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Native to Philippines
Region Zamboanga
Native speakers
1.2 million  (1996)[1]
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Zamboanga City, Basilan, Malaysian state of Sabah (Zamboangueño).
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cbk
Glottolog chav1241[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-ba
Area where Chavacano is spoken

Chavacano or Chabacano is a Spanish-based creole language spoken in the Philippines. The word Chabacano is derived from Spanish, meaning "poor taste", "vulgar", for the Chavacano language which was developed in Cavite City, Ternate, Zamboanga and Ermita. It also derived from the word chavano which was coined by the people of Zamboanga. Six different dialects have developed: Zamboangueño in Zamboanga City, Davaoeño Zamboangueño / Castellano Abakay in Davao City, Ternateño in Ternate, Cavite, Caviteño in Cavite City, Cotabateño in Cotabato City and Ermiteño in Ermita.


  • Background information 1
    • Linguistic significance 1.1
    • Dialects 1.2
  • Native speakers and Dialects 2
    • Characteristics 2.1
    • Demographics 2.2
    • Social significance 2.3
  • Etymology 3
  • Orthography 4
  • Historical development 5
    • Zamboangueño 5.1
    • Caviteño / Ternateño 5.2
  • Samples 6
    • Zamboangueño 6.1
      • Another sample of Zamboangueño Chavacano 6.1.1
    • Ermitaño 6.2
    • Caviteño / Ternateño 6.3
      • Another sample of Chavacano de Cavite 6.3.1
    • Castellano Abakay (Chabacano de Davao) 6.4
      • Castellano Abakay Chino 6.4.1
      • Castellano Abakay Japon 6.4.2
    • Pledge of Allegiance to the Philippine Flag 6.5
    • Zamboangueño 6.6
    • English 6.7
  • Vocabulary 7
    • Forms and style 7.1
  • Writing system 8
    • Chavacano orthography 8.1
    • Alphabet 8.2
      • Letters and letter names 8.2.1
    • Other sounds 8.3
    • Sounds from English 8.4
    • Diphthongs 8.5
  • Grammar 9
    • Simple sentence structure (verb–subject–object word order) 9.1
      • Declarative affirmative sentences in the simple present, past, and future tenses 9.1.1
      • Declarative negative sentences in the simple present, past, and future tenses 9.1.2
    • 9.2 Nouns and Articles
      • Singular nouns 9.2.1
      • Plural nouns 9.2.2
    • Pronouns 9.3
      • Personal (Nominative/Subjective Case) Pronouns 9.3.1
      • Possessive Pronouns (Chavacano de Zamboanga) 9.3.2
    • Verbs 9.4
      • Verb Tenses 9.4.1
        • Simple tenses
        • Perfect constructions
      • Passive and Active Voice 9.4.2
  • Archaic Spanish words and false friends 10
  • See also 11
  • Codes 12
  • Footnotes 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15

Background information

Linguistic significance

The Chavacano language is the only Spanish-based creole in Asia. It has survived for more than 400 years, making it one of the oldest creole languages in the world. Among Philippine languages, it is the only one which does not belong to the family of Austronesian languages, although it shows a characteristic common to the sub-classification of Malayo-Polynesian languages, the reduplication.


This creole has six dialects. Their classification is based on their substrate languages and the regions where they are commonly spoken. The three known dialects of Chavacano which have Tagalog as their substrate language are the Luzon-based creoles of which are Caviteño (spoken in Cavite City), Bahra or Ternateño (spoken in Ternate, Cavite) and Ermiteño (once spoken in the old district of Ermita in Manila and is now extinct).

Zamboangueño Chavacano emanated from Caviteño Chavacano as evidenced by prominent Zamboangueño families who descended from Spanish Army officers (From Spain and Latin-America), primarily Caviteño mestizos, stationed at Fort Pilar in the 19th century. When these Caviteño officers recruited workers and technicians from Iloilo to man their sugar plantations and rice fields to reduce the local population's dependence on the Donativo de Zamboanga, taxes levied by the Spanish colonial government on the islands' inhabitants to support the fort's operations, and with the subsequent migration of Ilonggo traders to Zamboanga, the Zamboangueño Chavacano was infused with Ilonggo words as the previous migrant community was assimilated.

Most of what appears to be Cebuano words in Zamboangueño Chavacano are actually Ilonggo. Although Zamboangueño Chavacano's contact with Cebuano began much earlier when Cebuano soldiers were stationed at Fort Pilar during the Spanish colonial period, however, it was not until closer to the middle of the 20th century that borrowings from Cebuano accelerated as a result of more migration from the Visayas as well as the current migration from other Visayan-speaking areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Zamboangueño is spoken in Zamboanga City, Basilan Province, parts of Sulu Province and Tawi-Tawi Province, and in Semporna-Sabah, Malaysia, and Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte. The other dialects of Chavacano which have, primarily, Cebuano as their substrate language are the Mindanao-based creoles of which are Castellano Abakay or Chavacano de Davao (spoken in some areas of Davao), this dialect has an influence from Chinese and Japanese, also divided into two sub-dialects namely Castellano Abakay Chino and Castellano Abakay Japón, and Cotabateño (spoken in Cotabato city).

Native speakers and Dialects

Native Zamboangueño speakers in Mindanao.
Chavacano dialects Places Native speakers
Zamboangueño (Zamboangueño/Zamboangueño Chavacano/Chabacano de Zamboanga) Zamboanga City, Basilan Province, Sulu Province, Tawi-Tawi Province, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Cagayan de Oro, Semporna, Sabah, 689 000[3]
Caviteño (Chabacano di Nisos/Chabacano de Cavite) Cavite City 200 000
Cotabateño (Chabacano de Cotabato) SOCCSKSARGEN 20 500
Castellano Abakay (Chabacano de Davao) Davao Region, Davao City 18 000
Ternateño (Bahra) Ternate 7000
Ermiteño (Ermitense) Ermita District Extinct


The Chavacano languages in the Philippines are creoles based on Mexican Spanish and Portuguese. In some Chavacano languages, most words are common with Andalusian Spanish, but there are many words borrowed from Nahuatl, a language native to Central Mexico, which are not to be found in Andalusian Spanish. Many of the words in the Chavacano vocabulary are mostly derived from Mexican Spanish, while its grammar is mostly based on other Philippine languages, primarily Ilonggo, Tagalog and Cebuano. Its vocabulary, has influences from Italian, Portuguese and the Native American languages Nahuatl, Taino, Quechua, etc. as can be evidenced by the words chongo (monkey, instead of Spanish 'mono'), tiange (mini markets),etc. The vocabulary of the Ternateño dialect, in particular, has a major influence from the Portuguese language and the language of Ternate in Indonesia since the speakers of the said dialect are the descendants of the Indonesian soldiers brought by the Spaniards in the area. This can be seen in the use of the word 'na' instead of the Spanish 'en'.

