Africa. In these factorias were mixed to- gether slaves from different tribes and languages under the control of the Portuguese who imposed their language of prestige. The result was a lingua franca with the patterns that were repeated wherever these groups of slaves were taken. The Portuguese continued their vo- yage towards to South and at the other side of Africa established themselves in the Malaccan Peninsula which became their center of operations for there spice trade. In several points of this area - South of Thailand, Macao, Hongkong, the criollo languages of Afro-Portuguese base were repeated.
In one of their trips out they reached the Moluccas Islands in 1497 and after a while they build an importuned fortress in Ternate. Several years later Juan Sebastian el Cano spent two months in the island while he was buying spices, and there he met several Portuguese man. A Christian community was formed there. Because of cultural- religious Portuguese influence in the community a lingua franca of African base - pattern and Malay - Portuguese vocabulary developed. Later on the Spaniards took over the administration of the islands and there was a change towards the Spanish vocabulary. After a while the community moved out to Cavite near Manila.
The other route of the Chavacano dialect started in Sevilla where most of the navy men and soldiers were recruited. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean and than Mexico they sailed from Acapulco across the Pacific Ocean towards to Cavite. Now the Chavacano dialect coming from Tenante (Moluccas), the city transplanted to the new Ternate near Cavite, were added the Andalucian influences plus all the new words taken from America. New words, in- deed taken first from the Antilles and later from the Mexican Indians as well. It was the year 1635 and the Spaniards wanted to build an advance post in the tip of the Zamboanga peninsula to control the sea traffic and to stop the pirates from the south. At the time the pirates used to raid the Visayan Islands taking a lot of slaves from there.
In Cavite the Spaniards recruited masons and carpenters, and troops of native under Spanish officers’ control. Experts in construction from three other regions were added to them. Two ethnic groups of natives from the place provided the working force. This large and heterogeneous human mass lived together and settled down to form the new city. Those coming from Ternate - Cavite provided the pattern for the new language composed of Spanish, Malayan and American vocabulary had an Andalusian - Sevillian color. Today in a reduced vocabulary of 3741 words, 69% are Spanish, 29% Malayan and 2% are American. Among the Spanish words we have to set apart those from Sevilla and those of naval origin.
The Spaniard who cam today to Zamboanga for the first time thinks that he is at home be- cause he hears Spanish words everywhere. But then he realizes that he hardly understands what they want to tell him, and in turn he is not understood when he sticks to all the rules of his language of faraway Spain. Nevertheless the city students are the kings of Spanish classes in Manila. They might not master the Spanish grammar, but they have the vocabulary, and so they become the castillas for the students from the north.
Side by side with street names as Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid, San Jose the Spaniards visiting Zamboanga finds names with no meaning to him like Baliwasan, Tabuk or Cawa-cawa. I was all the time wondering at the name of one of these barrios, Baliwasan Chico, until one day I realized that the name of the next barrio was Baliwasan Grande. For sure a Sevillano or An- daluz guy marked forever the difference in size of the two barrios. Only in the South of Spain is Chico used as an adjective until now, in the rest it is used as a name. Crossing to the other side to gather some canela in what is now Canelar for his viand, and left a remembrance for posterity when he commented to his friends about the big SOCABON ? Some other soldier - navymen saw two similar shores and called them in Spanish CALDERA and the other in Malayan CAWA - CAWA. It is possible that two of them - Cauit and Subanin - were visited by Juan Sebastian el Cano some time in October 1521 on his trip from Borneo to the Moluccas, as narrated by Antonio Pigafetta. Between Fuerte del Pinar and Cawa-Cawa is seated the expanding City that was officially born in 1635 when Melchor de Vera started the construction of a prisidio (meaning fortress, not jail as some misinformed people pretend to defend) called of San Jose or in Zambian- guano as well as in the old Spanish, del Senor San Jose. After many years of existence, mi- racles and legends together made the people remember the Virgin del Pinar de Zaragoza in the mother country and they changed the name to Fuerte del Pinar. Three hundred fifty years of history by the walls have guaranteed the survival and religion and a unique language sown by the first explorers of the wide, different origins but all of them guided by the Spanish sol- dier and missionary.
