The place of Chabacano in the Philippine linguistic profile


                               John Lipski

                   The Pennsylvania State University
               Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
                      Pennsylvania State University
                      N 352 Burrowes
                      University Park PA 16802,USA

Copyright © Estudios de Sociolingüística 2(2), 2001, pp. 119-163 JOHN LIPSKI

1. Introduction:

In the linguistic profile of the Philippines, one of the most elusive elements to
categorize and acknowledge is the Spanish contribution. The amount of Spanish
lexical incursions into the major Philippine language families is beyond dispute; less
well understood is the extent to which the Spanish language is actively used and
understood throughout the nation. Finally, and most germane to the topic of this
Symposium, is the inclusion, classification, and appreciation of a group of languages
known to linguists as Philippine Creole Spanish, and to the speech communities
themselves as Chabacano. Like many other creole languages, the name Chabacano
itself stems from a derisive Spanish term meaning clumsy, ill-formed, and vulgar.
Although within the Philippine Creole Spanish / Chabacano-speaking communities
this word has lost the negative connotation and refers only to the language itself,
many enlightened community members avoid the term Chabacano and prefer instead
the regional designations of Caviteño, Ternateño, and especially Zamboangueño.
Throughout the history of the Philippines, Chabacano in its various manifestations
has remained at the margins of the country’s linguistic repertoire, ignored by many,
repudiated by those who are aware of its existence (this even includes many speech
community members), ambiguously classified by Philippine languages typologists,
and truly appreciated only by the elite subset of professional linguists who specialize
in creole languages. Even among this group the creole status of Philippine Creole
Spanish is not undisputed, all of which combines to make Philippine Creole Spanish
/ Chabacano a linguistic orphan surrounded by patrimonial languages and the
unchallenged carryovers of colonial times 1 .

The reasons for the low profile of Chabacano in the Philippine linguistic
consciousness are many, the most salient of which include:
(i) General unawareness of a language which nowadays is spoken extensively
only in a geographically remote portion of the country, Zamboanga City and
surrounding parts of Zamboanga del Sur province, as well as in other pockets in
Mindanao and the islands of Basilan and Jolo. Philippine Creole Spanish dialects
were once spoken more extensively in the Ermita district of Manila as well as in other
enclaves on Manila Bay (Cavite and Ternate), but most non-speakers of Manila Bay
Chabacano who were even aware that some Spanish-derived language was spoken in
their midst assumed that this was some form of Spanish, possibly a broken second-language
variety or pidgin.

(ii) Among those Filipinos with second-hand knowledge of Chabacano, the
notion that this is in reality a dialect of Spanish, a colonial language increasingly
marginalized in Philippine society, prevails. In the contemporary Philippines, fluency
in Spanish is generally restricted to a small and aging elite of mixed Philippine-Spanish
heritage; the typical fluent Spanish speaker has at least one parent or
grandparent born in Spain, and belongs to wealthy landowning or business classes
far-removed from the grass-roots level at which Chabacano is spoken. In Zamboanga,
recent reintroductions of Spanish items (Lipski, 1986a, 1987f) contribute to the
mistaken notion that Zamboangueño Chabacano has been Spanish ‘all along’, with
only occasional deviations from standard usage.

(iii) The mistaken notion among creolists (beginning with Whinnom, 1956) that
the largest Chabacano-speaking population, that of Zamboanga City, is small and
moribund, when in fact it is a thriving first- and second-language speech community
of perhaps half a million speakers. Frake (1971) was the first to provide more
accurate information on Zamboangueño, but to this day many scholars in the
Philippines and abroad are unaware of the true strength of the Zamboanga Chabacano

(iv) The fact that in the majority of surveys of Philippine languages (especially
those produced within the Philippines, e.g. Llamzon, 1978), none of the Chabacano
varieties appears (at times ‘Spanish’ is listed), thus implicitly suggesting that
Chabacano is not a ‘Philippine’ language.

(v) The historical confusion, found in literature, travelers’accounts, and official
documents, between Philippine varieties of Spanish, rudimentary Spanish-based
pidgins and trade languages, and Spanish-derived creoles spoken natively by

(vi) The small number of native Spanish speakers in the Philippines has
contributed to the lack of studies of contemporary Philippine Spanish; the majority
of works which lay claim to such a description in reality deal with Hispanic lexical
items in native Philippine languages, or with some aspect of the Philippine Creole
Spanish dialects. At times, the latter dialects are mistakenly referred to as “Philippine
Spanish”, as though there were no legitimate non-creolized variant of metropolitan
Spanish currently available in the Philippines. One example of this confusion is the
statement (Díez, Morales & Sabín, 1977: 85) that
[e]n la actualidad la situación del español es bastante precaria. (...) El dialecto
español que se habla en aquellas islas recibe el nombre de chabacano.
(currently, Spanish is in a precarious situation in the Philippines. (...) The Spanish
dialect spoken in that country is known as Chabacano.)
Quilis (1975: 34) speaks of

(...) el español como dialecto conservado en Cavite y Zamboanga (...) este dialecto
es el que se conoce con el nombre de chabacano. Su estructura es bastante peculiar:
es un español con los recursos gramaticales del tagalo y del cebuano (...)
(Spanish as a dialect conserved in Cavite and Zamboanga (...) this is the dialect
known as Chabacano. It has a peculiar structure: it is Spanish with the grammatical
resources of Tagalog and Cebuano.)

In later writings Quilis clearly recognized Chabacano as a creole language and
not simply a ‘mixed dialect’of Spanish. A more serious assessment (Whinnom, 1956:
2) states that “the modern Spanish of Manila has none of the characteristics of the
South American or Andalusian Spanish... the Philippine Spanish of today is the result
of the second stage of the Spanish contact with the Philippines”. National census data
representing both the American administration and the Philippine national
government provide confusing information, since Philippine Creole Spanish or
Chabacano dialects are lumped together with modern Spanish, while there is a
tendency to overlook potential Spanish speakers who have no formal training in that
language. As a timely note, the web page provided by the Shangri-La hotels in the
Philippines gives a description of Zamboanga which states “The dialect spoken there
is a cor ruption of the Spanish language”.

2. The Chabacano presence in the Philippines

The Philippines is the only former Spanish colony where the Spanish language
was never acquired by the majority of the native population, and which replaced no
native language. Among the other former colonies, only Equatorial Guinea shows a
similar profile, but this colony was not effectively occupied by Spain until the 1860's
(Fernando Poo) or the first decades of the 20th century (Río Muni), with the total
period under Spanish colonial rule being no more than 60-100 years. Even so, the
majority of the population speaks Spanish, albeit as a second language with varying
levels of ability (Lipski, 1985). In the Philippines, a very small and rapidly dwindling
population –mostly recent descendants of Spaniards– speaks Spanish fluently; this
group has little or no linguistic impact on the rest of the national population. In
addition, several Spanish-derived creoles continue to be spoken natively; the largest
community is found in Zamboanga City, with expatriate Zamboangueño enclaves in
Cotabato, Jolo, and Davao. Along Manila Bay, vestigial speakers of Cavite and
Ternate Chabacano are still to be found, while the once thriving Ermita variety of
Manila has now disappeared.

Collectively, all varieties of Philippine Creole Spanish are known as Chabacano,
and three distinct dialects still exist, in Ternate, Cavite and Zamboanga. Whinnom
postulated that Ternateño was the first to be formed, suggesting that this creole has
extraterritorial roots, descending from a largely Portuguese-based creole formed in
the 17th century on the Indonesian island of the same name. Comparative work by
Molony (1973, 1977a, 1977b) supports the hypothesis that Ternateño is the oldest of
the Spanish-based creoles in the Philippines while observations by Nogueira Batalha
(1960) suggest more than casual parallels with some Asian Portuguese-based creoles.
Caviteño was a later offshoot of Ternateño, one of many stable or fleeting Spanish-based
contact vernaculars that arose in the fortified areas around Manila Bay, and it
too can be traced back at least as far as the 18th century. Ternateño and Caviteño
exhibit several grammatical features that make them contenders for being
descendants or relexifications of earlier Portuguese-based creoles and pidgins (but cf.
Lipski, 1988). Both creoles have been influenced by Philippine languages,
particularly Tagalog; this is evident not only in the preferred VSO word order (at least
with pronominal subjects), but also in the incorporation of Tagalog particles and
other syntactic structures. Varieties of Philippine Creole Spanish are also spoken on
the island of Mindanao. The largest group of speakers is found in and around
Zamboanga City. A small group, now largely dispersed and speaking central
Philippine languages, previously existed in Davao, derived from immigrants from
Zamboanga who arrived at the turn of the 20th century. Another small group is found
in Cotabato City (Riego de Dios, 1976a, 1978). Cotabateño is virtually identical to
Zamboangueño, with the few differences being mostly lexical. Riego de Dios
suggests that the two dialects may have partially different roots, although admitting
i m m i gration from Zamboanga to Cotabato as the like ly source of most of

Although unknown to or ignored by most Filipinos, the Chabacano dialects are
of importance to creolists. Philippine Creole Spanish is the only Spanish-based
creole in Asia, fitting in with the Portuguese-based creoles in India, Sri Lanka,
Malacca and Macau; indeed, some (beginning with Whinnom, 1956; cf. Lipski, 1988
for differing views) assert that Philippine Creole Spanish is but a relexification of a
pan-Asian Portuguese-based creole. All other Spanish-based creoles (Papiamentu,
Afro-Colombian Palenquero, and vestigial enclaves found in Latin America) result
from Afro-Hispanic language contacts, although some Hispano-Amerindian creoles
may have existed in small numbers, and the possibility for a Hispano-Arabic creole
as part of Mozarabic language cannot be totally discounted. Philippine creole
Spanish is also important for theories of creole language typology. It breaks from the
usual SVO patterns, in exhibiting a prototypically Austronesian VSO, albeit with
many alternative possibilities. The verbal syntax is both tantalizingly similar and
vastly different from other Iberian-based creoles, and many other unique features
accrue to Philippine Creole Spanish. In order to assess the situation of Chabacano in
the pantheon of Philippine languages, it is necessary to survey the nature and
distribution of non-creole Spanish in the Philippines, since the most frequent
misidentification responsible for the marginality of Chabacano awareness is the
equation Chabacano = Spanish in the Philippines.

3. The Spanish language in the Philippines

The failure of the Spanish language to establish itself in the Philippines has been
the subject of much prior commentary; suffice it to say that this linguistic situation
stems from a combination of factors, among which are: the Spanish government’s
official and non-official policy of using the vernacular languages, particularly in
religious functions; the relatively small number of Spanish natives in comparison
with the indigenous Philippine population; the lack of significant demographic shifts
among native groups in the Philippines which would have precipitated the necessary
use of Spanish as a lingua franca. With the exception of the Chabacano dialects,
which arose around Spanish military ga rrisons and spread in multilingual
commercial centers, Spanish never became the native language of any large sector of
the native-born Filipino population, nor even became a widely used lingua franca
outside of those (m e s t i z o) groups most closely aligned with the colonial
administration. With the coming of the American administration and the rapid and
effective implementation of educational programs in English, Spanish was pushed
ever further into the background, and its status as an obligatory part of the school
curriculum is currently being called into question, as an apparent anachronism.
Currently, the majority of Spanish-speaking Filipinos belong to mestizo (Eurasian)
families, directly descended from Spanish settlers. Moreover, this Spanish parentage
is usually quite recent, in that nearly all Spanish speakers have at least one
grandparent who was born in Spain; few Spanish speakers are found who cannot
claim a Spanish-born relative at least two generations in the past. This Spanish-speaking
nucleus is strengthened by intermarriage, since most Spanish speakers have
married other Spanish speakers or have otherwise reinforced their Spanish language
environment, including membership in clubs or in the Casino Español (in Manila and
Cebu), trips to Spain, and choice of residential area.