In contrast with the Luzon-based creoles, the Zamboangueño dialect has the most borrowings and/or influence from other Philippine Austronesian languages including Hiligaynon, Subanen/Subanon, Bangingi, Sama, Tausug, Yakan, Tagalog and Ilocano origin are present in Zamboangueño dialect. As Zamboangueño dialect is also spoken by Muslims, the dialect has some Arabic loanwords, most commonly Islamic terms. Nevertheless it is difficult to trace whether these words have their origin in the local population or in Spanish itself, given that Spanish has about 6,000 words of Arabic origin.


The highest number of Chavacano speakers are found in Zamboanga City and in the island province of Basilan. A significant number of Chavacano speakers are found in Cavite City and Ternate. There are also speakers in some areas in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Davao, and in Cotabato City. According to the official 2000 Philippine census, there were altogether 607,200 Chavacano speakers in the Philippines in that same year. The exact figure could be higher as the 2000 population of Zamboanga City, whose main language is Chavacano, far exceeded that census figure. Also, the figure does not include Chavacano speakers of the Filipino diaspora. Notwithstanding, Zamboangueño is the dialect with the most number of speakers, being the official language of Zamboanga City whose population is now believed to be over a million; is also an official language in Basilan.

Speakers can also be found in the town of Semporna in the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia—not surprisingly—because this northern part of Borneo is close to the Sulu islands and the Zamboanga Peninsula. Chavacano speakers are possibly found elsewhere in Sabah via Filipino refugees who escaped from Zamboanga Peninsula and predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao like Sulu Archipelago.

A small number of Zamboanga's indigenous peoples, such as the Tausugs, the Samals, and of Basilan such as the Yakans, majority of those people are Sunni Muslims, also speak the language. In the close provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, there are Muslim speakers of the Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Social significance

Chavacano has been primarily and practically a spoken language. In the past, its use in literature was limited and chiefly local to the geographical location where the particular variety of the language was spoken. Its use as a spoken language far exceeds its use in literary work in comparison to the use of Spanish in the Philippines which was more successful as a written language than a spoken language. In recent years, there have been efforts to encourage the use of Chavacano as a written language, but the attempts were mostly minor attempts in folklore and religious literature and few pieces of written materials by the print media. In Zamboanga City, while the language is used by the mass media, the Catholic Church, education, and the local government, there have been few literary work written in Zamboangueño and access to these resources by the general public is not readily available. As Chavacano is spoken by Muslims as second language not only in Zamboanga City and Basilan but even in Sulu and Tawi-tawi, a number of Qur'an books are published in Chavacano.

While the Mindanao-based creoles, Castellano Abakay, and Cotabateño are believed to be in danger of extinction, the Zamboangueño dialect has been constantly evolving especially during half of the past century until the present. Zamboangueño has been experiencing an infusion of English and more Tagalog words and from other languages worldwide in its vocabulary and there have been debates and discussions among older Chavacano speakers, new generation of Chavacano speakers, scholars, linguists, sociologists, historians, and educators regarding its preservation, cultivation, standardisation, and its future as a Spanish-based creole. In 2000, The Instituto Cervantes in Manila hosted a conference entitled "Shedding Light on the Chavacano Language" at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Because of the grammatical structures, Castilian usage, and archaic Spanish words and phrases that Chavacano (especially Zamboangueño) uses, between speakers of both contemporary Spanish and Chavacano who are uninitiated, both languages appear to be non-intelligible to a large extent. For the initiated speakers, Chavacano can be intelligible to some Spanish speakers, and while most Spanish words can easily be understood by Chavacano speakers, many would struggle to understand a complete Spanish sentence.


Chavacano or Chabacano originated from the Spanish word chabacano which literally means "poor taste", "vulgar", "common", "of low quality", or "coarse". During the Spanish colonial period, it was called by the Spanish-speaking population as the "lenguaje del calle", "lenguaje de parian" (language of the street), or "lenguaje de cocina" (kitchen Spanish to refer to the Chabacano spoken by Chinese-Filipinos of Manila, particularly in Ermita) to distinguish it from the Spanish language spoken by the peninsulares, insulares, mestizos, or the elite class called the ilustrados. This common name has evolved into a word of its own in different spellings with no negative connotation, but to simply mean as the name of the language with that distinct Spanish flavour. However, most of its earlier speakers were born of mixed parentage – Chinese migrants and Spanish and Latin American soldiers and civil servants during the Spanish colonial period.


Zamboangueños usually, though not always, spell the name of the language as Chavacano to refer to their language while to themselves who speak the Zamboangueño Dialect of the Chavacano Language as Zamboangueño, and they spell the word as Chabacano referring to the original Spanish meaning of the word or as Chabacano referring also to the language itself. Thus, Zamboangueños generally spell the name of the language in two different ways.

Caviteños, Ternateños, and Ermitaños spell the word as it is spelled originally in the Spanish language – as Chabacano. Davaoeños (Castellano Abakay), Cotabateños, and especially those from Basilan province tend to lean more on the Zamboangueño spellings. The dialects of the language are geographically-related: Ermitaño, Caviteño, and Ternateño are similar to each other having Tagalog as their substrate language while Zamboangueño, Abakay Spanish, and Cotabateño are similar having Visayan (mostly Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Tausug) as their substrate language(s). A Zamboangueño would call his dialect Zamboangueño, Zamboangueño Chavacano, a Caviteño would call his dialect Caviteño or Chabacano de Cavite, and etc. to emphasize the difference from one another using their own geographical location as point of reference.