Sevilla, April 1, 91 2. In Search of Chavacano History
They say that a vacation does not consist of a complete rest but is just changing from the usual activities and as much as possible far away from the daily environment. I was at home in Sevilla and I could not contend myself with reading the newspaper an watching TV - there are five crystal clear channels, two of them run by the government and three private. Ten minutes away by bus is the public university, housed in the old “Real Fabrica de Tabacos an imposing two-story stone building 280 m. long by 150 m. wide. Across the street is the fa- mous “Palacio de San Telmo”, site of the international school for navy pilots during the 15th and 16th centuries, when Sevilla was the starting point for most of the expeditions to America and the Philippines. My youngest brother, a high school teacher, introduced me to one of his former professors and instantly I was given the high sounding title “Researcher of Philology”. With this letter I was able to get a library card for free in the “Philology Library”. It is one of the many libraries inthe university with some 40.000 volumes of Literature and History. One can take home as many as three books at a time for ten days, but dictionaries or books published before the year 1925 can only be used in the reading room. A coin-operated Xerox machine in the room is the most convenient help for the students who want to have an in- stant copy of important references. It seldom is a rest. The first days one gets lost consulting the triple index: authors, topic and book titles. One thing appears clear from the beginning: the interrelation of history and languages. At times there are no traits in history of a particular tribe, but by the words they left along the way it is possible to trace the path they followed in the dawn of history. Take for instance the phone- ma Kagua that in modern Japanese means river. It is found in the composition of words all the way from Malacca peninsula to the Southern part of America. In the Malacca Peninsula you have KAGUAI, a port and a cove. Kuala Lumpur - a variation? - means muddy river’s mouth. In the Philippines you find KAGUAYAN de Sulu, in Negros Occi- dental in Leyte, city and river in Mindanao, Province in the North with a volcano called Kagua. KAGUAI (nice river) is found in Hawai too.
KAGUAKI is a river in the Nippon Island, KAGUASI is the seashore of Tokyo, and ASAHIKA- GUA names of cities. CHAKAGUA is the original name of the Missipi river in USA. CHIKAGUA (people of the river) seems to be the original name of Chicago.
CHIRIKAGUA is a river of USA while TONKAGUA and PAKAGUA are names of tribes in Texas. XIKAGUA is a tribe too in Costa Rica. KAGUA the name of a village in Yucatan, Mexico. RIENAKAGUA was the name of the actual Amazonas river. AKONKAGUA the famous volcano in the Andes mountains. So there you have two opposite paths well marked by a word repeats itself all along the way. The protojapanese left for Asia, crossed to Alaska and down to America all the way to Argen- tina. In the other direction, perhaps following the continuos line of islands when the see level was lower before the North Pole was defrozen, they reached the Philippines and then Malaysia.
In the same way as here, the existing language hints at the unwritten history. At times certain facts known by history explain the surprises you find in the study of a given language. my point of interest in my studies was the formation of the Chavacano dialect as real, some- how independent dialect, far from the traditional simplistic idea of broken Spanish. Since 1956 the growing theses is that all the creolle dialects have a common structure: they originate in the western cast of Portuguese Africa with these two characteristics – Afro and Portuguese of Afro structure with Afro-Portuguese vocabulary. With these findings I got lost at first. Could I connect this tiny spot that is Zamboanga, in the South Asian seas, with any Afro - Portuguese agent of influence ? We know that the black slaves were taken by thousands to Central and South America. They were the carriers of the Afro – Portuguese lingua franca. Wherever they had the chance of living in a certain degree of isolation they kept the structure of their own language with the change in the vocabulary from Portuguese and Spanish due to the new language of prestige around them. Occasionally a number of these slaves was taken in the Acapulco Galleon to Manila. The soldiers who were exposed to these influence of these groups of negros made the long trip Peru – Acapulco –Manila – Zamboanga. Much earlier the Portuguese with there load of black slaves had populated their colonies in the South Asia Islands. In a report to Fr Pedro Chirino it is said: From India, Malacca and Moluccas are brought to Manila male and female slaves, white and black, children and adults as well.
Ternate or Terenate in the Moluccas Islands was of great importance for the Portuguese be- cause of its spices. And we know that the criollo dialect developed in the place. The island was the cause of continuous fight between Spaniards and Portuguese until the year 1582 when Philip II married aPortuguese Princess and the two countries were united into one kingdom. Rui Lopez de Villalobos landed in the Sarangai Island in 1543 and stayed there enough time To harvest the corn his men had sawn. Meanwhile the Portuguese arrived there to drive him out of the region they claimed belonged to Portugal. When Miguel de Legazpi and Fr Urda- neta went to Bohol in 1565 the natives took them for Portuguese and fought them ”because the Portuguese had maltreated them and had taken prisoners from them”. Again inSeptem- ber 1568 the Portuguese flee was in Cebu to complain against the presence of Lagazpi in Portuguese Territory. In 1580 Don Gonzalo RonQuillo stablished a special barrio in Manila for Chinese and Japanese nationals, and for natives from Borneo and Moluccas. When the Dutch navy took possession of the Moluccas Islands in 1606 many Portuguese soldiers went to Cebu to enroll in the Spanish navy which left from Iloilo and upon reaching La caldera one of its boats run aground.