It is also possible to find non-mestizo Filipinos who for one reason or another
learned Spanish through contact with previous generations of Spanish speakers, but
the number of such individuals is small in comparison with the totality of Philippine
Spanish speakers. Spanish is still a subject in the university curriculum (despite
current pressure to remove the requirement), and formerly Spanish was widely taught
in the public schools. Although the majority of Filipinos who have studied Spanish
under such circumstances have very little useful language ability, many individuals
have a degree of passive competence which allows them to grasp the general meaning
of Spanish phrases and expressions. Naturally, the high proportion of Hispanisms in
the native Philippine languages aids in the recognition of current Spanish forms, and
older Filipinos may recall the presence of Spanish priests, nuns and lay teachers,
particularly in private schools, all of whom helped spread an awareness of the
Spanish language. Lawyers in the Philippines have often studied Spanish more
carefully, since much of the legal code was written in Spanish, and until relatively
recently it was possible to use the Spanish language in the courtroom. Many Filipina
nuns studied in convents directed by Spanish priests and nuns, where Spanish was the
language of daily communication, and even today they may recall some aspects of
that language. It thus becomes clear that, while the majority of true Spanish speakers
come from mestizo families, there is an undetermined but not inconsiderable number
of Filipinos with some knowledge of Spanish, below the level of native speakers but
superior to that of foreign students.

A concomitant feature of most Philippine Spanish speakers is their
socioeconomic level, which is usually toward the top of the scale. Spanish speakers
are frequently members of Spanish landowning and commercial families, which have
managed to retain and even expand their fortunes throughout the various post-colonial
administrations in the Philippines. Naturally, not all such families have
retained their wealth and social position, and there are other Spanish-speaking
families which clearly belong to the middle classes, but among the wealthier Spanish
speakers, use of the language is regarded as a source of pride and an unmistakable
mark of aristocratic authenticity. These Spanish speakers continue to use the
language at home, although it is difficult to use Spanish in public, due to general lack
of interlocutors and a certain resentment among other Filipinos. Despite efforts of
Spanish speakers to teach the language to their children, few true Spanish speakers
under the age of about 40 are to be found, and it is unlikely that the language will
survive another generation. Most Philippine Spanish speakers are also proficient in
English, but few hold native Philippine languages in high esteem, often regarding
with resentment and scorn the establishment of Tagalog (Pilipino) as a national
language. As a result of these attitudes and behavior patterns, Philippine Spanish is
characteristically refined, aristocratic, precise, and linguistically conservative, with
none of the popular, regional and rural forms which are essential ingredients of the
Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, and which are widespread in the Spanish dialects
of Latin America. Also of note are the distinctly Castilian (i.e. central and northern
Spain) traits of contemporary Philippine Spanish, where virtually no hint of
Andalusian, Galician, Canary Island, Catalan, Valencian, or other regional features of
vocabulary or pronunciation are found, despite the fact that many of the last wave of
Spanish immigrants to the Philippines came from those regions. The highly precise
and Castilianized Philippine Spanish reflects the influence of Spanish teachers,
administrative personnel and religious figures, as well as literary and journalistic
standards which were in wide usage until well after World War II, among the
numerous newspapers, magazines and other documents published in Spanish.

C u rr e n t ly, the largest number of Spanish-speaking Filipinos is found in
metropolitan Manila, although significant smaller groups are located in many
provincial capitals, particularly in those regions characterized by large plantations
and estates which have existed since the Spanish period. Among the latter zones are
the sugar-producing regions of Negros (particularly in Bacolod but also around
Dumaguete) and the fruit-producing regions of Mindanao, especially around
Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Other nuclei of Spanish speakers are found in the Bikol
area (Legaspi City and Naga), Iloilo, Tacloban, Cotabato, Vi gan, Cebu and
Zamboanga, being in the latter case bilectal Spanish-Chabacano speakers. Although
the totality of the regions mentioned above represents a wide selection of regional
languages, including Tagalog, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Cebuano / Visayan, Waray, etc.,
there has been virtually no regionalized influence of these languages on Philippine
Spanish, in that it is in general impossible to distinguish the geographical origin of a
Spanish-speaking Filipino through features of spoken Spanish (unlike the case with
spoken English).

The specific linguistic features of Philippine Spanish are of interest to the
present enterprise only to the extent that they intersect with Chabacano and reflect
the integration of both languages into a pan-Philippine linguistic matrix (Lipski,
1987c, 1987d, 1987e). Phonetically, Philippine Spanish differs from other natively-spoken
varieties in maintaining a uniformly occlusive pronunciation of intervocalic
/b/, /d/, and /g/, which are fricatives in other Spanish dialects. This is especially
noticeable in the case of intervocalic /d/, which may even overlap with the [r]
articulation of /r/ in the Philippines, particularly when /d/ is given an alveolar
a rticulation instead of the more universal dental pronunciation. Few curr e n t
Philippine Spanish speakers utilize the fricative pronunciation of intervocalic and?word-final /d/; those that do usually have at least one parent born in Spain, or have
spent considerable time in that country. This same trait has been carried over to the
Philippine Creole Spanish dialects and to Hispanisms borr owed into native
Philippine languages; an identical pronunciation is found among Spanish speakers in
Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking region of sub-Saharan Africa, and
among bilingual indigenous-Spanish speakers in many regions of Latin America. As
an alternative to an occlusive articulation, intervocalic /d/ is frequently elided,
particularly in the verbal affix -ado, used to form past participles, following the
patterns current in peninsular Spanish dialects. Unlike the dialects of Spain, and like
those of Africa and bilingual areas of Latin America, Philippine Spanish intervocalic
/d/ never passes through the fricative stage en route to deletion; the loss of /d/ is an
imitation of an originally phonetically-motivated process, but there is no active
reduction of /d/ among new words introduced into Philippine Spanish, or in other
intervocalic contexts which in other Spanish dialects are also being gradually
affected by the reduction process.

In other respects, Philippine Spanish retains a strongly resistant syllable-final
/s/, unlike the Andalusian dialects that apparently provided the input to Manila Bay
Chabacano dialects and most probably Zamboangueño as well (Lipski, 1986b,
1987a). Word-final /n/ receives a uniformly alveolar articulation [n] in Philippine
Spanish, despite the high frequency of word-final velar among the native Philippine
languages, and the strong tendency to velarize word-final /n/ in the Spanish dialects
of Andalusia, Galicia and other areas of Spain whence came many immigrants. Many
Philippine Spanish speakers use the palatal lateral phoneme / ¥ /, characteristic of an
ever smaller group of Peninsular Spanish dialects, but once prominent among
varieties of Spanish taken to the Philippines. At times, / ¥ / is realized as [ly] among
the last generation of Philippine Spanish speakers, but merger with /y/, as has
occurred in most dialects of Spain and Latin America, is extremely rare, and occurs
only as an idiosyncratic trait. Unlike any dialect of Latin American Spanish or of
Philippine Creole Spanish, contemporary Philippine Spanish exhibits the voiceless
dental fricative phoneme / T / (written z or, before e and i, as c), used in accordance
with Spanish etymology and the norms of contemporary Castilian speech, although
occasional discrepancies are observable.

Another outstanding characteristic of Philippine Spanish is the frequency of the
glottal stop [ / ] at the beginning of words which nominally begin with a vowel: el
hombre [el- / om-bre] ‘the man’. This is contrary to the normal Spanish phonotactic
linking of word-final consonants to syllable-initial position if the following word
begins with a vowel; in other Spanish dialects, the corresponding pronunciation
would be [e-lom-bre]. The glottal occlusion [ / ] is also heard in some hiatus
combinations, such as maíz [ma- / is] ‘corn’, the same pronunciation as is used among
the native Philippine languages. Due to the extraordinary use of [ / ], the normal
consonantal linking typical of Spanish phonetics does not as frequently occur in
Philippine Spanish, with the result that phonetic boundaries between words are
clearly perceivable in the spoken chain. This feature, evidently the result of influence
from native Philippine languages, is found in the speech of nearly all contemporary
Philippine Spanish speakers, regardless of their claimed or actual proficiency in
Philippine languages; it is possible, however, that earlier generations of Spanish
speakers, many of whom were nearly monolingual, may not have exhibited this trait,
which is not found in any peninsular Spanish dialect.

In the morphosyntactic domain, fluent Philippine Spanish exhibits no deviations
from other natively-spoken dialects. The second person familiar pronoun vosotros is
used as in much of Spain, and le / les are used as direct object clitics, again following
Peninsular usage. Lexically, there are few peculiarities. The number of indigeneous
borrowings into Philippine Spanish is quite low, and is limited almost entirely to the
flora and fauna which have no equivalent expression in Spanish, and to the formation
of nicknames via the suffix -ng: Pedring (Pedro), Doming (Dominador), Carling
(Carlos), Puring (Purificación), etc. In a few cases, a Tagalog root is combined with
a Spanish morphological suffix, as in babaero / babayero ‘woman-chaser’, from
Tagalog babae ‘woman’. Among the last generation of Philippine Spanish speakers,
the use of the Philippine oo [o / o] instead of or in addition to the Spanish affirmative
particle sí is relatively frequent, particularly in unguarded moments of reflection;
presumably this did not occur among earlier generations of essentially monolingual
Spanish speakers. Among the strictly Spanish elements in Philippine Spanish, there
are a number of Americanisms, most of which are clearly Mexican in origin. These
evidently date from earlier days of Hispano-Philippine contacts, when the Manila
Galleon departed from the port of Acapulco, since recent linguistic contacts with
Mexico have been almost nonexistent in the Philippines. Among the most prominent
Mexicanisms still in use among current Philippine Spanish speakers are: zacate
‘grass’, petate ‘sleeping mat’, changue [tiangue] ‘market’, chili ‘pepper’, camote
‘sweet potato’, chongo [chango] ‘monkey’, palenque ‘market’, sayote [chayote] ‘a
type of vegetable’. In order to ask for something not quite heard to be repeated, use
of ¿mande? is the rule in Philippine Spanish, as in Mexico, and the three daily meals
are el almuerzo ‘breakfast’, la comida ‘lunch’ and la cena ‘dinner’, following rural
Mexican usage, and contrasting with more general Spanish el desayuno, el almuerzo,
and la cena, respective ly. Chabacano speakers also use Mexican curses and
obscenities, and such words are not unknown in contemporary Philippine Spanish,
although peninsular Spanish curses are more frequent. Curiously, despite the
decidedly aristocratic character of modern Philippine Spanish, there is comparatively
less reluctance to use these forms in mixed company or among women, perhaps
reflecting lack of contact with contemporary sociolinguistic norms of Spanish-speaking
nations. Other common Spanish words have undergone semantic shifts in?THE PLACE OF CHABACANO IN 
Philippine Spanish. The word lenguaje has shifted from ‘style of speech’to ‘national
language’; también no is used instead of tampoco in the sense of ‘not either’, possibly
reflecting old Spanish usage; the expression hay que ver ‘it must be seen’is the most
frequently used to express surprise or admiration. Also extremely frequent is the
idiomatic expression la mar de ‘a lot of’, now outmoded in Spain, and the use of
gracia for ‘given name’ (as in ¿cuál es su gracia? ‘what is your name?’) now typical
only of some marginal areas of the Spanish-speaking world. Seguro, meaning
‘certain, sure’ in standard Spanish, means ‘probably, maybe’ in Chabacano and in
contemporary Philippine Spanish; ‘sure’ is rendered by (a)segurao ‘assured’. The
most striking lexical innovation in Philippine Spanish is the conjugation of the word
c u i d a d o (pronounced c u i d a o) ‘caution, concern ’ in combination with subject
pronouns; the derived meaning is roughly ‘whatever ...want(s)’or ‘...will take charge
of it’. Combinations include tú cuidao, usted cuidao, ustedes cuidao, ‘it’s up to you’;
yo cuidao ‘I’ll take care of it’, etc. This expression reflects the syntax of Tagalog
bahala in combinations like ako ang bahala / bahala ko, corresponding to yo cuidao,
ikaw ang bahala / bahala ka, equivalent to tú cuidao , etc., and represents the only
widespread case of syntactic transfer from Philippine languages to non-creole
Philippine Spanish.