There are also other alternative names and spellings for this language depending on the dialects and context (whether Hispanicized or native). Zamboangueños sometimes spell their dialect as Chavacano, or Zamboangenio. Caviteño is also known as Caviten, Linguaje di Niso, or sometimes spell their dialect as Tsabakano. Ermitaño is also known as Ermiteño while Ternateño is also known as Ternateño Chabacano, Bahra, or Linguaje di Bahra. Davaoeño is also Davaweño, Davawenyo, Davawenyo Zamboangenyo, Castellano Abakay, or Davao Chabacano/Chavacano. Cotabateño is also known as Cotabato Chabacano/Chavacano.

Speakers from Basilan consider their Chavacano as Zamboangueño or formally as Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Historical development


On 23 June 1635, Zamboanga City became a permanent foothold of the Spanish government with the construction of the San José Fortress. Bombardment and harassment from pirates and raiders of the sultans of Mindanao and Jolo and the determination to spread Christianity further south (as Zamboanga was a crucial strategic location) of the Philippines forced the Spanish missionary friars to request reinforcements from the colonial government.

The military authorities decided to import labor from Luzon and the Visayas. Thus, the construction workforce eventually consisted of Spanish and Mexican soldiers, masons from Cavite (who comprised the majority), sacadas from Cebu and Iloilo, and those from the various local tribes of Zamboanga like the Samals and Subanons.

Ethnolinguistic differences made it difficult for one Ethnolinguistic Group to communicate with another. To add to this, work instructions were issued in Spanish. The majority of the workers was unschooled and therefore did not understand Spanish but needed to communicate with each other and the Spaniards. A pidgin developed and became a full-fledged creole language still in use today as a lingua franca and/or as official language, mainly in Zamboanga City.

When Sultanate of Sulu gave up its territories Sulu Archipelago to Spain within late 1700s, Spanish settlers and soldiers brought the language to the region until Spain, Germany, and United Kingdom signed an agreement named Madrid Protocol of 1885 that recognized Spanish rule of Sulu Archipelago. Chavacano becomes a lingua franca of Sulu Archipelago (composing of Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Basilan); although North Borneo (now Sabah) doesn't included on the Spanish East Indies area as stated on the Protocol and control by the United Kingdom, Chavacano has still a little impact in the Semporna town.

From then on, constant Spanish military reinforcements as well as increased presence of Spanish religious and educational institutions have fostered the Spanish creole.

Caviteño / Ternateño

The Merdicas (also spelled Mardicas or Mardikas) were Catholic natives of the islands of Ternate and Tidore of the Moluccas, converted during the Portuguese occupation of the islands by Jesuit missionaries. The islands were later captured by the Spanish who vied for their control with the Dutch. In 1663, the Spanish garrison in Ternate were forced to pull out to defend Manila against an impending invasion by the Chinese pirate Koxinga (sacrificing the Moluccas to the Dutch in doing so). A number of Merdicas volunteered to help, eventually being resettled in a sandbar near the mouth of the Maragondon river (known as the Barra de Maragondon) and Tanza, Cavite, Manila.[4]

The invasion did not occur as Koxinga fell ill and died. The Merdicas community eventually integrated into the local population. Today, the place is called Ternate after the island of Ternate in the Moluccas, and the descendants of the Merdicas continue to use their Spanish creole (with Portuguese influence) which came to be known as Caviteño or Ternateño Chavacano.[4]



Donde tu hay anda?
Spanish: ¿A dónde vas?
(‘Where are you going?’)
Ya mirá yo con José.
Spanish: Yo vi a José.
(‘I saw José.’)
Ele ya empezá buscá que buscá con el sal.
Spanish: El/Ella empezó a buscar la sal en todas partes.
(‘He/She began to search everywhere for the salt.’)
Ele ya andá na escuela.
Spanish: El/Ella se fue a la escuela.
(‘He/She went to school.’)
Si Mario ya dormí na casa.
Spanish: Sí, Mario durmió en la casa.
(‘Yes, Mario slept in the house.’)
El hombre, quien ya man encuentro tu, es mi hermano.
Spanish: El hombre que encontraste, es mi hermano.
(The man [whom] you met is my brother.)
El persona con quien tu ta conversa, bien alegre gayot.
Spanish: La persona con quien estás hablando es muy alegre. / La persona con quien tú estás conversando es bien alegre.
(The person you are talking to is very happy indeed.)

Another sample of Zamboangueño Chavacano

Treinta y cuatro kilometro desde el pueblo de Zamboanga, el Bunguiao es un barrio chico estaba como un desierto. No hay gente quien ta queda aqui. Abundante este lugar de maga animales particularmente como puerco, gatorgalla, venao y otro mas pa. Solamente maga pajariadores lang ta visita na este lugar.

In Spanish:

El Bunguiao, a treinta y cuatro kilómetros desde el pueblo de Zamboanga, es un pequeño barrio que una vez fue un área salvaje. No había gente que se quedara a vivir ahí. En este lugar había en abundancia animales salvajes tales como cerdos, gatos monteses, venados, y otros más. Este lugar era visitado únicamente por cazadores de pájaros.

In English:

Bunguiao, a small village, thirty four kilometers from the city of Zamboanga, was once a wilderness. No people lived here. The place abounded with wild animals like pigs, wildcats, deer, and still others. The place was visited only by bird hunters.


En la dulzura de mi afán,
Junto contigo na un peñon
Mientras ta despierta
El buán y en
Las playas del Pasay
Se iba bajando el sol.
Yo te decía, "gusto ko"
Tu me decías, "justo na"
Y de repente
¡Ay nakú!
Ya sentí yo como si
Un asuáng ta'cercá.
Que un cangrejo ya corré,
Poco a poco na tu' láo.
Y de pronto ta'escondé
Bajo tus faldas, ¡amoratáo!
Cosa que el diablo hacé,
Si escabeche o kalamáy,
Ese'l que no ta' sabe
Hasta que yo ya escuché
Fuerte-fuerte'l voz: ¡Aráy!