These reports clearly mean that the Portuguese from Ternate had an early influence in the Southern part of Mindanao. The Sultan of Mindanao and the Sultan of Ternate used to help one another. Buhisan brought from Ternate 600 men and seven boats to fight Captain Ron- quillo in the Illana Bay in 1598. This Buhisan was a Sultan in Mindanao. In the same way the Spanish army of Zamboanga and Ternate were in continuos communi- cation and used to exchange forces as needed in moments of superiors enemies’ attacks. In 1662 the entire community of Ternate - Moluccas - moved to Cavite (carrying with them their Senor Santo Nino). and we know that Cavite and Zamboanga were the centers of the naval defense of the islands. A continuous flow of people influenced no doubt in the final formation of the dialect. We know that as early as 1663 - a few years after the foundation of Zamboanga - there were negros in the Fuerte, because Don Fernando Bobadilla wanted to leave 50 negros soldiers for the security of the place as he was requested to transfer to Manila with the rest of the army stationed in Zamboanga.
History then explains how this mixture of the criollo dialect took place. And that the end pro- duct is today the object of serious studies by prominent professors in Europe, America and Asia. For today it is enough to mention as a brochure two Portuguese words in the Chavaca- no vocabulary: the pronoun ELE and the preposition NA. Remember that the MANGA fruit was brought from India into the country of Portuguese. It comes from the Tamil word MANKAY.
Furthermore history tells us that Sevilla was the negro-slave market in Spain. Since most of them had arrived from Lisbon, then the Afro-Portuguese element of their language was their. There were so many negros in Sevilla in the 15th and 16th centuries that they had their own chapel called until now De los Negritos, and the public square where they used to assemble by some irony is named “Santa Maria la Blanca”. The sailor - businessmen from Pisa, Geneva, Venice, Catalonia and Aragon had developed in theMediterranean area a lingua franca that enabled them to deal with all linguistic groups of the region. Of course one half of it, the Northern coast of Africa, is populated by Arab tribes, some of them black or white in close contact with black tribes at the back of their territories. The white Arab used to take black slaves and sell them to the Italian merchants for distribution in Europe.
It is known that Italian businessmen had traveled to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and down to the Indian coast in search of spices that demanded a very high price in Europe as long as these tiny Italian republics retained the monopoly. So from the early part of the 15th century there existed a practical yet simple Mediterranean lingua franca with abundant Afro elements.
Before Sevilla became the port of the American expeditions a negro language had developed in Spain, and it was common in the 15th - 15th centuries to include some negro characters in the comedy-plays with their characteristic language. So the soldiers and sailors who left Sevilla on the way to America and later on to the Philippines - at times with some negros in their galleons - were already familiar with the pattern of the language that would be later on perpetuated in many points of their destination.
One more point of interest is to emphasize the good number of Andalusian and maritime words found in the Chavacano dialect. This incidence is but normal when you find out that a great number, at times great majority, of soldiers and sailors were recruited from the peasant population of Sevilla and neighboring provinces. When later on they were stationed in Zam- boanga they imposed their regional Spanish. On the other hand these carriers of the Spanish element into the Chavacano dialect had spent almost one year in the limited space of a boat in their triple trip Sevilla - Veracruz - Aca- pulco - Manila and then Zamboanga. In that harrowing experience of the ocean at the time the sailors imposed their argot on the passengers who later on continued using it on the land of their destination.
For me was a great joy find such abundant literature and history about the topic I have che- rished for years. Sickness and family obligations shortened my time and limited my activities to reading a god variety of books on the matter. The Archivo de Indias was out of my reach. There you find the original documents compiled from all over the Spanish Empire. It is a time - consuming job in the first place, because it takes long to get familiarized with the old form of writing. Besides the reports are so many and from so many places and different sources that the chance of finding interesting data is limited to the personal good luck. For anyone interested in the history of Zamboanga, Sevilla is the ideal place to find a lot of surprises. Madrid too offers many possibilities. But Sevilla is closer in weather and beauty to Zamboanga. Including its Moorish inheritance.
3. “Lost” Spanish Roots
As a creole language, it is but a part of its nature that Chavacano is a mixtureof words from the different component languages which got in contact in Zamboanga in times past. Most of these words can be easily recognized to this or the other language. But at times the words are modified in meaning or form. We take for granted that the main components of Chavacano and Malay, including in the Malay group: Tagalog, Visayan, Subanon, Samal, Ilonggo. But in the Spanish group we drop many words that are totally stranger to this language, for they are in fact Mexican Indian, Quechua, Taino, Caribbean or Portuguese and even Italian. There will be other opportunities to deal with these different word-groups. Today I think of a few words that are Spanish in nature but probably attributed to a different origin.