4. Early attestations of Chabacano and Spanish-based pidgins in the

Frake (1971: 223-224) is unequivocal in his classification of Chabacano,
including Zamboangueño (the main focus of his article):
Philippine Creole Spanish is not simply a Philippine language with unusually heavy
Spanish lexical influence, nor is it Spanish with a large number of Philippine loan
words. It is a distinct language, easily distinguishable from both its Romance and its
Austronesian progenitors (...) Philippine Creole Spanish shares enough in common
with the classic creoles of the Caribbean that no one (...) would, I think, challenge its
assignment to the category ‘creole language’.
Despite Frake’s impressive range of data and analysis, some of these conclusions
are subject to reinterpretation. In particular, the notion that Chabacano is, or has
always been, ‘easily distinguishable’ from its Philippine language neighbors is not
s u p p o rted by the full range of ava i l a ble evidence. Moreove r, although
Zamboangueño is definitively a creole, as are the remaining Chabacano dialects, its
inevitable and undiluted origin in the Manila Bay Chabacano dialects is not a
foregone conclusion.

One of the difficulties in tracing the presence and development of Chabacano in
the Philippines is the common confusion of a coherent creole language with ‘broken?Spanish’or even fluent Spanish. This is true not only for the greater Manila area, but
also for the developing Spanish-derived creole of Zamboanga. Early visitors to
Zamboanga, in 1772 (Sonnerat, 1776: 127) and in 1774–1776 (Forrest, 1780: 374-
375) speak only of ‘Spaniards’ (in reference to the garrison troops) and of escaped
slaves from Jolo (largely of Visayan origin), without noting any special contact
language that might have been in use. Even the language spoken by the ‘Spanish’
troops must be suspect; Sonnerat (1776: 128-129) observed that the fort was guarded
by “des gens bannis des États Espagnols, aussi prêts sans doute à le livrer qu’à le
défendre” (men expelled from Spanish colonies, doubtlessly as willing to surrender
the fort as to defend it). Martínez de Zúñiga (1973[1893]: 236-237), describing the
situation in the Philippines at the turn of the 19th century, noted that few Filipinos
spoke Spanish. The exception was in the San Roque barrio of Cavite, where “they
speak a kind of Spanish which has been corrupted and whose phraseology is entirely
taken from the dialect of the country” (p. 250). The reference is clearly to Caviteño
Chabacano, so that the author should have recognized Chabacano had he found it
e l s ewhere. Upon describing Zamboanga, howeve r, Martínez de Zúñiga only
mentioned the Spanish garrison, “5,162 souls composed of natives, Spaniards,
soldiers and prisoners”, with no indication that anything other than (non-creole)
Spanish or Philippine languages were spoken there.

Some Spanish was apparently spoken in the Sulu Sea early in the 19th century.
Moor (1837: 37) mentions Moslem Datus on Jolo who spoke Spanish, a fact also
noticed by Yvan (1855: 230), and Saleeby (1963[1908]: 164-165). However, visitors
to Zamboanga during the same period still note only Spanish (spoken by Spanish
troops) or else ‘Moro’as spoken by Muslims from Jolo. This includes Keppel (1853:
70f.), St. John (1853: 131-132), Marryat (1848), Mallat (1846) and many others. In
fact the general lack of knowledge of Spanish among Filipinos was frequently
commented on by visitors to the islands. Bowring (1859: 28) speaking of the Manila
working class, estimated that not one in a hundred spoke or understood Spanish.
Lannoy (1849: 33) observed that indigenous political leaders were required to speak
Spanish, but that this requirement was not enforced. Of Zamboanga, Lannoy noted
that the garrison had roughly 380 men, of which were 11 were officers, 6 were sub-officers,
and 24 were corporals. Of the linguistic and cultural problems, he noted (pp.
71-72) that

près de la moitié des officiers subalternes dans les régiments sont des indigènes,
parlant la langue du soldat et jalousant les officiers espagnols, que parviennent seuls
aux grades supérieurs. C’est là une cause constante de mésintelligence et d’irritation

(more than half the sub-officers are natives, speaking the soldiers’ language and
resenting the Spanish officers, who exclusively hold the higher ranks. This is a
constant source of misunderstanding and irritation...)

MacMicking (1967: 92), writing in the 1850's, commented that most Filipinos
could not speak Spanish, although “most of those in the neighborhood of Manilla can
speak it after a fashion”. Jagor (1875: 156) stated that most soldiers spoke no

Also instructive of the existence of Chabacano dialects in Zamboanga and
elsewhere, and of the awareness of such varieties by outsiders, are obser vers’lists of
languages spoken in each area of the Philippines. Jagor (1875: 55-56) assigned
Spanish and Tagalog in that order to Cavite; Tagalog, Spanish, and Chinese to
Manila; Spanish and Manobo to Cotabato; and ‘Manday a ’ and Spanish to
Zamboanga. Escosura & Cañamaque (1882: xxiii), writing in the 1860's, assign
Spanish and Tagalog to Cavite; Tagalog, Spanish, and Chinese to Manila; Spanish
and ‘Moro’ to Basilan; and only Spanish to Zamboanga. This would indicate that
Zamboanga was the most Spanish-speaking area of the Philippines in the mid 19th
century. However, the same authors (p. 5) lament that native Filipinos speak only
español de cocina ('kitchen Spanish'), so that the designation ‘Spanish’ assigned to
Cavite, Manila and Zamboanga could well represent a Spanish pidgin, if not
Philippine Creole Spanish. The information sifted and analyzed by Schuchardt
(1883) would suggest that ‘Malayo-Spanish’ was more typical of Manila and Cavite,
and that Zamboanga might actually be Spanish-speaking.

The paucity of documentation on the language(s) spoken in colonial
Zamboanga and the ambiguity of the existent attestations is surprising in view of the
strategic importance of this port, the southernmost city in Spanish-controlled
Philippines. Zamboanga was a way-station for travellers from every direction, and
was constantly visited by Spaniards and foreigners alike. For the Spanish
government, Zamboanga continued to be an important military defense against
constant raiding by pirates and slavers from Jolo and other Moslem territories, and
although the commercial importance of the city declined, overshadowed by growing
urban areas such as Cotabato, Spain continued to maintain contact with Zamboanga
until the end of the colonial period. It seems logical to surmise that had a Spanish-based
creole significantly different from received Spanish been spoken in this
important garrison town, it would not have escaped the scrutiny of Spanish
authorities in Zamboanga. Alternative explanations must be sought, which take into
account the constant Spanish and foreign observation of language and culture in
Zamboanga, from the latter decades of the 18th century until the present time.
It is conceivable that Spaniards and other visitors regarded an evolving
Zamboangueño dialect of Philippine Creole Spanish as a broken language, the
español de cocina or ‘kitchen Spanish’ that was used to designate Spanish-based
pidgins in Manila. This hypothesis seems unlikely, since extrapolation backward
from the earliest attestations of Zamboangueño (last decade of the 19th century)
suggests that Zamboangueño had attained its contemporary grammatical structures at
least by the middle of the 19th century. By this time, explicit descriptions of what was
known as español de cocina were widely available in 19th century Philippine Spanish
literature, and this language is still recalled by some of the oldest residents of Manila.
The latter language, however, was a rough pidgin, usually spoken by Chinese or other
‘foreigners’, and contained few if any of the consistent grammatical structures which
characterize Philippine Creole Spanish: detailed Tense-Mood-Aspect particle system,
fixed syntax, hybrid Spanish-Philippine pronominal system, etc. ‘Kitchen Spanish’
as spoken by Chinese sanglays as they were known in the Philippines is typified by
the following example (López, 1893: 58): “sigulo, señolía ...como no tiene ahola
talabajo; como no tiene capé, y ha de ganalo la vida, sigulo tiene que hace tabaco”
(of course, sir; since (I) do not have a job now, and since (I) don’t have any coffee,
and (I) have to earn a living, of course (I) have to make cigars). Another example
(Montero y Vidal, 1876: 241) is “Mia quiele platicalo” (I want to speak with you).
Feced (1888: 77) gives examples like “guerra, señolía, malo negocio ...mía aquí
vendelo, ganalo” (war is bad business, sir; I am here selling and earning (money)).
Moya y Jiménez (1883: 334) gives “mueno dia señolía ...¿cosa quiele? mia tiene
nuevo patila...” (good day, Sir, what do you want? I have new merchandise). Mallat
(1846: 352) gives examples like “si que le compela cosa, cosa siñolita” (yes, buy
many things, miss), and Sáenz de Urraca (1889: 142) gives “todo balato, balato”
(everything (is) cheap). In addition to the lack of archetypal Chabacano syntactic
p a t t e rns, these examples illustrate at least three features which were neve r
documented for Chabacano, but which do occur in other Spanish pidgins (as well as
in Chinese pidgin English): use of mi / mia as subject pronoun, lateralization of
intervocalic /r/, and pleonastic clitics, as in platicalo.

Authentic ‘kitchen Spanish’ was used only between native Filipinos and Chinese
merchants, or between these groups and Spaniards, much as the ‘bamboo Spanish’of
Mindanao came to be used among and with Japanese arrivals in the early 20th
century. It was never used natively, and was never used mutually by Philippine
residents who spoke a common native language. In particular, the term ‘kitchen
Spanish’ was never applied to true Philippine Creole Spanish varieties such as
Caviteño or Ternateño, except in error. For example, Montero y Vidal (1876: 97)
offers the following excerpt from a conversation between a Spaniard recently arrived
in the Philippines and a compatriot with long residence in the islands:

— ¿Y eso de que los criados entienden todas las cosas al revés?
(And what’s that about how the servants get everything backwards?)
—Aprenda a hablarles en el idioma sui generis, que llamamos aquí español de
cocina, repitiéndoles tres veces la misma cosa. Verá V. cómo lo entienden.
(Learn to talk to them in that lingo that we call ‘kitchen Spanish’here, repeating
everything three times. You will see how well they understand.)?Escosura & Cañamaque (1882: 5) lamented that

(...) los indios mismos que se tienen por instruídos en castellano, lo están tan poco,
que es preciso para que comprendan hablarles una especie de algarabía que
vulgarmente se llama español de cocina; y para entenderlos a ellos, estar habituados
al mismo bárbaro lenguaje.

(...even the Indians who supposedly have learned Spanish know so little that for them
to understand one must speak to them in a sort of jargon known as kitchen Spanish,
and to understand them, one must get used to the same horrendous language.)
Given the Spaniards’ strong negative feelings to ‘kitchen Spanish’, if they had
observed that such a language was the predominant tongue of an entire population,
whose speakers used it amongst themselves rather than only to foreigners, this would
surely have been mentioned.

There are also many examples of Philippine pidgin Spanish as used by native
Filipinos, with some creoloid characteristics but still representing an imperfectly
acquired second language:

No puede, ama; aquel matandá Juancho, casado también.
((It) isn’t possible, ma’am; that no-good Juancho is also married)
¿Cosa va a hacer ya si nació viva? Siguro yo pegué plojo aquel día.
(What can (I) do if (the baby) was born alive? I must have been wrong that day.)
(Rincón, 1896: 22-23)
Pues suya cuidado, pero esa tiene novio castila y seguro no ha de querer con suya.
(That’s your business, but that woman has a Spanish boyfriend and she surely won’t
have anything to do with you.) (Montero y Vidal, 1876: 240)
Mira, jablá tú con aquel tu tata que no suelte el cualtas.
(Hey, tell your father not to give out the money.) (López, 1893: 35)
Camino, señor bueno.
(The road (is) good, sir.)
Usted señor, bajar, y yo apartar animales.
(You sir, will get down (from the carriage); I will disperse the animals.)
Señor, malo este puente.
(Sir, this bridge (is) no good.) (Feced, 1888: 20-21)
Bueno, señor, aquí comer.
(Well, sir, here (you can) eat.) (Feced, 1888: 24)
Ese palo largo con cordeles atados a su punta y a las puntas de los cordeles anzuelos,
cosa buena, señor. Cuando se escapa un preso, corro yo tras de él, se lo echo encima
y queda cogido.
(Sir, that long stick with ropes tied to the end and hooks on the ends of the ropes is
a good thing. When a prisoner escapes, I run after him and I throw the thing over him,
and he’s caught.) (Feced, 1888: 34)
No hay ya, siñol; pudo quedá sin el plasa, porque sisante hace tiempo, cuando aquel
cosa del flata ...pero no necesitá.
(He (doesn’t work there) any more, sir; he lost the job, he’s been out of work for some
time, since the time of the money affair, but (he) doesn’t need (it).))
(Rincón, 1896: 16-17)
Siguro ha roto aquel rienda, pero en un poco arreglarlo.
(Those reins have probably broken, but (I) can fix them in a short time.)
(Rincón, 1896: 27)

None of these examples was presented as an instance of Chabacano; most were
proffered as illustrations of imperfect acquisition of Spanish by natives of the
Philippines, while other examples were presented without comment as ‘Philippine
Spanish’. Nonetheless, the last set of examples represents neither creolized Spanish
nor Chinese Spanish pidgin, but rather a wide gamut of L2 approximations to
European Spanish by Filipinos who had only occasional opportunities to learn and
speak Spanish. A comparison of Chabacano and Philippine ‘bamboo Spanish’shows
that the latter shares some of the creoloid features of the former: word order,
gravitation towards the third-person singular verb form, some Philippine and
Spanish-derived particles, use of cosa as interrogative word, and some aorist
constructions (derived from the Spanish infinitive) without Tense-Mood-Aspect
particles. However, ‘bamboo Spanish’ lacks the full range of grammatical structures
found in Philippine Creole Spanish, and to the extent that it was based on foreigner-talk
proffered by expatriate Spaniards, makes greater use of the bare infinitive than
occurs in actual Philippine L2 Spanish.