A sample of Ermitaño from a book called "Pidgins and Creoles" by John Holm. The text was taken from a linguist named Whinnom in 1956. The book said there were 15 000 speakers in 1942 in Ermita, but almost all are gone.

Ta sumi el sol na fondo del mar, y el mar, callao el boca. Ta juga con su mana marejadas com un muchacha nerviosa con su mana pulseras. El viento no mas el que ta alborota, el viento y el pecho de Felisa que ta lleno de sampaguitas na fuera y lleno de suspiros na dentro.

Caviteño / Ternateño

Nisós ya pidí pabor cun su papang.
Spanish: Nosotros ya pedimos un favor de tu padre.
(We have already asked your father for a favor.)

Another sample of Chavacano de Cavite

Puede nisos habla: que grande nga pala el sacrificio del mga heroe para niso independencia. Debe nga pala no niso ulvida con ilos. Ansina ya ba numa? Debe haci niso mga cosa para dale sabi que ta aprecia niso con el mga heroe. Que preparao din niso haci sacrificio para el pueblo. Que laya? Escribi mga novela como Jose Rizal?

In Zamboangueño (formal):

Querer decir nosotros hay puede habla qué grande sacrificios gale ya ofrece nuestros héroes para obtene el de nuestra independencia. Entonces, Nosotros no debe olvida con ellos. ¿Ancina gane, jendeh ba? Necesita nosotros manda sabe con todos que nosotros ta aprecia con nuestros héroes y nosotros preparado tambien sacrifica por el nación. ¿Quemodo? ¿Hay escribi también mana novelas como el José Rizal?

In Zamboangueño (familiar):

Querer decir hay puede kita habla qué grande sacrificios gale ya ofrece de aton maga héroe para obtene el diaton independencia. Entonces, no debe kita olvida kanila. ¿Ancina gane, jendeh ba? Necesita manda kita sabe con todos que kita ta aprecia con de aton maga héroe y preparado tambien kita sacrifica para con el nación. ¿Quilaya? ¿Hay escribi también maga novelas como si José Rizal?

In Spanish

Nosotros podemos decir qué grandes sacrificios ofrecieron nuestros héroes para obtener nuestra independencia. Entonces, no nos olvidemos de ellos. ¿Como lo logramos? Necesitamos hacer cosas para que sepan que apreciamos a nuestros héroes; que estamos preparados tambien a sacrificar por la nación. ¿Cómo lo haremos? ¿Hay que escribir también novelas como José Rizal?

In English:

We can say what great sacrifices our heroes have done to achieve our independence. We should therefore not forget them. Is it like this? We should do things to let it be known that we appreciate the heroes; that we are prepared to make sacrifices for our people. How? Should we write novels like José Rizal?

Castellano Abakay (Chabacano de Davao)

Castellano Abakay Chino

  • Note: only selected phrases are given with Spanish translations, some are interpretations and rough English translations are also given.
La Ayuda
Ayudante: Señor, yo vino aqui para pedir vos ayuda.
(Spanish: Señor, he venido aquí para pedir su ayuda.)
(English: Sir, I have come here to ask for your help.)
Patron: Yo quiere prestá contigo diez pesos. Ese ba hija tiene mucho calentura. Necesita llevá doctor.
(Spanish: Quiero darle diez pesos. Su hija tiene calentura. Necesita un médico.)
(English: I want to give you ten pesos. Your daughter has fever. You need a doctor.)
Valentina ý Conching (Conchita)
Valentina: ¿¡Conching, dónde vos (tu) papa?! ¿No hay pa llega?
(Spanish: ¿¡Conching, dónde está tu papá?! ¿No ha llegado todavía?)
(English: Conching, where is your dad? Hasn't he arrived yet?)
Conching: Llega noche ya. ¿Cosa quiere ako (yo) habla cuando llega papa?
(Spanish: Llegará esta noche. ¿Qué quiere que le diga cuando llegue?)
(English: He will arrive this evening. What do you want me to tell him when he comes?)
Ako (yo) habla ese esposa mio, paciencia plimelo (primero). {1}Cuando male negocio, come nugaw (lugaw - puré de arroz). Pero, cuando bueno negocio, katay (carnear) manok (pollo).
1: Cuando nuestro negocio va mal, comemos gachas. Pero si funciona bien, comemos carne y pollo.
English: When our business worked badly, we ate oatmeal. But if it worked well, we killed and served the chicken.
¡Corre pronto! Cae aguacero ! Yo habla contigo cuando sale casa lleva payong (paraguas). No quiere ahora mucho mojao.
Spanish: ¡Corre rápido! ¡La lluvia está cayendo! Ya te dije que cuando salgas de tu casa, debes llevar un paraguas. No quiero que te moje.
English: Run quickly! The rain is falling! I already told you to take an umbrella when you leave the house. I don't want you to get wet.
¿Ese ba Tinong (Florentino) no hay vergüenza? Anda visita casa ese novia, come ya allí. Ese papa de iya novia, regaña mucho. Ese Tinong, no hay colocación. ¿Cosa dale comé esposa después?
Spanish: ¿Que Florentino no tiene vergüenza? Fue a visitar a su novia, y comió allí. El padre de su novia, regañarlo mucho. Florentino no tiene trabajo. ¿Qué le proveerá a su esposa después?
English: How shameless Florentino is? He went to visit his girlfriend, who I ate with. Her father quarrels a lot. That Florentino has no job. What will he provide to his wife then?

Castellano Abakay Japon

Estimated English translations provided with Japanese words.

¿Por que usted no anda paseo? Karâ tiene coche, viaje usted. ¿Cosa hace dinero? Trabaja mucho, no gozá.
Why don't you go for a walk? You travel by your car. What makes money? You work a lot, you don't enjoy yourself.
  • Karâ (から) - por (es); from or by (en)

Usted mirá porque yo no regañá ese hijo mío grande. Día-día sale casa, ese ba igual andá oficina; pero día-día pide dinero.
Look because I don't tell off that big son of mine. Every day he leaves the house, the same for walking to the office; but every day he asks for money.