PALIQUERO. In different Tagalog dictionaries I found a funny, complicated origin for the word. For them the word is composed of PA, a Tagalog particle, LIKI a Chinese word, and ERO a Mexican ending. A good exercise of wild imagination indeed. In Spanish you have parlar, par- lique or palique and paliquear. In classical Spanish you say darle al palique or to talk with no end, or easy talk. Paliquero then is the man who enjoys talking or has a great ability in talking - and from there it is easy to reach the Don Juan meaning of paliquero, the man who has the ability to win women with his easy talk.
PALENQUE. Usually the word is present as Palengke or Palenke and considered of Mexican origin. As early as the year 1450, a long time before there was any knowledge of the existence of Mexico, it was already used in Catalan as Palenc with the meaning of Palizade. Later on the 17th century it became common in the area of Colombia - Venezuela in South America. Whenever some negro slaves managed to escape from the plantations or haciendas they took refuge in the mountains where they established their settlements called Palanque, probably because they erected a palisade around the village for self-protection. From that time on Pa- lenque in American - Spanish means an unaccesible negro village deep in the mountain sys- tem. The so-called Acapulco Galleon actually used to set sail not fro Acapulco, Mexico, but Cuzco in Peru near the Palenque region. The original Catalan word now made American could have traveled on Galleon to Manila and later on with troops continued its way to Zam- boaga. In fact Palanque is more common in Tagalog than in Zamboangueno. There is still a better origin. In Sevilla and neighboring provinces Palenque means up to this day “the place wherein dry agriculture products are sold”. Sevilla in fact was the origin of the trips to America and than to Manila. And for a long period of time most of the soldiers and sailors were recruited in the area of Sevilla, site of the “university of navy pilots”. In Chavacano the word has retained exclusively the sevillano meaning of market.
PERA-CUARTA. It is true that these two words are not so common in classical Chavacano, but we can consider them as borrowed words from Tagalog and Visayan. But then they are only modified Spanish words. It is common for the Tagalog to drop one R from the Spanish words with RR. PERRA is a coin, and in the plural form PERRAS means money in general. In the Northern part of Spain the common people still use CUARTOS for money. We can suspect that the form PERA has forced CUARTOS into CUARTA as two parallel forms.
KALOCAJAN. Many will be surprised at the way I spell the word. But if we agree to write the words according to the spelling of the original language then there is no other logical way. The same law was applied above to PALENQUE and PALENQUERO including CUARTA, not KWARTA.
I believe that the root word is LOCO (Spanish, no doubt) modified by KA- and -JAN. KA- evi- dently from Tagalog, “expresses the idea of continuity or repetition”. -JAN is the common mo- difier in Chavacano from Tagalog, to change verbs or adjectives into action nouns. These few examples show us that a deeper study of the particular words might force us to change their spelling if we insist of Chavacano as criolle language, with a multiple inheritance of old bloods into an independent language-body stream of new life.
4. Chavacano, a Malay Dialect
As we accept that chavacano is a criolle dialect, we depart from the idea of a spurious Spanish concoction to be ashamed of. Still we have to go a step forward and affirm that far from being a defective relic of the Spanish language gone, it is with full rights a Malay dialect. In spite of the heavy load of Spanish vocabulary no doubt the structure of the dialect is Malay all the way. A close look at the Chavacano gives the clear view that it is not Spanish language adulterated with some Tagalog words, but rather Tagalog translated into Spanish: Spanish words cast in a Tagalog mold.