Finally, a few attestations of legitimate Chabacano crop up in late 19th century
literary texts, invariably from Cavite or Manila, and never identified explicitly as
anything other than ‘broken Spanish’:

Si vos quiere, yo ta emprestá con V. cuatro pesos para el fiestajan del bautizo.
(If you wish, I can lend you four pesos for the baptism celebration.)
(Rincón, 1896: 22-23)
Siguro ese aquel que ta mandá prendé cunisós.
(He’s probably the one that had us arrested.) (López, 1893: 35)?These examples show the preverbal particle ta, the accusative / dative marker
con, and the first-person plural pronoun nisos, found in Cavite and formerly in
Ermita (the Ternate form is mihotro, while Zamboanga has kame, exclusive, and kita,

Despite the initial improbability, it is conceivable that Philippine residents of
Zamboanga were in fact speaking Spanish at the time the earlier travel accounts were
written, at least a close enough approximation to Spanish which Spaniards and other
foreign observers would regard as a legitimate approximation to international
standards, and not simply ‘kitchen Spanish’. The current grammatical structure of
Zamboangueño differs significantly from any variety of Spanish, and the two
languages are to a large extent mutually non-intelligible between non-initiated
speakers of each language. Thus the notion that any non-creolized form of Spanish
was spoken in Zamboanga by native Filipinos initially seems unlikely; however,
additional evidence deriving from reconstruction and extrapolation from current
configurations suggests that this notion may be largely accurate. First, a large
proportion of outsiders’ descriptions of the linguistic profile of the Philippines in the
19th and early 20th centuries are very ambiguous, reflecting a combination of
ingenuousness, ignorance, and undisguised xenophobic, and many of the descriptions
could well encompass anything from a rudimentary pidgin to a close approximation
to European Spanish, perhaps with only a segmental or suprasegmental accent.
Consider the following typical traveller’s view of the ‘Spanish’ of the Philippines
(Dauncey, 1910: 212-213):

I daresay you are surprised at my accounts of these and other conversations in
Spanish, but the fact is, though I have not tried to learn the patois that obtains in the
Philippines, I find it impossible not to pick up a good deal ...They speak badly,
though, and the accent does not sound a bit like what one heard in Spain, besides
which, there are so many native and Chinese words in current use. Instead of saying
andado, they say andao; pasao for pasado; and so on, with all the past participles,
besides other variations on the pure Castilian tongue. I found that the Spanish
grammars and books I had brought with me were of so little use for every-day life
that I gave up trying to learn out of them (...)

It is apparent that Mrs. Dauncey was ignorant of legitimately ‘Castilian’ usage,
where among other features the realization of -ado as -ao is frequent and socially
accepted. Given her silence on more substantive grammatical matters (despite her
claim that grammatical textbooks were of no use), we are left with no useful
description of Philippine Spanish. Indeed, non-creole Spanish of the Philippines is
quite close to Peninsular ‘Castilian’ models, being spoken largely by families with
recent ancestors from Spain, and differing from the dialects of the latter country
mainly in pronunciation and the occasional slight grammatical or lexical difference.
Dauncey’s evident inability to understand the ‘Spanish’of the Philippines constitutes
evidence that Philippine Creole Spanish is what she encountered, despite the lack of
corroborative evidence that any Spanish-based creole was ever spoken outside of the
Manila Bay enclaves and the previously-mentioned cities of Mindanao. She may also
have encountered the ‘kitchen Spanish’, still alive and well only a few years after the
official Spanish departure from the Philippines, and which would be offered to a
foreign visitor who apparently did not speak ‘proper’ Spanish herself.

Other observers of the linguistic situation in Zamboanga were less ambiguous.
Thus, Worcester (1898: 130) noted that “on account of the multiplicity of native
dialects, Spanish became the medium of communication, but they have long since
converted it into a Zamboangueño patois which is quite unintelligible to one familiar
only with pure ‘Castellano’”. This can only have been a very recent form of
Zamboangueño. Russell (1907: 172), who visited Zamboanga in 1900, and who had
considerable knowledge of Spanish, referred to ‘Zamboanganese’ as “a mixture of
Castilian, Vi s ayan and Malay”. She also refers to Zamboangueños speaking
‘unintelligible Spanish’in moments of excitement. The latter two descriptions are the
exception rather than the rule, however, and the majority of 19th century descriptions
of Zamboanga mention only ‘Spanish’, without any suggestion that Peninsular
Spanish coexisted with a Spanish-based creole.

Zamboangueño continues to be a vigorous living language, whose oldest living
speakers were born towards the end of the 19th century, and who often recall even
earlier speech patterns. Thus it is possible, through a combination of fieldwork and
oral history, to at least partially reconstruct the linguistic situation of Zamboanga as
far back as the middle of the 19th century, with some measure of certainty. This
should allow the ambiguous and confusing travellers’accounts to be confronted with
hard data, enabling a more accurate picture to emerge. In practice, despite the ready
availability of field informants, matters are not always so simple. In my own
f ieldwork, residents of Zamboanga who had been born in the late 1800's were
interviewed, as well as younger residents who accurately recalled the speech of
parents and grandparents born even earlier, thus pushing back the date as far as the
middle of the 19th century for reasonably trustworthy accounts of Zamboangueño. In
speaking with the oldest residents and in hearing accounts of earlier stages of
Zamboangueño, the observer is immediately struck by the much higher similarity to
Spanish. Most of the interview subjects were aware of later accretions to their own
usage, typical of contemporary Zamboangueño, part i c u l a r ly as regards more
Philippine lexical items and syntactic particles. Many older residents are fluent in
Spanish, and their at times precarious awareness of the difference between ‘Spanish’
and ‘Chabacano’suggests that the latter term was once applied to Spanish derivatives
that were significantly less creolized than modern Zamboangueño. On numerous
occasions, although by that time I had mastered Zamboangueño to the point that no
patently Spanish items were slipping in, I was confronted by older ‘Zamboangueño’
speakers who mixed unadulterated Spanish forms, including conjugated verbs,
gender and number agreement and more Spanish-like word order, into spontaneous
conversations in which the environment gave no indication of upwardly striving
language. Such Spanish forms are never used by younger residents of Zamboanga
(except occasionally by a handful of radio announcers), and most are not even
accurately identifiable by younger community members. When asked to describe the
Chabacano speech of older rural residents (known as Chabacano hondo, ‘deep
Chabacano’), younger informants could often come up with lexical items, but none
explicitly commented on the use of Spanish morphological inflection. When I spoke
in Spanish, upon request, younger Zamboanga residents were often unable to
comprehend more than the bare minimum, while some commented (with dubious
accuracy) that their grandparents or great-grandparents spoke similarly. Another
indication of the indeterminacy concerning the use of ‘Spanish’ came when the
present writer inquired for names of Zamboanga natives who could speak Spanish, in
addition to Zamboangueño. Virtually every person consulted could come up with
names, most representing either middle-aged residents who had studied in private
schools run by Spanish religious figures, or old rural informants. Subsequent
interviews with individuals so identified produced a wide range of results. A few
were able to clearly differentiate ‘Spanish’and Zamboangueño, but most individuals
in this category are highly educated with considerable formal training in Spanish.
Individuals identified by others as speaking ‘Spanish’ but who lacked formal training
in the latter language were more likely to speak a fluid mixture of indisputably creole
forms common to all speakers of Zamboangueño and inflected Spanish forms not
found in Zamboangueño.

Probing the existing population of Zamboangueño speakers, and attempting to
push back the time base for reconstructing the immediate precursor of
Zamboangueño leads back to the same indeterm i n a cy and apparent muddle
concerning the relationship between ‘Spanish’ and Zamboangueño as a legitimately
different form of Chabacano. At the crux of the dilemma is the underlying
assumption that the Spanish-based contact languages known collective ly as
Chabacano are the result of total creolization, i.e. representing an abrupt break from
the patrimonial Spanish which was brought to the Philippines. According to such a
belief, the only possible scenario for the inability to assign an element
unambiguously to ‘Spanish’or ‘Chabacano’is some type of ‘post-creole continuum’,
in which decreolization or reintroduction of Spanish results in a more ‘Hispanized’
Chabacano. The facts regarding Zamboangueño point in the opposite direction,
however. Spanish, at any level of fluency, has all but disappeared from Zamboanga
City and its environs (except for some unadulterated Spanish forms reintroduced by
radio broadcasters –cf. Lipski, 1986a, 1987f– which, however show no signs of
spreading to general usage). A century ago, however, Spanish was more widely
known, and the further back in time the probe is pushed, the blurrier becomes the
‘Spanish’/ ’Chabacano’distinction. In other words, contemporary Zamboangueño is
much less like Spanish, and comes closer to fitting the diagnostics for abrupt
creolization, than its predecessors. Clearly, such a configuration is not indicative of
decreolization or a post-creole continuum, but rather of a significantly different
model of formation, in which creolization in the sense of a genealogical discontinuity
played a minimal role. This in turn calls for a reevaluation of the theories regarding
the formation of Zamboangueño and other Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, and
the proposing of alternative sources of creoloid structures in the formative stages of

5. Towards a theory of the formation of Zamboangueño

Most descriptions of Philippine Creole Spanish have not distinguished between
Zamboangueño and the Manila Bay varieties, assuming implicitly or explicitly that
Zamboangueño is simply the offspring of an earlier transplant of Manila Bay
Philippine Creole Spanish. Whinnom (1956: 3) hypothesized that the formation of
the Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, including Zamboangueño, was the result of
linguistic and cultural mestizaje between Spanish-speaking garrison troops (soldiers
from the lowest social classes) and Malay speakers: “only the convivence, and indeed
intermarriage, of Spaniard and Malay can account for the fact that a creolized
language emerged in the brief space of two generations”. More recently, McWhorter
(2000: 14) dismisses Chabacano as “having emerged via marriages between Iberian
men and Philippine women”, completely overlooking the origins of Zamboangueño
and even Caviteño in nearly all-male military garrisons. The garrison troops, whose
presence in Zamboanga was the strongest Spanish influence during the formative
period of Zamboangueño, were drawn from Mexico and from elsewhere in the
Philippines, especially from Luzon and some central islands. The Philippine soldiers
presumably learned Spanish from the Mexican troops, and from other Spanish
speakers already in the Philippines.