Señora, yo dale este pescado usted. No grande, pero mucho bueno. Ese kirey y muy bonito. (Op.cit.)
Madame, I give this fish to you. It's not big, but it's very good. It is bonny and very nice.
  • Kirei (きれい) - hermoso (es); beautiful, bonny (en)

Pledge of Allegiance to the Philippine Flag


Yo soy un Filipino
Yo ta prometé mi lealtad
Na bandera de las Filipinas
Y por la País se representa
Con Honor, Justicia y Libertad
Ponido en movemiento por el nación
Por Dios
Por naturaleza,
Por pueblo y
Por Patria.


I am a Filipino
I pledge my allegiance
To the flag of the Philippines
And to the country it represents
With honor, justice and freedom
Put in motion by one Nation
For God
for the People,
for Nature and
for the Country.


Forms and style

Chavacano (especially Zamboangueño) has two registers or sociolects: The common, colloquial, vulgar or familiar and the formal register/sociolects.

In the common, colloquial, vulgar or familiar register/sociolect, words of local origin or a mixture of local and Spanish words predominate. The common or familiar register is used ordinarily when conversing with people of equal or lower status in society. It is also used more commonly in the family, with friends and acquaintances. Its use is of general acceptance and usage.

In the formal register/sociolect, words of Spanish origin or Spanish words predominate. The formal register is used especially when conversing with people of higher status in society. It is also used when conversing with elders (especially in the family and with older relatives) and those in authority. It is more commonly used by older generations, by Zamboangueño mestizos, and in the barrios. It is the form used in speeches, education, media, and writing. The formal register used in conversation is sometimes mixed with some degree of colloquial register.

The following examples show a contrast between the usage of formal words and common or familiar words in Chavacano:

English Chavacano (Formal) Chavacano (Common/Colloquial/Vulgar/Familiar) Spanish
slippery resbalozo/resbaladizo malandug resbaladizo
rice morisqueta canon arroz
rain lluvia/aguacero aguacero aguacero/lluvia
dish vianda/comida comida vianda/comida
braggart/boastful orgulloso(a) hambuguero(a)/bugalon(a) orgulloso(a)
car coche auto coche/auto
housemaid muchacho (m)/muchacha (f) ayudante/ayudanta/atchay (female) muchacha(o)/ayudante
father papá (tata) papáng (tata) papá (padre)
mother mamá (nana) mamáng (nana) mamá (madre)
grandfather abuelo abuelo/lolo abuelo/lolo
grandmother abuela abuela/lola abuela/lela
small chico(a)/pequeño(a) pequeño(a)/diutay pequeño/chico
nuisance fastidio malihug fastidio
hard-headed testarudo duro cabeza/duro pulso testarudo
slippers chancla chinelas chancla/chinelas
married de estado/de estao casado/casao casado
(my) parents (mis) padres (mi) tata y nana (mis) padres
naughty travieso(a) salawayun desagradable
slide rezbalasa/deslizar landug resbalar/deslizar
ugly feo (masculine)/fea (feminine) malacara feo(a)
rainshower lluve tali-ti lluvia
lightning rayo quirlat rayo
thunder/thunderstorm trueno trueno trueno
tornado tornado/remolino ipo-ipo tornado/remolino
thin (person) delgado(a)/flaco(a)/chiquito(a) flaco delgado/flaco

Writing system

Chavacano orthography

Chavacano words of Spanish origin are written using the Latin script with some special characters from the Spanish alphabet: the vowels with the acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú), the vowel u with trema (ü), and ñ.

Chavacano words of local origin are also written using the Latin alphabet and are spelled in the manner according to their origin. Thus, the letter k appear mostly in words of Austronesian origin or in loanwords from other Philippine languages (words such as kame, kita, kanamon, kaninyo).

Some additional characters like the ñ (eñe, representing the phoneme /ɲ/, a letter distinct from n, although typographically composed of an n with a tilde), the digraph ch (che, representing the phoneme /tʃ/), the ll (elle, representing the phoneme /ʎ/), and the digraph rr (erre with strong r) exist in Chavacano writing.

The Chavacano alphabet has 29 letters including the special characters.

As a general rule, words of Spanish origin are written and spelled using Spanish orthography (i.e. fiesta, casa). Words of local (Philippine languages) origin are written and spelled using local orthography, but only when those words are pronounced in the local manner (i.e. manok, kanon). Otherwise, words of local origin are written and spelled in the native manner along Spanish spelling rules (i.e. jendeh, cogon).

In the old times, all Chavacano words, regardless of origin, were written according to the Spanish orthography (kita = quita, kame = came). Furthermore, some letters were orthographically interchanged because they represented the same phonetic values. (i.e. gente = jente, cerveza = serbesa)

It is uncommon in modern Chavacano writings to include acute accent and the trema in writing and usually these marks are only used in linguistic or highly-formalized text. Also, the letters ñ and ll are sometimes replaced by ny and ly in informal texts.

The use of inverted punctuations (¡! and ¿?) as well as the accent marks, diaeresis, and circumflex have become obsolete even in standard texts among modern dialects.


The Chavacano alphabet has 30 letters including /ch/, /ll/, /ñ/ and /rr/:

a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z

Letters and letter names

A a a /a/ J j jota /ˈxota/ R r ere /ˈeɾe/
B b be /be/
K k ka /ka/ Rr rr erre /ˈerre/
C c ce /se/ L l ele /ˈele/ S s ese /ˈese/
Ch ch che /tʃe/ Ll ll elle /ˈeʎe/ T t te /te/
D d de /de/ M m eme /ˈeme/ U u u /u/
E e e /e/ N n ene /ene/ V v uve /ˈube/
F f efe /ˈefe/ Ñ ñ eñe /ˈeɲe/ W w doble u /ˈuve doble/
G g ge /xe/ O o o /o/ X x equis /ˈekis/
H h hache /ˈatʃe/ P p pe /pe/ Y y ye /ɟʝe/
I i i /i/
Q q cu /ku/ Z z zeta /ˈseta/
zeda /ˈseda/

Other letter combinations include rr (erre), which is pronounced /xr/ or /rr/, and ng, which is pronounced /ŋɡ/. Another combination was ñg, which was pronounced /ŋ/ but is now obsolete and is only written as ng.