Then the conclusion is that the Afro-Portuguese-Ternate heritage is carried down to Zamboan- ga by a Tagalog dominated army that imposes most of the structure of the language, under the presence of a language of prestige that happens to be the Spanish in case. A simple comparison of the phrase is Spanish, Chavacano and Tagalog. In three columns makes the similarities clarer: using S for Subject, V - Verb, C - Complement, P - Predicative, n - Noum, p - possesive and N - Negative particle, we have these formulas:
Spanish Chavacano Tagalog * affirmative phrase S V C V S C V S C yo quiero arroz / quiero yo kanon / gusto ko nang kanin * negative phrase S N V N S V N S V yo no estudio / jendeh yo ta estudia / ayaw kong mag aral * possesive p n n p n p mi casa / casa dimio / buhay ko * verb be / ser is omitted S ser p p S p S yo soy doctor / doctor yo / doktor ako
In Spanish there is no personal article as there is in Chavacano/Tagalog: Si Pedro ... One deficiency of the Spanish language is the lack of inclusive/exclusive first person plural personal pronoum: NOSOTROS is used when the listener is included in the action of the verb as well as when he is excluded. Chavacano/Tagalog make things clearer with the use of KAME or KITA. Where the latino languages use one of the articles, Malay languages prefer to use the posse- sive adjective. At times in Chavacano the possesive means much more than simple posses- sion of something. When you want to borrow a hammer from your neighbor, usually you don’t use el or de uste, but you advance the affirmative just saying, “Donde man el diaton martillo?” It is the flavor of the Chavacano delicadeza: to avoid the word dale presta understood in diaton. Have you realized that the word Acabar is the direct translation of Tapos? The sequence of the narration is marked by Acabar. When you are anxious to know the ending of the story, you urge the other party with Acabar? Can you engage yourself in a conversation without Kwan - that means nothing and at the same time suggest everything? And say the same of Lamang that applies to physical as well as in- material subjects.
Tagalog is a vehicle of the language and at times it plays with the original Spanish words giving them a new meaning. Siempre is not anymore an adverb of time, but an emphatic affirmation. Libre is a catch word for the unsuspecting Spanish visitor. Pedazo (Piraso) is never used in Spanish with the meaning given to it by the adapting Chava- cano / Tagalog.
A visit to a Tiangue brings to attention the similarities between Chavacano and Tagalog. If you are the Suki you have the chance of a better price, much more if you are Buena Mano, and you can buy there Primera Mano or Segunda Mano maga efecto, specially if you are Gastoso. Magastos these days if you have an ocasion, and when you pay the Gastos the amount may be Cerrado - no centavos included. But Lugui the Tindera is she is Arogante.
Spanish words are easily modified with the Tagalog particles Ma-, Ka-, -Jan, Maka, Paka, Man. Noums take the value of verbs, and adjectives becomes noums with the simple addition of Malay particles. Very often the Spanish words keep the face value, but their lamang has taken a Tagalog (Malay) transfusion.
Now I remember the story of a supposively educated man who used to scold Zamboangueno teachers for speaking in Zamboangueno, because , boasting of his nationalism, “the Chavaca- no is a foreign language” for him. He prefered Visayan (not English, Que horror! The bloody Americans!) although he was a mestizo zamboangueno-visayan. This reflexions on the origins and development of Chavacano dialect gives us the clue to un- derstand why immigrants to the city pick up easily the language while most Spaniards usually have a difficult time in mastering it because the change of patterns and meanings.
Should I tell you the true story of a good friend of mine who one day gad a flat tire. He ordered the young Piipino priest to go inside the house and take out the gato. After a long time the young man came out with scratches all over his face and arms holding the cat of the house. The old man laughed with compassion and corrected himself: The gato, I mean the jack to put up the coche. By the way, the young man forgot his Tagalog as well as his Chavacano in that critical moment; that gato is accepted in its secondary Spanish meaning in both languages. And when the flat tire is patched up it is the time to maneja/manejo around,a word so different from the Spanish conducir.
Finally I think of the Malay practice of duplicating a word with ist change of color as in canta- canta, or the total transfer of meaning from the single to the duplicated word. Bonito pacha bola, pero no mas tu pacha si hace tu ese doble-doble.
5. The Mestizo Dialect
Some years ago the Bale Zamboanga Festival was launched. Its initial poster was well done indeed and the whole festival wisely presented. I was along Santa Maria road watching the pa- rade while many mature people were on my side. The reaction was not as enthusiastic as ex- pected and I was wondering why when suddently somebody commented: ”So it is all about maga baile de Zamboanga. Bale dao, seguro ballet ese, maskin otro el escribida di ila.” I told him:”Jendeh maga baile Bien bueno, bonito dao Zamboanga. Than the man corrected me: ”If that is the case, we do not write B but Vale.” Later on I called the attention of one of the organizers who had just returned from his studies in Manila. Of course his answer was as ex- pected: ” We are Filipinos, we are not longer under Spain”. I realized my nest answer at the moment was silence. To myself I thought: ”Filipinos yes, but Zamboanguenos as well, with the right to an identity given to us – not invented by us – by the facts of history”. Since I fixted my attention on Chavacano some 27 years ago I learned the basic lesson from Maestra Pilang Salvador : ”In spelling the words, words follow the graphia of the word according to its origin, or as it is spelled in the original language”.