Frake (1971) implicitly accepts Whinnom’s hypothesis of the garrison-troop
origin of Zamboangueño, but makes the intriguing observation that many of the
c o n t e m p o r a ry Philippine items in Zamboangueño do not come from the
geographically contiguous Visayan languages, but from Hiligaynon (Ilongo), spoken
in the Central Philippines. Most of the words in question are lexical items with no
particular semantic restrictions, but a number of core syntactic items are included.
Frake gives no explanation for the presence of Ilongo items in Zamboangueño,
except to suggest that many garrison troops probably came from the Ilongo-speaking
area. There may be additional or alternative routes of penetration; for example, Iloilo
(the principle city in the Ilongo region) was one of the main stopover ports for ships
travelling from Manila to Zamboanga (Warren, 1981), and it is likely that Ilongo
speakers were picked up along the way. Another potential missing link in the
evolution and spread of the various Philippine Creole Spanish dialects comes from
the indirect evidence that when Zamboanga was rebuilt in 1719, many Philippine
Creole Spanish-speaking families from Cavite emigrated to Zamboanga, with some
remaining in Iloilo (Germán, 1984). Although Philippine Creole Spanish never
became implanted in Iloilo, if family ties existed between Iloilo and Zamboanga,
including the possibility for subsequent migration of settlers originally stopping in
Iloilo, Ilongo words could have arrived in Zamboanga by this means. María Isabelita
Riego de Dios (personal communication) has also discovered that many laborers
were recruited from Panay (the main island where Ilongo was spoken) during the
time period when Zamboanga and Cotabato were building up their military defenses,
and she suggests that the Ilongo elements in the Philippine Creole Spanish dialects
of both cities is a direct result of this immigration.

Much of the failure to separate the formation of Zamboangueño from the Manila
Bay Philippine Creole Spanish varieties comes from the status of the latter creoles in
theories of Iberian-based creole formation. Whinnom (1956) was the first to hint at
a possibility which was later to become a full-fledged theory, namely that a large
number of Asian-Iberian creoles, from India to Indonesia and including Philippine
Creole Spanish in the Philippines, result from a single precursor, a Portuguese
maritime pidgin which mixed with local languages as well as with other colonial
superstrata to yield the variety of creoles now found in Asia and Oceania. Whinnom
(1956), in a remarkable feat of historical reconstruction, postulated that the seeds of
Philippine Creole Spanish were first sown on the Indonesian island of Ternate in the
17th century, where a Portuguese-based creole apparently arose on this important
member of the Spice Islands. When the speakers of this proto-Portuguese creole were
expelled sometime later, these Mardikas or Merdikas as they were known ended up
in the Spanish colony of the Philippines, settling in several small villages along
Manila Bay. The town of Ternate, where the Philippine Creole Spanish variety
Ternateño is spoken, appears to have been named after the Indonesian island, and oral
tradition among the Ternateños refers to the Mardikas. Since Ternateño seems to be
the oldest surviving variety of Philippine Creole Spanish, the chronology is at least
correct. Currently all traces of any Portuguese-based creole have disappeared from
Ternate, Indonesia. A few years ago, a sultan from the latter island visited Ternate,
Manila and found the Ternateño variety of Chabacano totally incomprehensible, not
even recognizing individual words.

Despite Whinnom’s pioneering contributions on the origins of the Manila Bay
Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, his description of Zamboangueño is sketchy,
inaccurate, and based on second-hand sources. He assumed, naturally enough, that?some form of Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish had been carried to the Spanish
garrison at Zamboanga, where it continued to flourish and evolve; any differences
between Zamboangueño and the Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects were
presumably the result of local accretions rather than from a separate formative
process. Subsequent in-depth investigations of Zamboangueño, such as Frake (1971,
1980) and Forman (1972) implicitly assume some version of Whinnom’s hypothesis.
In view of the significant structural similarities between Zamboangueño on the one
hand and Caviteño and Ternateño on the other, it is not feasible to claim totally
independent creolization in Zamboanga. However, additional evidence suggests that
Zamboangueño did not simply grow from a nucleus of transplanted Manila Bay
Philippine Creole Spanish.

The only challenges to the notion that Zamboangueño is somehow a
transplanted variety of Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish with local overlays
come from non-linguistic accounts, which often err in the direction of assuming no
connection at all between Zamboangueño and its Manila Bay homologues. The most
elaborate alternative account of the formation of Zamboangueño is suggested by
Warren (1981). From the 17th century to well into the 19th century, Moslem pirates
and slave raiders from Jolo and other islands in the Sulu Sea attacked many parts of
the Philippines and carried off captives, who were pressed into slavery. Many of the
slaves held on Jolo managed to escape to Zamboanga. Spanish and English military
vessels also rescued slaves, usually depositing them at the nearest port under Spanish
control; Zamboanga was a frequent drop off point. Some freed slaves delivered to
Zamboanga were once more forced to labor by the Spanish military authorities, and
thus spent more time in the vicinity of Fort Pilar than they had originally intended,
long enough, perhaps, for a Spanish-based contact vernacular to form or be extended
by speakers of different Philippine languages. Warren (1981: 235-236) speculates

The fugitives established themselves with impoverished Chinese and vagrants in a
community situated some distance from the presidio. Originating from different parts
of the Philippine archipelago and lacking a common language, these degradados
developed their own Spanish-Creole dialect –Chavacano– to communicate. A large
percentage of the surrounding rural population labelled Zamboangueno at the end of
the nineteenth century were descendants of fugitive slaves who had lived on the
margins of the presidio as social outcasts.

This idea is not new, for Worcester (1898: 129-130), in describing the population
of Zamboanga, stated that:

(...) certainly a very considerable portion [of the Zamboangueños] are the offspring
of slaves who have contrived to escape from the Moros (...) the result has been that
representatives of most of the Philippine coast-tribes have found their way to
Zamboanga, where their intermarriage has given rise to a people of decidedly mixed
ancestry. On account of the multiplicity of native dialects, Spanish became the
medium of communication, but they have long since conve rted it into a
Zamboangueño patois (...)

In a later account, Worcester (1930: 512) noted that
Zamboanga was at the outset populated by escaped Moro slaves who had sought the
protection of the Spanish garrison there. Coming originally from widely separated
parts of the archipelago, these unfortunates had no common native dialect, hence
there arose among them a Spanish patois known as Zamboangueño.

These accounts suggest that Zamboangueño arose in situ as a contact vernacular
among transients and freed slaves. While it is likely that the linguistic heterogeneity
of the Zamboanga garrison and its environs was conducive to the evolution of
whatever Spanish-based lingua franca was adopted there, it is not possible to accept
that Zamboangueño arose ab ovo in Zamboanga or anywhere else in Mindanao. A
number of factors militate against such a position. First, the grammatical similarities
between Zamboangueño and Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects are too
striking to overlook, and point in the direction of importation of at least some
grammatical elements from Manila Bay. It is likely that freed slaves in Zamboanga
would adopt an already existent Spanish-based pidgin / creole, assuming such was
already in existence in the military camp, and particularly if large numbers of former
slaves were forced to labor in the fort. If these ex-slaves remained outside the pale of
the fort, however (as observed by Sonnerat, 1776: 127), it is more likely that a contact
vernacular based primarily on Philippine languages would have arisen. My own
research suggests that such a Philippine-based contact vernacular did indeed serve as
the primary input to Zamboangueño, but assuming the latter to have derived only
from the speech of former slaves would not account for the similarities with Manila
Bay Philippine Creole Spanish. At the same time, a much more heterogeneous mix
of lexical items from scattered Philippine languages would be expected for such an
extramural developing creole. Zamboangueño lexical items of Philippine origin
come, in descending order, from (i) regional Visayan, which has become a frequently
spoken language in western Mindanao at least in the last century; (ii) Ilongo; (iii)
very occasionally, Tagalog. Finally, known demographic and historical facts about
Z a m b o a n ga fail to confi rm the notion that a ‘large percentage’ of ru r a l
Zamboangueños descend from former slaves, although the fact that a Spanish-based
contact vernacular rather than a local Philippine language is spoken so far from
Zamboanga City must be accounted for. Since the non-Moslem population of
southwestern Mindanao was quite small prior to the establishment of Zamboanga, 
answer may lie in the simple fact that there was no appropriate local language
available to the developing rural Christian population. The views of Worcester,
Warren and others who postulate that Zamboangueño was essentially created in
Zamboanga cannot be sustained as the principal hypothesis, although there is no
doubt that returned slaves and other transients who made their way into Zamboanga
were instrumental in increasing the number of speakers of any Spanish-based contact

A key factor in tracing the development of Zamboangueño is the determination
of the features already present in non-creole varieties of Spanish used by Philippine
natives. Although little direct documentation is available on earlier stages of
Philippine Spanish, data from the last decades of the 19th century suggest that many
of the features of Zamboangueño than cannot be directly traced either to European
Spanish or to a cross-section of Philippine languages were to be found in the
‘Philippinized’ Spanish used widely between Spaniards and Filipinos for several
centuries. The ultimate source of such pre-creole items remains to be determined.
Chinese merchants may have introduced some key items into ‘kitchen Spanish’; if
some of the Chinese had previously learned a Portuguese-based pidgin or creole in
Macau or Hong Kong, they might use the same words when attempting to speak
Spanish, a language which they would identify with Portuguese. For example, the use
of what appears to be a first-person subject pronoun derived from mi, which is never
found in any variety of Philippine Creole Spanish, may have been transferred either
from Portuguese pidgin or from Chinese pidgin English (e.g. Montero y Vidal, 1876:
241, ‘Mia quiele platicalo’, and Feced 1888: 77, ‘mía aquí vendelo, ganalo’). Other
items may have been introduced by Spaniards, based on stereotypes of pidgin speech
which had already been solidified for Afro-Hispanic speech, including literary
stereotypes dating from the beginning of the 16th century (cf. Lipski, 1991). Most of
the creoloid forms appear to simply represent the natural amalgam of Spanish words
and Philippine morphosyntactic patterns, calques into Spanish that would be
immediately recognized by any Philippine speaker, and which could be understood at
least partially by native Spanish speakers. Since identical or similar expressions are
found in nearly all Philippine languages, Philippine listeners immediately understand
the expression the first time they hear it, and Spanish-speaking arrivals in the
Philippines picked up this expression as one of the first accretions to their ‘colonial’

Many other pieces of the Zamboangueño puzzle can also be found in non-creolized
Philippine Spanish. For example, the use of cosa as a generic interrogative
is attested in Philippine Spanish, ranging from reasonably fluent to ‘kitchen Spanish’

— ¿También redactarás las actas de las sesiones?
(Will you also take minutes of the meetings?)
— ¿COSA eso, señor?
(What is that, sir?) (Feced, 1888: 68-69)
— Quiero decir que tendrás muchos galanes.
(I mean that you must have many beaus.)
— ¿COSA galanes?
(What are beaus?) (Feced, 1888: 91)
— ¿COSA, señolía?
(What is it, sir?) (Montero y Vidal,1876: 239)
— ¿COSA? preguntó el maestro.
(What is it? asked the teacher.) (López, 1893: 34)
— ¿COSA dice?
(What is he saying?) (Entrala, 1882: 12)
— COSA Goyo? ...cosa tiene?
(What is it, Goyo? ...what is there?) (Entrala, 1882: 22)

The latter quote also exemplifies the use of affirmative tiene to indicate ‘there
is / are’, also found in Entrala (1882: 22): “Tiene canin, tiene nata, tiene coco...”
(There is (cooked) rice, there is cream, there are coconuts ...). Other interrogative
words are used similarly, for example cual (Entrala, 1882: 32): “Cual aquel?” (Which
one is that?).