Some sounds are not represented in the Chavacano written language. These sounds are mostly from words of Philippine and foreign origin. Furthermore, the pronunciation of some words of Spanish origin have become distorted or Philippinized in modern Chavacano. Some vowels have become allophonized ('e' and 'o' becomes 'i' and 'u' in some words) and some consonants have changed their pronunciation. (i.e. escoger became iscují in informal speech; tiene /tʃɛnɛ/; Dios /dʒɔs/; Castilla became /kastilla/ instead of /kastiʎa/).

Glottal stops, as in Filipino languages, are not also indicated (â, ê, î, ô, û). These sounds are present mostly in words of Philippine origin and are indicated only in dictionaries. (i.e. jendê = not; olê = again). When indicated, circumflex marks are used.

Other pronunciation changes in some words of Spanish origin include:

f ~ /p/
j, g (before 'e' and 'i') ~ /h/ (in common with dialects of Caribbean and other areas of Latin America and southern Spain)
ch ~ /ts/
rr ~ /xr/
di, de ~ /dʒ/ (when followed or preceded by other vowels: Dios ~ /jos/ ; dejalo ~ /jalo/)
ti, te ~ /tʃ/ (when followed or preceded by other vowels: tierra ~ /chehra/; tiene ~ /chene/)
ci, si ~ /ʃ/ (when followed or preceded by other vowels: conciencia ~ /konshensha/)

[b, d, g] between vowels which are fricative allophones are pronounced as they are in Chavacano.

Other sounds

-h /h/ (glottal fricative in the final position); sometimes not written
-g /k/; sometimes written as just -k
-d /t/; sometimes written as just -t
-kh [x]; only applied to loanwords of Arabic origin, mostly Islamic terms

Sounds from English

“v” pronounced as English “v” (like: vase) (vi)
“z” pronounced as English “z” (like: zebra) (zi)
“x” pronounced as English “x” (like: X-ray) (ex/eks)
“h” like: house (/eitsh/); sometimes written as 'j'


Letters Pronunciation Example Significant
ae aye caé fall, to fall
ai ay caido fallen, fell
ao aow cuidao take care, cared
ea eya patéa kick, to kick
ei eyi reí laugh
eo eyo vídeo video
ia ya advertencia warning, notice
ie ye cien(to) one hundred, hundred
io yo canción song
iu yu saciút to move the hips a little
uo ow institutuo institute
qu ke qué, que what, that, than
gu strong gi guía to guide, guide
ua wa agua water
ue we cuento story
ui wi cuidá care, to take care
oi oye hear, to hear


Simple sentence structure (verb–subject–object word order)

Chavacano is a language with the verb–subject–object sentence order. This is because it follows the Tagalog and Cebuano grammatical structures. However, the subject–verb–object order does exist in Chavacano but only for emphasis purposes (see below). New generations have been slowly and vigorously using the S-V-O pattern mainly because of the influence of the English language. These recent practices have been most prevalent and evident in the mass media particularly among Chavacano newswriters who translate news leads from English or Tagalog to Chavacano where the "who" is emphasized more than the "what". Because the mass media represent "legitimacy", it is understood by Chavacano speakers (particularly Zamboangueños) that the S-V-O sentence structure used by Chavacano journalists is standardized.

Declarative affirmative sentences in the simple present, past, and future tenses

Chavacano generally follows the simple verb–subject–object or verb–object–subject sentence structure typical of Tagalog and Cebuano in declarative affirmative sentences:

Ta compra (verb) el maga/mana negociante (subject) con el tierra (object).
Ta compra (verb) tierra (object) el maga/mana negociante (subject).
Tagalog: Bumibili (verb) ang mga negosyante (subject) ng lupa (object).
Tagalog: Bumibili (verb) ng lupa (object) ang mga negosyante (subject).
(‘The businessmen are buying land.’)

The subject always appears after the verb, and in cases where pronominal subjects (such as personal pronouns) are used in sentences, they will never occur before the verb:

Ya anda yo na iglesia en denantes.
(‘I went to church a while ago.’)

Declarative negative sentences in the simple present, past, and future tenses

When the predicate of the sentence is negated, Chavacano uses the words jendeh (from Tagalog or Cebuano ’hindi’ which means ’no’) to negate the verb in the present tense, no hay (which means ’not’) to negate the verb that was supposed to happen in the past, and jendeh or nunca (which means ’no’ or ’never’) to negate the verb that will not or will never happen in the future respectively. This manner of negating the predicate always happens in the verb–subject–object or verb–object–subject sentence structure:

Present Tense

Jendeh ta compra (verb) el maga/mana negociante (subject) con el tierra (object).
Jendeh ta compra (verb) tierra (object) el maga/mana negociante (subject).
(Eng: The businessmen are not buying land. Span: Los hombres de negocio no están comprando terreno)

Past Tense

No hay compra (verb) el maga/mana negociante (subject) con el tierra (object).
No hay compra (verb) tierra (object) el maga/mana negociante (subject).
(Eng: The businessmen did not buy land. Span: Los hombres de negocio no compraron terreno)

Future Tense

Jendeh hay compra (verb) el maga/mana negociante (subject) con el tierra (object).
Jendeh hay compra (verb) tierra (object) el maga/mana negociante (subject).
(Eng: The businessmen will not buy land. Span: Los hombres de negocio no comprarán terreno)
Nunca hay compra (verb) el maga/mana negociante (subject) con el tierra (object).
Nunca hay compra (verb) tierra (object) el maga/mana negociante (subject).
(Eng: The businessmen will never buy land. Span: Los hombres de negocio nunca comprarán terreno)

The negator jendeh can appear before the subject in a subject–verb–object structure to negate the subject rather than the predicate in the present, past, and future tenses:

Present Tense

Jendeh el maga/mana negociante (subject) ta compra (verb) con el tierra (object) sino el maga/mana empleados.
(Eng: It is not the businessmen who are buying land but the employees. Span: No es el hombre de negocio que están comprando terreno sino los empleados)

Past Tense

Jendeh el maga/mana negociante (subject) ya compra (verb) con el tierra (object) sino el maga/mana empleados.
(Eng: It was not the businessmen who bought the land but the employees. Span: No fue el hombre de negocio que compró el terreno sino los empleados)