The first example I learned and it is self revealing was Quita–Kita: They sound just the same; but their meaning is totally different as one is a verb and the other is a pronoum: one is a Spanish word and the other full blooded Filipino. Is it not wise and practical difference and identidy ? Much earlier Maestro Saavedra followed the same rule in his forgotten Catecismo in three volumes. Mr. Camins is one of the same opinion in his Diccionario. Some years ago there was an experiment initiated by some priest on the Filipinization of Chava- cano. Their arguments was that the young people out in the barrios are reading every day Fili- pino Komiks, and so they are exposed to the Filipino spelling of words. It was a total failure when the readers in the church could not recognize the Chavacano words dressed up in Taga- log trappings. Huwebes was not Jueves for them anymore. When reminded that they were reading it every day in the Komiks, the simple answer was: ”But this is Chavacano, and we never write it that way, with that kind of spelling.”
The Chavacano identity has its own rules, and it is wise to follow them for mutual understanding and for the preservation of the dialect in its uniqueness.
I understand that it is easy to stablish the rule: “Every word in Chavacano is written as it is in its original language.” Much more difficult is to apply this rule when we doubt or attribute a wrong origin to a certain word. Some time ago I discussed about Tiangue, Palenque, Paliquero. There will be time to add words to this list.
It comes to my mind Kikik, as a night - bird out to frighten children and used by mothers to make them to go sleep. I tried to trace the origin of the word to find out ist long yourney across oceans until it reached our shores. The Quiqui is a bird found in the Andes region of South America - departing point of the Cuzco - Acapulco - Manila galeon. That bird sucks the blood of cows at night, and from there the practice of mothers encouraging their children to go to bed lest te Quiqui would come and suck their blood. A long trip indeed back in history advises us to change the nationality of the word/bird from Filipino to Americano, and than spell it consequently. I am afraid that many other words routinarily considered of local origin are actually imported from antique Spanish or Indian American.
When at first I started asking about the identity of some words that sounded strange to me, nobody could give me a satisfactory answer about Sacate–Mecate-Petate until some Mexican Professors came to give a series of lectures at WMSU. They were surprised upon hearing these words being used here. I asked them if they could recognize them and they answered: ”Of course, they are typical Indian Mexican words.” The Acapulco Galleon was at trade again. So save the C and spare them from a K.I see a special problem in the use of the H, accepted both in Spanish as well as in Tagalog, but with different sound-value. It creates confusion when you use the same graphia with different value and much more when both of them are in the same words but differ whenever it is placed at the beginning/middle or at the end. Take the case of Hendeh. For practical purposes in my liturgical publications I keep the final H and substitute the initial H for J, for that is its sound-value. So I use to write Jendeh. A particular problem is brought about by the use of the vowels. While Spanish presents us a full set of five vowels that at times, in fixed patterns, suffer some changes in the transfer from Spanish to Chavacano, theoriginal Tagalog had only three vowels although the modern one accepts all the five. The preservation of this unique dialect calls then for a critical compilation of its vocabulary with the support and approval of the concerned authorities of the City. The alternative is the outright levelization of the spelling towards Filipino or Spanish – and I am afraid that it would be an irreparable loss of identity of the dialect.
6. Today´s fort
While I was in Spain people concerned of the Cavacano were asking me about the future of the dialect. Which way would it take. It is understood that a criollo language is somehow artificial, like a hibrid, always under the pressure of a language of prestige. And whenever there is a change of the main language, a shifting takes place in the criollo language. They were asking me what could we do to maintain the Spanish influence on the vocabulary. Honestly, I admitted, very little can be done. It is true that the radio people are playing an important role in the preservation of the language in its traditional form. So the two possible future directions of the Chavacano are towards English or towards Tagalog. It is a daily experience that the ”chavacano de monte” and the ”chavacano de pueblo” are not the same any more; the most you can say is that they are cousins going away from one another. How should you call the Chavacano of our youth, Chavaglish perhaps? Out of intelectual laziness whenever they forget/ignore a Chavacano word, an English substitute is inserted and the conversation goes on happily. Anyway they manage to understand one another. If this is the trend, in a short number of years a new Chavacano will had substituted the centuries old dialect today we are trying to save. Chavacano was born in and around a military fort. Spanish-Portuguese-Negro-Tagalog-Pampango-Visayan-Subanon-Samal population had to come to terms to relate among themselves. Spanish was the language of prestige for more than two hundred years and so it imposed its lexicon, although its grammar had no influence at all in the birth and transmission of the new language. Fort Pilar was the catalyzer of the language.