Philippine Creole Spanish varieties, including Zamboangueño, are characterized
by an invariable verbal stem, usually derived from the infinitive minus final /r/. In the
case of ‘modal’ verbs and some other verbs, the third person singular form has been
taken over: puede, tiene, sabe, etc. Vestigial and semifluent Spanish of many
countries is noted for the gravitation of verbal paradigms to the third person singular,
an attestation of partial agreement. Vernacular Brazilian Portuguese employs this
strategy, as do vestigial dialects of Spanish. In contemporary Philippine Spanish,
vestigial speakers occasionally reduce verbs to the third person singular. This is by
no means an indication of a recent development found only among generations of
Filipinos for whom Spanish is only a partially-learned ancestral language. There is
ample evidence of this tendency in earlier stages of Philippine Spanish, when the
language varieties in question represented the base variety of ‘Spanish’; for example:

— ¿Capaz serás todavía de enamorar a algún capitán y casarte otra vez?
(Could you still get some captain to fall in love with you and marry again?)
— No SABE, señor.
((I) don’t know, sir.) (Feced, 1888: 90)
— Oy, piloto, ven acá: ¿tú conoces esto?
(Hey, pilot, come here. Do you know about this?)
— CONOCE, señor ...
((I) know, sir...) (Feced, 1888: 103)
— ¡Cochero! ¿Qué entiendes tú de eso?
(Driver! What do you make of this?)
— ¡Sí, ENTIENDE, señor!
(Yes, (I) understand, sir!) (Feced, 1888: 108)

In Zamboangueño, nuay < Spanish no hay ‘there does not exist’behaves exactly
as its Visayan and Tagalog homologues, walla and dili, not only to refer to lack of
existence, but to negate certain verbs. The same usage recurs consistently in non-creolized
Philippine Spanish: speakers of Philippine Spanish at times used no hay to
indicate that a person or thing inquired after was not present:

— Que venga el médico –dije al muchacho indio que me servía de ayuda de cámara.
(Have the doctor come, I told the Indian (= native) cabin boy.)
— NO HAY más, señor.
(He’s gone sir.)
— ¿Cómo NO HAY más?
(What do you mean he’s gone?)
— Se ha marchado á recoger un muerto á dos días de caballo.
(He went to pick up a dead person; it’s two days on horseback.) (Feced, 1888: 15)

Similarly, use of no hay to replace no tener ‘not to have’, is attested in Philippine
Spanish (Entrala, 1882: 12): “que no hay cualtas” ((he says) that (he) has no money).
The use of con as objective case marker in Zamboangueño and occasionally in
the Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects has already been commented on,
together with the fortuitous similarity with some Visayan pronominals. In non-creole
Philippine Spanish, use of con to signal accusative case is also attested:

— Señor, haga pabor de emprestar conmigo cuatro pesos.
(Sir, please lend me four pesos.) (Feced, 1888: 42)
— Pues suya cuidado, pero esa tiene novio castila y seguro no ha de querer con suya.
(Well, that;s his problem, but she has a Spanish fiancée and she probably doesn’t love
him.) (Montero y Vidal, 1876: 240)?— Señor, V. sin duda no recordar conmigo.
(Sir, of course you don’t remember me.) (Moya y Jiménez, 1883: 293)
— Señor, más mejor que de usted conmigo seis pesos de sueldo...
(Sir, it would be better for you to give me six pesos’ salary...)
(Moya y Jiménez, 1883: 285)
An example of Chinese ‘kitchen Spanish’is:
— ¡Ah! señolia, mucho disgustalo ele con suya, polque señolia manda plendé con
(Oh sir, he is very angry with you, because you had him arrested.) (López, 1893: 58)

A characteristic of Zamboangueño, calquing a wide variety of Philippine
languages, is the lack of copula with Adj + Noun combinations. The same
combinations are attested for non-creole Philippine Spanish:

— Señor, malo este bache ...malo este puente grande.
(Sir, this pot hole (is) bad ...this big bridge (is) bad.) (Feced, 1888: 21)
— Seguro tú grande el robo.
(You (can be) sure (it was a) big robbery.) (Entrala, 1882: 22)
—V. magandang lalaque; fino el talle, bueno el cara.
(You are a fine lad; slim-waisted, good-looking.) (Entrala, 1882: 23)
— (...) pero malo ese (...)
(... but that guy is bad ...) (López, 1893: 34)

The preceding examples show that Philippine Spanish, developing slowly
throughout the major population centers of the islands and incorporating calques of
r egional Philippine languages, already contained the seeds of many creoloid
structures, which when added to the mix of Spanish and cognate Philippine elements
in the formative period of Zamboangueño would enhance emerging creole structures.
Philippine Spanish, at lower levels of fluency, also embodies considerabl e
grammatical simplification which does not specifically reflect Philippine syntax, but
which is common to reduced and vestigial forms of Spanish of other nations. Even
in the 20th century, travelers continued to describe rudimentary Philippine Spanish
with the same terms used in previous centuries. Russell (1907) refers to the use of
‘broken Spanish’ in several parts of the country, and at one point a man spoke to her
in “what he was pleased to consider Spanish” (p. 81). Correa de Malehy (1908),
visiting the Philippines towards the end of the 19th century, makes similar reference
to the fact that “también se habla generalmente en español más ó menos incorrecto,
siendo la lengua oficial de la colonia y general de Manila” (more or less incorrect
Spanish is also spoken, being the official language of the colony and generalized in
Manila). She also referred (e.g. p. 17) to the ‘broken Spanish’ used by many
Filipinos, and even gave an example (p. 135): “¡Calla castila, que corta aquel cabeza
tuyo!” (Shut up white woman, or I’ll cut off your head!). Studies of contemporary
Philippine Spanish by Lipski (1986b, 1987a) reveal the continued existence of
similar structures, which when taken in their totality closely resemble the Philippine
Creole Spanish dialects in many respects.

The examples just given show that many of the important building blocks which
would coalesce to form Zamboangueño were present in non-creole varieties of
Philippine Spanish, as spoken by Filipinos and evidently also by Spaniards at times,
in order to enhance communication. None of the examples comes from Philippine
Creole Spanish-speaking communities, but rather provide a cross-section of usage
which, extrapolating backwards only a few decades, could have been found in the
rudimentary knowledge of Spanish shared by Spaniards, Philippine garrison troops,
and former slaves in Zamboanga. These features alone do not suffice to explain all
the creoloid traits in Zamboangueño. However, in combination with the Philippine
common denominators surveyed in the preceding section, nearly all the major
s t r uctures of Zamboangueño can be accounted for without postulating a
transplantation of a functioning Philippine Creole Spanish speech community to

In partial summary, it has been proposed that Zamboangueño did not arise as a
radical creole from purely Spanish roots. Zamboangueño came into being as
residents of Zamboanga, both those of long standing and new arrivals, enhanced
inter-ethnic communicability by drawing ever more heavily on the one extraterritorial
language which had already begun to bridge the gap, namely Spanish. In Zamboanga,
Spanish in its native or quasi-native form was principally the vehicle of some of the
garrison soldiers (especially those from Mexico) and their commanding officers. This
would account for both the phonologically more modern form of many Spanish items
in Zamboangueño and the noticeably vulgar, barracks-like nature of many of the
borrowings. Items derived from earlier periods of Spanish are probably actually
derived from Philippine languages, which began absorbing Hispanisms as early as
the 16th century. During most of the 18th century, the non-Moslem population of the
Zamboanga area was small, and the potential Philippine common denominators
available to early generations of Zamboangueños would be smaller than if only the
intersection of Tagalog and the major Visayan languages is considered. Many of the
peripheral Philippine languages do not share the morp h o l ogical and lex i c a l
similarities which have been proposed as having contributed to the formation of
Zamboangueño, so that recourse to common Spanish items, and incorporation of
further Hispanisms (presumably including Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish
forms carried to Zamboanga) would be the preferred means of expanding the
Zamboangueño lexicon. During the 19th century, the ethnic demographics of the
Zamboanga area stabilized as piracy in the Sulu Sea was reduced. During the same
period, the presence of native or near-native Spanish speakers in Zamboanga City
reached an all-time high, and Zamboangueño absorbed most of its newest Spanish
lexical items. Ilongo elements were introduced during this period, which may be
explained by the Cavite-Iloilo-Zamboanga connection suggested earlier.

The first stage of Zamboangueño is assumed to have consisted mostly of
Spanish items and of only the broadest Philippine common denominators such as the
plural particle mga, interrogative particle ba, plus a few Ilongo words. Cebuano /
Visayan accretions came later. Immigration to southwestern Mindanao of speakers of
central Visayan languages, particularly Cebuano, became significant towards the end
of the 19th century, a population shift rivaled in attested Philippine history only by
the immigration of Tagalog speakers to central Mindanao (including Cotabato and
Davao) as part of a homesteading movement in the 20th century. For the first time
since its inception, Zamboangueño was placed into contact with a cluster of mutually
intelligible Philippine languages, whose speakers came to exercise a significant
economic and social influence in Zamboanga City. This fact, coupled with the rapid
decline in the official Spanish presence, in the number of Spanish speakers, and in
the social desirability of learning Spanish, caused the balance to tip in favor of
Visayan as the source of new lexical items. That the mere presence of a common
Philippine language was not suff icient to induce such lexical incorporation is
indicated by the fact that Zamboanga City has always contained a large number of
Tausug speakers, and yet Zamboangueño has remained unaffected by Tausug and
other languages of the Moslem population.

Although today Zamboangueño has firmly integrated Visayan elements such as
pronouns to such a degree that these elements appear to have formed part of the
original language, they are in fact more recent accretions. Although use of Philippine
pronouns in Zamboangueño had already begun by the second half of the 19th
century, the consolidation of the new paradigm to the nearly total exclusion of
Spanish competitors (except marginally for vosotros / ustedes) occurred around the
turn of the 20th century, i.e. within living memory of the area’s oldest inhabitants.
Even within the last two generations, the further introduction of Visayan elements,
and a shift to more noticeably Visayan patterns of pronunciation, is observable.
To conclude the proposed reconstruction of Zamboangueño, this language came
into existence as an independent language towards the middle of the 18th century.
This language has an especially rich history of partial relexifications, in a region
characterized by multilingual contacts and a very fluid series of demographic
movements. Zamboangueño began not as a true creole, but as a natural common
intersection of grammatically cognate Philippine languages which had already
incorporated a lexical core of Spanish borrowings. The pool of speakers who
provided the original input for Zamboangueño did not constitute a single group, but
included garrison troops, transients and later, former slaves recaptured from Moslem
territories to the south. Over the period of a century and a half, Zamboangueño
partially relexified in a number of directions, with each stage of relexification
responding to particular demographic or social events. At least the following stages
may be tentatively proposed, based on direct documentation, indirect reconstruction,
and chronological extrapolation:

STAGE I (mid 1700's): Zamboangueño arises in the Zamboanga garrison, as the
common intersection of Spanish-laden Philippine languages.

STAGE II (mid-late 1700's): Zamboangueño absorbs grammatical and lexical
structures from Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish, as the Spanish
military presence in Zamboanga is consolidated. Additional migrations of
civilians from Cavite have a trickle-down effect on Zamboangueño.

STAGE III (1800's ?): Ilongo lexical elements are introduced into
Zamboangueño, possibly as the result of the use of Iloilo as a stopover for
ships bound from Manila to Zamboanga. Ilongo grammatical forms could
have been introduced at this time.

STAGE IV (most of 1800's): Increasing presence of (civilian) native Spanish
speakers in Zamboanga City results in incorporation of additional Spanish
items, with structural differences between Zamboangueño and (Philippine)
Spanish reaching their all-time low point.

STAGE V (turn of 20th century onward): Large-scale immigration from the
central Visayan region to southwestern Mindanao makes Cebuano Visayan
the de facto number two language in Zamboanga City. Spanish lexical items
are increasingly replaced by Visayan items. Word order begins to shift
towards Visayan.

STAGE VI (1930's onward): Increasing use of English in Zamboanga, not only
in schools but even in casual conversations, results in growing incorporation
of Anglicisms into Zamboangueño. In the last two generations, this is leading
the way to an eventual relexification of Zamboangueño away from its
Hispanic lexical basis.

The reconstructed stages proposed above paint a picture considerably different
from ‘typical’ creole genesis occurring in other parts of the world, and explain the
typological differences between Zamboangueño and other Spanish-based creoles.
This includes word order, use of particles, structure of the VP and NP, and many other
features. Even among the Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, Zamboangueño differs?substantially from the Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, despite the fact
that the adstratum Philippine languages in contact with Zamboangueño and the
Manila Bay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects are cognate and similar in basic
structure. The difference, as outlined above, lies in the fact that the Manila Bay
Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, especially Ternateño, apparently began life as true
creoles, based on a nearly exclusively Spanish input (possibly with some creole
Portuguese contributions), with Philippine elements added only later, without
altering the basic patterns already developed. Zamboangueño, on the other hand,
began life as a hybrid pan-Philippine contact language whose Spanish items had
already been filtered through Philippine languages, and which was therefore a
Philippine language in the structural sense at every point during its existence.