Future Tense

Jendeh el maga/mana negociante (subject) hay compra (verb) con el tierra (object) sino el maga/mana empleados.
(Eng: It will not be the businessmen who will buy land but the employees. Span: No sería el hombre de negocio que comprará el terreno sino los empleados)

The negator nunca can appear before the subject in a subject–verb–object structure to strongly negate (or denote impossibility) the subject rather than the predicate in the future tense:

Future Tense

Nunca el maga/mana negociante (subject) hay compra (verb) con el tierra (object) sino el maga/mana empleados.
(Eng: It will never be the businessmen who will buy land but the employees. Span: Nunca sería el hombre de negocio que comprará el terreno sino los empleados)

The negator no hay and nunca can also appear before the subject to negate the predicate in a subject–verb–object structure in the past and future tenses respectively. Using nunca before the subject to negate the predicate in a subject–verb–object structure denotes strong negation or impossibility for the subject to perform the action in the future:

Past Tense

No hay el maga/mana negociante (subject) compra (verb) con el tierra (object).
(Eng: The businessmen did not buy land. Span: el hombre de negocio no compró terreno)

Future Tense

Nunca el maga/mana negociante (subject) hay compra (verb) con el tierra (object).
(Eng: The businessmen will never buy land. Span: el hombre de negocio nunca comprará terreno)

Nouns and Articles

The Chavacano definite article el precedes a singular noun or a plural marker (for a plural noun). The indefinite article un stays constant for gender as 'una' has completely disappeared in Chavacano. It also stays constant for number as for singular nouns. In Chavacano, it is quite common for el and un to appear together before a singular noun, the former to denote certainty and the latter to denote number:

el cajon (’the box’) – el maga/mana cajon(es) (’the boxes’)
un soltero (’a bachelor’) – un soltera (’a spinster’)
el un soltero (’the bachelor’) – el un soltera (’the spinster’)

Nouns in Chavacano are not always precedeed by articles. Without an article, a noun is a generic reference:

Jendeh yo ta llora lagrimas sino sangre.
(’I do not cry tears but blood’.)
Ta carga yo palo.
(’I am carrying wood’).

Proper names of persons are preceded by the definite article si or the phrase un tal functioning as an indefinite article would:

Si Maria es un bonita candidata.
(’Maria is a beautiful candidate’.)
un tal Juancho
(’a certain Juancho’)

Singular nouns

Unlike Spanish, Chavacano nouns do not follow gender rules in general. In Zamboangueño, the article 'el' basically precedes every singular noun. However, this rule is not rigid (especially in Zamboangueño) because the formal vocabulary mode wherein Spanish words predominate almost always is the preferred mode especially in writing. The Spanish article 'la' for feminine singular nouns do exist in Chavacano. When in doubt, the article 'el' is safe to use. Compare:

English singular noun Chavacano singular noun (general and common) Chavacano singular noun (accepted or uncommon)
the virgin el virgen la virgen (accepted)
the peace el paz la paz (accepted)
the sea el mar la mar (accepted)
the cat el gato el gato (la gata is uncommon)
the sun el sol el sol
the moon el luna el luna (la luna is uncommon)
the view el vista la vista (accepted)
the tragedy el tragedia el tragedia (la tragedia is uncommon)
the doctor el doctor el doctora (la doctora is uncommon)

And just like Spanish, Chavacano nouns can have gender but only when referring to persons. However, they are always masculine in the sense (Spanish context) that they are generally preceded by the article 'el'. Places and things are almost always masculine. The -o is dropped in masculine nouns and -a is added to make the noun feminine:

English singular noun Chavacano singular noun (masculine) Chavacano singular noun (feminine)
the teacher el maestro el maestra
the witch el burujo el buruja
the engineer el engeniero el engeniera
the tailor/seamstress el sastrero el sastrera
the baby el niño el niña
the priest/nun el padre el madre
the grandson/granddaughter el nieto el nieta
the professor el profesor el profesora
the councilor el consejal el consejala

Not all nouns referring to persons can become feminine nouns. In Chavacano, some names of persons are masculine (because of the preceding article 'el' in Spanish context) but do not end in -o.

Examples: el alcalde, el capitan, el negociante, el ayudante, el chufer

All names of animals are always masculine—in Spanish context—preceded by the article 'el'.

Examples: el gato (gata is uncommon), el puerco (puerca is uncommon), el perro (perra is uncommon)

Names of places and things can be either masculine or feminine, but they are considered masculine in the Spanish context because the article 'el' always precedes the noun:

el cocina, el pantalon, el comida, el agua, el camino, el trapo

Plural nouns

In Chavacano, plural nouns (whether masculine or feminine in Spanish context) are preceded by the retained singular masculine Spanish article 'el'. The Spanish articles 'los' and 'las' have almost disappeared. They have been replaced by the modifier (a plural marker) 'maga/mana' which precedes the singular form of the noun. Maga comes from the native Tagalog or Cebuano 'mga'. The formation of the Chavacano plural form of the noun (el + maga/mana + singular noun form) applies whether in common, familiar or formal mode.

There are some Chavacano speakers (especially older Caviteño or Zamboangueño speakers) who would tend to say 'mana' for 'maga'. 'Mana' is accepted and quite common, especially among older speakers, but when in doubt, the modifier 'maga' to pluralize nouns is safer to use.