Today I am thinking of another military fortress hovering above Zamboanga, transfered from the East of the City to its Western side. No doubt for all purposes the Southcom is a linguistic ghetto. These people are in Zamboanga but are not affected by anything zamboangueno. The other immigrants scattered all across the City speak Zamboangueno after a few months of stay andare assimilated in different degrees in the main stream of life. The people in Camp Navarro are convinced that they are carrying the language of prestige of today. No matter how questionable might be the law proclaiming their language as the national one, they have with them the power of the numbers. Often I have generally a rather low mark in Filipino. You go out to the barrios where there are military check-points: you will be surprised to find out that most of the girls –even unschooled- are good in Filipino, for the simple reason that every afternoon they are taking special ”classes” while visiting with the soldiers. Indeed these soldiers have probed to be more effective in language transmission than the teachers in the classroom. In the process these girls, who used to speak real ”chavacano de monte” have a new lexicon flavored with many Tagalog words. The presence of the Southcom is wider than the perimeter of its camp. Its officers and enlisted men spread all over the City in their activities. In their official businesses and social encounters Tagalog is their medium of communication. Little by little Zamboanguenos are being influenced by these men, and once they have the lexicon they transfer it to their daily Chavacano. The sequence is clear: at first it was chavacano-espanol; when Spanish fades away English takes over. Now Tagalog is fighting its way to become the dominant and leading language. Yesterday komiks, movies and TV had their good deal in the change of mentality. Today the military are a living agent in direct contact with the speakers, when they are not the teachers in formal schools from the lower grades. Three centuries ago the people from the North came as troops or as laborers as one more in the great conglomerate of ethnic groups and under a higher authority with its own language of prestige. Today the people from the North have the prestige of the power and the language. For sure we are in the dawn of a new era of the Chavacano. Unless the official stand changes back to English, or the local public agrees that the only way to unify the different ethnic groups melting in the City is the intensified use of English in public affairs. But still I am afraid that the trend is irreversible, and the new generation will go from chavaglish to chava-glog.
7. Marine words in Chavacano
For sure the long trip Cuzco-Acapulco-Manila-Zamboanga on board the Galeon and other ships left its traces in the lexicon of the incipient Zamboanga criollo. In the reduced space of the ship at sea the sailors become the natural masters of the travelling group. The passengers are strangers and at the same time are ignorant of the movement of sea, weather, corrents and winds: the sailors know better and they feel at home. The sailors then have their own languageand jargon to go about in their daily chores. It is a psychological fact that in these situations the guests adapt easily the kind of language of the host. It is clear in this case that the guests are the passengers while the sailors are the host. Having lived for six long months in these circumstances it is but normal that the passengers have picked up a great deal of the new words that are carried on land with the particular meaning they had at sea, even in cases when the same word has another differentmeaning on land in the Spanish language back at home in Spain.
One of these words of daily use today is BODEGA. In Spanish it means cellar, the place where the wine is made and stored up. Here we have Bodega in the Pantalan, in the department store, in the hardware, in the house. But you have Bodega too down in the ship, and there it is not a cellar but a store-room. So our arriving soldiers forgot the original meaning of the word back on land in Spain and adapted the ship´s jargon. Anyway after drowing all their fears and worries in wine during the long journey there was no more wine left to be stored up.
A daily chore on board is the cleaning of the deck. There you need a BALDE para tabia agua and throw it around –BALDIA- and then you need a LAMPASO to clean the deck and take out the water –LAMPA- SIA. These terms were exclusively used on board in real Spanish, but are now part of the Chavacano life on land. PLACER originally was the place where precious metals –gold, silver, platinum...- were found, a mining site. For the people of the sea a PLACER was a wide plain under the sea water. Transfered to land, PLACER is an even terrain covered with grass, of course, in front of the church or school building and used as public play-ground.
In the construction of houses we use CABILLA and PERNO. Spanish language confines these two sets of materials to the boats where they are uses in the repair of the different components. Chavacano takes them to land with a slight change on their original meaning. You are lost at sea (in life) when you have no RUMBO. In order to reach your destination you have to ENDEREZA the prow and LARGA VELA-LARGA VIAJE. On the way there might be MAREJADA (on the rocky road too!) and you feel ALMAREAO. ARRUMBADO has taken a different meaning that can be easily connected with the original almareo on boat or on life.
Some times due to strong winds ta SAPAH EL VELA (sapah el amarro), or the boat VA/ECHA A PIQUE. The Zamboangueno ‘echa a pique’ el negocio/proyecto of his rival out of jealousy or sheer competition.
By now you can COLUMBRA land and after a while you reach a ESTERO or the BOCANA and then the PANTALAN or the VARADERO.
Without knowing it we are paying tribute in our daily conversations to those brave men who risked their lives in tiny ships across the wildest ocean and on this crossing their original language was modified and enriched with new variances. Our language today is their legacy.