6. The current status of Chabacano in the Philippines

Chabacano is currently spoken by a small number of elderly individuals in
Cavite (especially the San Roque neighborhood), who may intersperse Chabacano
expressions with the more frequently used Ta ga l og when speaking amongst
themselves. A Circulo Chabacano informal group has from time to time attempted to
revive the language, and church and town festival bulletins sometimes contains
poems or sayings in Chabacano. In Ternate an equally small number of Ternateño
speakers remains, but it appears that the average age of the speakers is somewhat
younger. There is no indication that children in either community are being taught the
language or even have opportunities to hear it. Ermita Chabacano has disappeared,
although a few vestigial speakers undoubtedly remain somewhere in the Metro
Manila area. It is in Zamboanga City and its environs that the Zamboangueño variety
of Chabacano makes this the largest Spanish-derived creole speaking community in
the world. In Zamboanga, despite the lack of official status, Chabacano is the de facto
language of choice in nearly all circumstances. In Zamboanga City, all the radio
stations and local television productions broadcast in Chabacano (with constant
code-switching and introduction of English words and phrases), with a few newscasts
in English and ‘public service’announcements in regional languages and Tagalog, as
appropriate. The use of Chabacano in broadcasting is a relatively recent trend, since
as late as ten years ago, most programming was in English (given the lack of
acceptance of Tagalog materials), and it was only after the first experimental
Chabacano programs were received with unequalled enthusiasm that the broadcast
media gradually shifted over to this language. In the schools, English is the official
medium of instruction from the outset, with Pilipino (based on Tagalog) taught as an
obligatory subject. Despite official disapproval of halo halo (i.e. mixed or code-switched)
speech, in the classroom, most teachers use at least some Chabacano in
presenting lessons, particularly in the lower grades, and also because the English
abilities of many teachers are severely limited. During the 1960's and 70's, programs
in ‘vernacular language instruction’were instituted for the first few grades, and while
these have largely been suspended, some rural schools still implement the Chabacano
textual materials, and de facto bilingual instruction is the rule in all public and many
private schools.

Zamboanga City is one of the most thoroughly Hispanized cities remaining in
the Philippines, and at one time, culminating in the first decades of the present
century, some form of the Spanish language circulated rather widely in that city.
Several Spanish-language newspapers were published until World War II, Spanish
was used by (Spanish national) priests, and signs and announcements in Spanish were
frequently seen about town. Although the general feeling among Zamboangueños is
that Zamboanga was at least partially Spanish-speaking towards the end of the
Spanish period and in the decades immediately following, it is more reasonable to
suppose that what was really in use by most residents (except for a small group of
Spanish-speaking mestizos) was a partially decreolized Chabacano, with occasional
conjugated verbs, nominal concordance, and a high percentage of recent borrowings
from Spanish.

Lexical borrowing into Zamboangueño Chabacano can be divided into four
categories: early Spanish, Visayan, later Spanish, and English. Following the
formation of the Philippine Creole Spanish dialect of Zamboanga, Visayan words
were incorporated in great numbers, replacing original Spanish words (some of
which are still found in the Manila Bay dialects). During the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, numerous Spanish words were borr owed or reintroduced into
Zamboangueño; these may be identified by their modern forms (e.g. ahora vs. agora
‘now’, antes ‘before’vs. endenantes ‘earlier in the same day’; both forms are current
in Zamboangueño) and / or modern semantic value (auto ‘automobile’, aeroplano
‘airplane’, aeropuerto ‘airport’). The most telling modern Hispanisms are the words
español and castellano, which replace castila (< Sp. Castilla / castellano) for both
the Spanish language and Spaniards; the latter term is found vestigially in the Manila
B ay Philippine Creole Spanish dialects, and is not unknown to the oldest

However, at least some of the Visayan elements in Zamboangueño appear to be
of late 19th or early 20th century origin, since the Spanish forms are still found
among the oldest, rural residents of Zamboanga, and also in Cotabato Chabacano;
examples include chiquito vs. diutay ‘small’, hijo-hija vs. anak ‘son / daughter’, niño
vs. bata ‘small child’, nieto vs. apó ‘grandchild’. More recently, the predominant
source of lexical borrowing has become English, as in all other Philippine languages;
not only are individual words borrowed, but entire expressions may be introduced
into Chabacano speech, and among those speakers reasonably fluent in English,
code-switching is common. Nouns and some verbs may simply be given a Chabacano
form, much as occurs in bilingual Spanish / English speech in the United States:
s a c r i fi c i á ‘ s a c r i fi c e ’ (Sp. s a c r i fi c a r); c o m p o s i t á ‘ c o m p o s e ’ (Sp. c o m p o n e r) ;
dependable ‘dependable’ (Sp. confiable); dolyar ‘dollar’ (Sp. dólar); valuable
‘valuable’(Sp. valioso); serioso ‘serious’(Sp. serio); preliminario ‘preliminary’(Sp.
preliminar), etc. These loan translations may arise spontaneously, in a conversation
or a radio program, or may be widely used by large segments of the population.
Chabacano also makes extensive use of the Visayan prefix man-; originally this
prefix formed verbs from Spanish and Visayan nouns (man-cuento ‘to chat’; man-encuentro
‘to meet’; man-ulan ‘to rain’; man-gulu ‘to make trouble’), but currently,
any English word or expression (not necessarily a noun) may be converted into a
Chabacano verb by means of this prefix: man-relax, man-takeover, man-kidnap,
man-turnover, man-public service (‘make a public service announcement’). This is
an active process and any English word may be used, even when equivalent
Chabacano words are readily available.

Active borrowing from Spanish has ceased in Zamboangueño, due to the lack of
a pool of Spanish speakers. Howeve r, the current linguistic perspective of
Zamboanga presents two interesting facets with respect to the Spanish-Chabacano
interface. The first consists of the significant alternation between normally evolved
Chabacano forms (including well-integrated borrowings from Visayan and English)
and more or less standard Spanish equivalents. The second is a largely overlooked
inclination toward the continued introduction of Spanish forms, noticeable despite
lack of bilingual contact with the Spanish language.

The occurrence of modern or metropolitan Spanish forms instead of evolved
Philippine Creole Spanish forms in contemporary Zamboangueño stems from one of
three sources: (i) preservation of Spanish forms since the formative period of
Philippine Creole Spanish; (ii) introduction of Spanish forms during the last period
of Spanish influence in Zamboanga; (iii) conscious or semiconscious introduction of
Spanish elements during the contemporary period, spurred by a desire to “preserve”,
“purify”, “standardize” or “enrich” Zamboangueño.

(i) Preservation of original Spanish forms. Only a few Spanish words survived
the creolization process totally unchanged; these include some adjectives which have
retained gender inflection and which, given their existence even in the isolated
Ternateño dialect and also in Caviteño, have probably been used in this fashion all
along: bonito/a ‘pretty’; guapo/a ‘good looking’, etc. Some masculine / feminine
noun pairs also occur, such as maestro/a ‘teacher’, viudo/a ‘widower / widow’,
cocinero/a ‘cook’, difunto/a ‘dead person’, etc. Some Chabacano plural nouns appear
to have retained the Spanish plural /s/, usually in conjunction with the plural particle
mga: vecinos ‘neighbors’, barcadas ‘friends.

(ii) Later Spanish intro d u c t i o n s. The more recent Spanish presence in
Zamboanga was significant in altering the Zamboangueño dialect, although little true
decreolization took place. In particular, none of the essential Chabacano syntactic
structures was modified, and Spanish gender and number concordance was not
reestablished except in isolated lexical items which do not form part of an integrated

(iii) Contemporary Spanish introductions. In a number of cases, the current
Zamboangueño dialect exhibits alternation between normal Chabacano forms and
Spanish variants, with the latter deriving in all probability from the most recent
contacts with the Spanish language. This includes use of ‘conjugated’ verb forms (e.g
tenemos [Ch. tiene kita / kame] ‘we have’; digo [Ch. ta abla yo] ‘I mean’; nose or
nosay < Sp. no sé ‘I don’t know’); fossilized forms derived from Spanish conjugated
verbs (puede ser [Ch. siguro] ‘it may be’; como se llama [Ch. cosa ta llama /
quimodo ta abla] ‘what is it called / how does one say’); Spanish gerund forms,
normally absent in the Philippine Creole Spanish dialects (continuando kita ‘as we
are continuing [moving right along]’); use of Spanish plural subject pronouns ustedes
and vosotros.

The linguistic influence of school teachers on the Chabacano language is more
diffuse and difficult to trace, but is nonetheless a potent force. Education in
Zamboanga has normally been carried out via English as the sole official medium of
instruction, although in practice teachers have been forced to use the Zamboangueño
dialect ex t e n s ive ly. When the ‘ve rnacular language education’ policies we r e
implemented in the 1960's and early 1970's, the urgent need was felt not only for
beginning-level text materials, which could be easily written locally, but for a sense
of Chabacano grammar, structure, and usage, in the face of the widespread belief that
“Chabacano has no grammar”. Several teachers produced original grammatical
materials (e.g. Apóstol, 1967), which, like so many first-time creole ‘grammars’,
organized the materials following traditional Spanish grammar. The latter work also
enjoined teachers and students to use ‘good’ language, and the same author wrote a
weekly column on the Chabacano language in a now defunct local newspaper
(Apóstol, 1962–1967), containing grammatical explanations, comments on
individual words, the admonition to use ‘proper’ language, and examples of
‘incorrect’usage. A group of perhaps a dozen influential teachers offered impromptu
and informal comments on Chabacano grammar to at least two generations of
Zamboangueños, and nearly the entirety of the current intellectual community and
media personalities of Zamboanga City are alumni of one or more of these venerable
ladies. These teachers provided an educational continuity across large segments of
the city’s population, and their Spanish-influenced concepts of Chabacano grammar
(although few of them are truly fluent in Spanish) continue to be felt among younger
teachers, journalists and radio announcers.

The latter group, particularly radio personalities (since little Chabacano is used
in the newspapers) are extremely influential, given their high visibility in a city where
nearly all residents listen to the three major radio stations, which broadcast
predominantly in Chabacano. In addition to the usual programs of news (English and
Chabacano), musical dedications and public service announcements, the Zamboanga
radio stations host a large number of talk shows and commentaries, wh o s e
announcers and protagonists enjoy great popularity. Several of these individuals
profess an interest in the conservation of the Chabacano language, and consciously
or unconsciously introduce Spanish elements into the program language, in higher
proportions than in everyday spoken Zamboangueño. For example, the use of
tenemos ‘we have’, digo ‘I say’, cualquiera (Ch. maskin) ‘whatever’, pequeño (Ch.
diutay) ‘small’, largamono (Ch. anda / larga ya kita) ‘let’s go’, noh vamos pa otro
public service (Ch. tiene kita...) ‘let’s go to another public service announcement’,
etc., are found almost exclusively in the speech of radio announcers, many of whom
also use these forms in their off-the-air speech, perhaps through having formed the
habit. The high frequency of use of vosotros instead of ustedes or kamo as the second-person
plural subject pronoun is also characteristic of radio speech, as is the free
alternation between vosotros and ustedes in the course of a single conversation. As
part of each broadcast, news items and newspaper clippings are read in English, then
successively ‘translated’ or ‘interpreted’ into Chabacano. For these purposes, the
announcers frequently improvise, invent words and stretch the semantic value of
other words. The overall effect is a markedly Hispanic flavor for the neologisms
required for adequate translation of news items. Another popular format among the
Zamboanga stations involves the ‘anchorman’in the studio and a group of ‘mobiles’,
roving reporters with walkie-talkies who report from strategic points. In between
news items, the announcers frequently comment on language usage, usually on
something one of them has just said, and whereas this commentary is non-scholarly
and often non-serious, the totality of such remarks not only indicates awareness of
language usage among Zamboangueños, but also the potential for a small nucleus of
radio announcers to project their personal views across a large audience, which
includes not only rural and city workers, but also all of the city’s influential figures.
In Zamboanga City and its environs, nearly all local-level politicians come from
the region, and speak Chabacano as a first or strong second language. Even those
political figures who have emigrated from other areas of the Philippines feel the need
to learn and use Chabacano as they carry out their job, particularly at the
neighborhood unit (barangay) level. Public speeches by higher-ranking political
figures are made in English when prominent non-Zamboangueños may be expected
to be in the audience; however, for maximum effect, especially during political
campaigns, Chabacano is the language in which speeches and exhortations are made.
In Zamboanga City the presence of non-Chabacano speaking national government
and military officials in the public spotlight highlights the incipient nationalist
feelings of Zamboangueños, and any government official who addresses an audience
in Chabacano is assured of the loyalty of significant sectors of the population.
Naturally, the language usage of these political figures is not lost on the audience,
g iven that the region is dominated by political personalism, preference for
charismatic leaders over abstract ideologies, and a strong sense of regional loyalty.
Being aware of the impact not only of their political message but also of the language
in which this message is couched, Zamboanga politicians often strive to purify their
Chabacano, avoiding unassimilated Anglicisms, and reaching for ‘authentic’
sounding Chabacano equivalents. These often approximate or are identical to the
equivalent Spanish forms, thereby reflecting the influence of the school teachers, the
impact of Spanish- and Chabacano-speaking clerg y, and the prominence of
Chabacano language and commentary in the public media.