Darwin, Sept 25, 1992
8. Vos and tu in Chavacano
One of the things that calls first the attention of the Spanish visitor to Zamboanga is the particular way how VOS is used in the dialect. In modern Spanish VOS is reserved exclusively to addressing to the King and the like: it is the highest form of respect.
Chavacano on its part has gone the opposite way with VOS as the lowest form in the scale of courtesy. At first we are tempted to think that the Zamboangueno form is a degradation of the original form. While history will prove Zamboangueno correct, and the actual Spanish use a total departure from the classical language of the XVIth century. It will prove how old are the roots of the chavacano language.
Long before the XVI century VOS was used in addressing to the noble people or among the nobles themselves, and between husband and wife. At that time TU was the treatment given to people of inferior ranks: servants, farmers, children.
During the XVI century there is a transfer of meaning and VOS descends from the ‘hidalgo’ level to the vulgar strata of society. TU takes the place of VOS in the family life while in public life VUESTRA / VUESA MERCED evolves into USTED. This new TU is taken to America and becomes common in the Palaces’ life of Mexico and Lima. These two cities (Vicereinato) are closely connected with the life/language of the Philippines and in a particular way with the language of Zamboanga.
The evolution of VOS was so evident in the XVII century that in several passages of ”El Quijote” it is considered as an insult. ”With no common arrogance he used tp call VOS to his epual ones and to those who knew him.” El Quijote chapt. 51 And in the chapter 60 the maids complain that their land ladies ”would not mind to throw to them a VOS if doing so they could feel being like queens”. In 1626 the author Correas wrote: ”We use VOS in addressing to servants, farmers and persons of similar low rank, and among friends where there is no seriousness we simply use VOS without courtesy.”
No doubt the soldiers were the carriers of the language to Zamboanga. And these soldiers used to be recruited from the area of Sevilla and the Southern part of Extremadura, both regions with a known low literacy. Most of them were uneducated if not illiterate (the great Pizarro used to sign his letters with a cross not as a show of his christianity but because he did not know how to write even his name). Uneducated people but with a sword at their side they thought themselves, no doubt, were the new noble class with enough dignity (power) to look down on the ordinary people around them. A VOS was then the mostappropriate form of address to masons, peons and fishermen around the Fortress. And the repeated VOS was picked up by the obedient listeners and incorporated to their conversation with their fellow workers. Mainly the Chavacano follows the development of the TU / VOS in America, although the Chavacano differs in its own plural form. It is important in this particular to have in mind that the soldiers used to be stationed in America, Mexico and Peru, for a certain period of time before procceding on to their post in the Philippines.
In Equador VOS is used among friends and farmers or the mother addressing to her daughter, while the daughter is supposed to use USTED in talking to her mother. In Venezuela as a general rule VOS is used by the superior in dealing with his inferior, with a clear sense of contempt. In Argentina VOS is a sign of familiarity against USTED that shows respect or distance.
So VOS taken away and popularized by the power strata of society was substituted by the more prestigious TU. Still VUESTRA MERCED/USTED/USTE took a more formal form of respect. Later on the language in Spain evolved to new modalities as required by a changing society. Not so many years ago in most prayers to God the normal address form used to be VOS. Today you hardly find that expression. The normal way to address God is TU.
Disconnected from Spain at first because of the transfer of administration from Sevilla to Mexico, and later on the growing authonomy, the Zamboangueno has remained anchored to the past. In fact it can be used to study the characteristics of the old Spanish brought in without any embellisment by unschooled soldiers.
Today the grammar of TU / VOS in Chavacano can be represented this way:
Singular Plural Uste, tu ustedes Vos, evos kamo
I don´t think that VOSOTROS is a genuine Chavacano form – it is a sign of ‘sincronia’ of Spanish-Chavacano, but used only by people with heavy Spanish tradition in the family.
In America the plural of USTE-TU-VOS is always USTEDES. Chavacano departs from this practice of her sisters introducing a Malay variance KAMO.
And these are the corresponding possesive forms
Singular Plural Di uste, tuyo, di tuyo de ustedes de vos di ino
The possesive form of VOS (Majestic) is VUESTRO. Chavacano has accepted DE VOS as in most of America wherein VOS takes the place of TU, without any sign of nobility.
Still there is an unswered question, of how VOS evolved into EVOS, with a lower level of respect.
So in conclusion we will say that the Chavacano maintains the three traditional levels of respect in the second person pronoun and in its gradation is closer to the american Spanish than to the peninsular one. And Chavacano is richer than both of them by the addition of the Malay KAMO. It is the exclusive local flavor.
Darwin, Sept 26, 1992
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