7. Attitudes towards Chabacano

The status of Chabacano in the Philippines is intimately related to issues of
identity and attitude toward a language which does not fit clearly into the category of
‘native’ Philippine language or ‘foreign colonial’ language. In Cavite, the remaining
Chabacano speakers use the language only infrequently, and bring a sense of
nostalgia and sometimes pride to the occasional incursions in Chabacano, all the
while laughing inwardly at this ‘jargon’ which they have been told is just corrupt
Spanish. In Zamboanga, where Chabacano is the first and sometimes only language
s everal hundred thousand speakers, awareness and attitudes are more highly
developed, but the fundamental paradoxes surrounding the status and use of a hybrid
creole language remain.

In addition to the ambiguity surrounding the status of Chabacano as varieties or
‘dialects’ of Spanish as opposed to true creole languages, Chabacano-speaking
communities have to contend with the widespread notion –most prevalent among the
very speakers themselves– that Chabacano has ‘no grammar’. In my fieldwork in
Cavite and especially Zamboanga, this comment was frequently made to me, half-jokingly,
by community residents amused and perplexed by my interest in this ‘non-language’.
Nuay ( kame) gramatica (we have / there is no grammar) I was constantly
informed in Zamboanga, while many Chabacano speakers in Cavite informed me that
Chabacano was ‘broken Spanish’ and tried their best to speak in ‘real’ or ‘good’
Spanish. Interestingly enough, particularly in Zamboanga, the notion that Chabacano
has ‘no grammar’ is not necessarily a source of shame or reluctance to use what for
many speakers is their sole or principal native language. Rather it stems from the dual
notion that a language without a grammar either cannot be learned by an outsider
(especially a trained scholar), who must naturally be familiar only with languages
possessing a ‘grammar’, or that by simply speaking ‘broken Spanish’or even ‘proper
Spanish’to Chabacano speakers the outsider can achieve perfect communication and
ultimate mastery of the language. In fact, the very worst learners of Chabacano are
fluent Spanish speakers who assume that by making slight adjustments to their
Spanish or by using stereotypical ‘foreigner talk’ or even ‘baby talk’ –exemplifying
the still active stigma of ‘kitchen Spanish’ or ‘bamboo Spanish’– they are in fact
speaking Chabacano. It is instructive to note that the United States Peace Corps has
provided extensive training materials in (Zamboanga) Chabacano, which is referred
to as simply ‘Chabacano’. No reference is made to the obvious similarities to
Spanish, and a non-Spanish orthography is used whenever feasible. I witnessed the
Peace Corps’ training efforts in Manila and subsequently observed numerous
volunteers using Zamboanga Chabacano in the field, in remote rural villages where
no Spanish was spoken or understood. Spanish priests living in Chabacano-speaking
parishes quickly learn that no form of Spanish will produce effective communication,
although many citizens, particularly in Zamboanga City, attempt to speak what they
believe is ‘Spanish’ when addressing a Spanish priest. The two Bibles available in
(Zamboanga) Chabacano, one produced by the Catholic church and the other by the
Summer Institute of Linguistics, both refer to the language only as ‘Chabacano’; the
Catholic translation is more literary and uses more Spanish-derived elements not
commonly used in the community, while the Summer Institute of Linguistics version
is vernacular in the extreme, and has caused some consternation among parishioners
accustomed to reading the Bible in Spanish or English (albeit frequently
understanding little of either language). For many Chabacano speakers, ‘no
grammar’ means in effect no written grammar books, and no tradition of writing or
formal instruction in any of the Chabacano varieties. When Chabacano has been
written in the Philippines, it has usually been in literary works where uncouth or
provincial speakers are portrayed, or in newspaper columns devoted to quaint topics.
Much the same is true of, e.g. written Pidgin English in West Africa, Abidjan
vernacular French in the Ivory Coast, and English-based creoles in such nations as
Jamaica, Guyana, and the Lesser Antilles. Chabacano speakers are so used to the
notion that their language has no grammar that they were often perplexed and
sometimes pleasantly surprised when my attempts to elicit particular constructions or
facts elicited sharp grammatical judgments, including configurations which are
completely unacceptable in Chabacano. When I pointed out to some of my
Chabacano-speaking friends that these acceptability judgments demonstrate that
their language indeed has a grammar, I was met with polite amusement, but
sometimes also with a budding reevaluation of their language. This was particularly
when meeting with secondary and university students and teachers, who had more
developed (although not always accurate) notions about language.

A concomitant to the notion that Chabacano has ‘no grammar’is the belief that
any Chabacano speaker can completely understand Spanish, and that perhaps only
laziness and lack of practice prevents Zamboangueños from speaking ‘real’Spanish;
at the same time, it is supposed that any native Spanish speaker can immediately and
flawlessly understand and use Chabacano, simply by ‘degrading’ his own Spanish.
On-the-spot observation and experimentation reveals all these suppositions to be
e s s e n t i a l ly false. Most younger Zamboangueños are thoroughly baffled by a
c o nversation attempted entirely in Spanish (as I demonstrated on numerous
occasions), and even the oldest community members, who received some training in
the Spanish language and / or recall the time when more Spanish speakers were to be
found in Zamboanga, experience severe difficulties with Spanish grammar, although
the majority of individual words are correctly identified. In the schools (where two
years of Spanish are still obligatory at the secondary level), many Chabacano-speaking
students receive poor grades in Spanish, since while they can grasp the
meaning of most sentences, they resist learning grammatical patterns, preferring to
rely on their native intuitions and the feeling that no essential differences exist
between the two languages. Their attitudes toward learning Spanish are quite
ambivalent; they feel attracted to the language because of its obvious linguistic
affinities with Chabacano, but at the same time they share the feeling, widespread
across the Philippines, that the third national language should be removed entirely
from the school curriculum, as a useless anachronism.

For newly-arrived Spanish speakers unaccustomed to Philippine language
structures and vocabulary (and / or with no linguistic training), Chabacano is
overwhelmingly odd (as may be easily demonstrated by playing tapes to Spanish
speakers from other countries), and depending upon the colloquial level and choice
of lexical items, may not even be recognized as a Spanish derivative. Whereas the
Spanish speaker has a significant advantage in learning Chabacano over native
Philippine languages, attitudinal questions often produce paradoxical results, in that
individuals (for example, from other areas of the Philippines) knowing no Spanish
more effectively learn Chabacano, as simply a regional Philippine language.
Among Zamboangueños themselves, feelings are split as regards the current
state of Chabacano, the importance of exercising some control over its evolution, and
its future prospects. The first group, which has been identified with the conscious and
unconscious introduction or preservation of Hispanisms, feels that the
Zamboangueño dialect is losing its purity, becoming contaminated by English and to
a lesser extent by Visayan; they believe that unless corrective measures are taken,
Chabacano will degenerate into a hopeless halo halo, which while containing
elements of many languages, will be completely unintelligible to speakers of English,
Visayan, Spanish and ‘legitimate’ Zamboangueño. The recommended corrective
actions include wider use of Chabacano in the public domain, and above all, a
normalizing effort, the writing and use of grammatical treatises, and (usually hinted
at only implicitly), free access to the Spanish lexicon as a source of new borrowings
into Chabacano. The second group takes a more laissez faire attitude, feeling that the
Zamboangueño dialect is by definition whatever its speakers make of it; they accept
the incorporation of English and Visayan elements and do not have strong feelings in
favor of normalization or even the written use of Chabacano. Given their feelings, the
second group believes that the Chabacano language will exist as long as the
Zamboangueños themselves do, and is not perturbed about partial or total loss of
intelligibility across a gap of several generations, or with putative mutual
intelligibility with Spanish or other languages. This group as a whole knows little or
no Spanish, and does not regard the incorporation of Spanish words into the modern
Zamboangueño dialect as a truly desirable process, often thinking of Spanish as the
language of ‘old-timers’ or at least ‘old-fashioned’people.

Despite the existence of two relatively well-defined sets of attitudes as regards
Chabacano usage in Zamboanga, it is difficult to classify the types of individuals
associated with each group. It would be simplistic to assert that the ‘Hispanic /
puristic’position is held only by older residents, while younger people tend to regard
the linguistic question with indifference; however, the first position does represent a
conscious awareness of language usage, arr ived at through observation and
experience, while the latter viewpoint is most often simple disinterest rather than an
active ‘hands-off ’ posture. In this dimension, then, one finds a higher percentage of
proponents of Chabacano usage and standardization among older residents, who have
survived the winds of change that brought English and then Tagalog into Zamboanga
life; some of the oldest even recall the final days of the Spanish period. At the same
time, there is a definite bifurcation along intellectual lines, since the ‘pure’
Chabacano position is largely favored by those persons with some academic or
professional training; among the lower working classes, vague attitudes about
language usage may exist, but these are rarely articulated in specific terms. Finally,
it is possible to discern a correlation with political and social ideology, in that
individuals who favor increased political autonomy for Zamboanga together with
recognition of regional ethnic features often express resentment at the dilution of
Chabacano by English and Philippine languages. Since each parameter divides the
population of Zamboanga along different lines, the relative importance of each factor
at an individual level determines the attitude of each person toward Chabacano usage.
Moreover, there are numerous exceptions to the above-mentioned cases, given the
multiethnic and politically volatile environment of Zamboanga, so that only general
trends may be established; clearly, potential for influencing language usage is not
equivalent to pro-Hispanic attitudes, since not all influential Zamboangueños favor
such positions, or even profess specific viewpoints on language usage.

8. Conclusions

As linguistic awareness continues to grow in the Philippines, and as the
scientific study of Philippine languages takes on a more international perspective, the
Chabacano varieties are gradually emerging as legitimate objects of serious inquiry.?Taken together, the Chabacano dialects enjoy nearly 350 years of shared history in
the Philippines, and are as authentically ‘Philippine’ languages as those brought to
the islands by much earlier migrations. Rather than debris left over from unsuccessful
language encounters in colonial times, Chabacano is the product of a rich cross-fertilization
that could only have occurred in a region in which both great linguistic
diversity and considerable overlapping areal features predominated. Chabacano is a
manifestation of linguistic and cultural resilience, a language which continues to
grow in number of speakers and sociopolitical impact. The focus on Chabacano by
this forum underscores the importance of this unique language, whose hybrid
genealogy –a common feature of all creoles– is a source of strength and coherence in
a nation whose strength rests precisely on coherence in the midst of diversity.

1 An essential minimal bibliography of Chabacano and Philippine non-creole Spanish would include the
following: Argüelles, 1964; Barón Castro, 1965; Batausa, 1969; Blumentritt, 1884; Camins, 1988;
Cuartocruz, 1992; Domingo, 1967; Evangelista, 1972; Forman, 1972; Frake, 1971, 1980; Germán,
1932, 1984; Giese, 1963; Gonzalez, 1967; Ing, 1968; Knowlton, 1968; Lipski, 1986a, 1986b, 1987a,
1987b, 1988, 1992, 1996, 1999; Llamado, 1969, 1972; Macasantos, 1971; Maño, 1963; McKaughan,
1954; Miranda, 1956; Molony, 1973, 1977a, 1977b; Nigoza, 1985; Nogueira Batalha, 1960; Palacios,
1951; Quilis, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1992; Retana, 1921; Riego de Dios, 1976a, 1976b, 1978,
1989; Santos y Gomez, 1924; Taylor, 1957; Tirona, 1924; Verdín Díaz, 1964; Whinnom, 1954, 1956,

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