English plural noun Chavacano plural noun (masculine) Chavacano plural noun (feminine)
the teachers el maga/mana maestro(s) el maga/mana maestra(s)
the witches el maga/mana burujo(s) el maga/mana buruja(s)
the engineers el maga/mana engeniero(s) el maga/mana engeniera(s)
the tailors/seamstresses el maga/mana sastrero(s) el maga/mana sastrera(s)
the babies el maga/mana niño(s) el maga/mana niña(s)
the priests/nuns el maga/mana padre(s) el maga/mana madre(s)
the grandsons/granddaughters el maga/mana nieto(s) el maga/mana nieta(s)
the professors el maga/mana profesor(es) el maga/mana profesora(s)
the councilors el maga/mana consejal(es) el maga/mana consejala(s)

Again, this rule is not rigid (especially in the Zamboangueño formal mode). The articles 'los' or 'las' do exist sometimes before nouns that are pluralized in the Spanish manner, and their use is quite accepted:

los caballeros, los dias, las noches, los chavacanos, los santos, las mañanas, las almujadas, las mesas, las plumas, las cosas

When in doubt, it is always safe to use 'el' and 'maga or mana' to pluralize singular nouns:

el maga/mana caballero(s), el maga/mana dia(s), el maga/mana noche(s), el maga/mana chavacano(s), el maga/mana santo(s), el maga/mana dia(s) que viene (this is a phrase; 'el maga/mana mañana' is uncommon), el maga/mana almujada(s), el maga/mana mesa(s), el maga/mana pluma(s)

In Chavacano, it is common for some nouns to become doubled when pluralized (called Reduplication, a characteristic of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages):

el maga cosa-cosa (el maga cosa/s is common), el maga casa casa (el maga casa is common), el maga gente gente (el maga gente is common), el maga bata bata (el maga bata, 'child', is common), el maga juego juego (el maga juego is common)

In general, the suffixes -s, -as, -os to pluralize nouns in Spanish have also almost disappeared in Chavacano. However, the formation of plural nouns with suffixes ending in -s, -as, and -os are accepted. Basically, the singular form of the noun is retained, and it becomes plural because of the preceding modifier/plural marker 'maga' or 'mana':

el maga/mana caballeros (accepted)
el maga/mana caballero (correct)
el maga/mana dias (accepted)
el maga/mana dia (correct)

Adding the suffix -es to some nouns is quite common and accepted. Nouns ending in -cion can be also be pluralized by adding the suffix -es:

el maga meses, el maga mujeres, el maga mayores, el maga tentaciones, el maga contestaciones, el maga naciones, el maga organizaciones

However, it is safer to use the general rule (when in doubt) of retaining the singular form of the noun preceded by the modifier/plural marker 'maga' or 'mana':

el maga mes, el maga mujer, el maga mayor, el maga tentacion, el maga contestacion, el maga nacion, el maga organizacion


Chavacano pronouns are based on native (Tagalog and Cebuano) and Spanish sources; many of the pronouns are not used in either but may be derived in part.

In Chavacano de Zamboanga, there are three different levels of usage for certain pronouns depending on the level of familiarity between the speaker and the addressee, the status of both in family and society, or the mood of the speaker and addressee at the particular moment: common, familiar, and formal. The common forms are, particularly in the second and third person plural, derived from Cebuano while most familiar and formal forms are from Spanish. The common forms are used to address a person below or of equal social or family status or to someone is who is acquainted. The common forms are used to regard no formality or courtesy in conversation. Its use can also mean rudeness, impoliteness or offensiveness. The familiar forms are used to address someone of equal social or family status. It indicates courteousness, and is commonly used in public conversations, the broadcast media, and in education. The formal forms are used to address someone older and/or higher in social or family status. It is the form used in writing.

Additionally, Zamboangueño is the only dialect of Chavacano which distinguishes between the inclusive we (kita) – including the person spoken to (the addressee) – and the exclusive we (kame) – excluding the person spoken to (the addressee) – in the first person plural except in the formal form where nosotros is used for both.

Personal (Nominative/Subjective Case) Pronouns

Below is a table comparing the personal pronouns in three dialects of Chavacano language.

  Zamboangueño Caviteño Ternateño
1st person singular iyo
2nd person singular evo[s] (common)
vo[s] (common)
tú (familiar)
uste[d] (formal)
3rd person singular el
1st person plural kame (exclusive/common/familiar)
kita (inclusive/common/familiar)
nosotros (formal)
nisos mijotro
2nd person plural kamo (common)
vosotros (familiar)
ustedes (formal)
3rd person plural sila (common/familiar)
ellos (formal)
ilos lojotro

Possessive Pronouns (Chavacano de Zamboanga)

The usage modes also exist in the possessive pronouns especially in Zamboangueño. Amon, Aton, ila and inyo are obviously of Hiligaynon(Ilonggo) but not Cebuano(Bisaya) origins, and when used as pronouns, they are of either the common or familiar mode. The inclusive and exclusive characteristics peculiar to Zamboangueño appear again in the 1st person plural. Below is a table of the possessive pronouns in the Chavacano de Zamboanga:

1st person singular mi
de mi
de mio
di mio
2nd person singular de vos (common)
de tu (familiar)
tuyo (familiar)
de tuyo (familiar)
di tuyo (familiar)
de usted (formal)
di usted (formal)
3rd person singular su
de su
de suyo
di suyo
1st person plural de amon (common/familiar) (exclusive)
diamon (common/familiar) (exclusive)
de aton (common/familiar) (inclusive)
diaton (common/familiar) (inclusive)
nuestro (formal)
de/di nuestro (formal)
2nd person plural de inyo (common)
diinyo (common)
de vosotros (familiar)
de ustedes (formal)
di ustedes (formal)
3rd person plural de ila (common/familiar)
diila (common/familiar)
de ellos (formal)
di ellos (formal)


In Zamboangueño, Chavacano verbs are mostly Spanish in origin. In contrast with the other dialects, there is rarely a Zamboangueño verb that is based on or has its origin from other Philippine languages. Hence, verbs contribute much of the Spanish vocabulary in Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Generally, the simple form of the Zamboangueño verb is based upon the infinitive of the Spanish verb, minus the final /r/. For example, continuar, hablar, poner, recibir, and llevar become continuá, hablá, poné, recibí, and llevá with the accent called "acento agudo" on the final syllable.

There are some rare exceptions. Some verbs are not derived from infinitives but from words that are technically Spanish phrases or from other Spanish verbs. For example, dar (give) does not become 'da' but dale (give) (literally in Spanish, to "give it" [verb phrase]). In this case, dale has nothing to do with the Spanish infinitive dar. The Chavacano brinca (to hop) is from Spanish brinco which means the same thing.

Verb Tenses

Simple tenses

Chavacano (especially Zamboangueño) uses the words ya (from Spanish ya [already]), ta (from Spanish está [is]), and hay (from Spanish hay [there is/there are]) plus the simple form of the verb to convey the basic tenses of past, present, and future respectively:

English Infinitive Spanish Infinitive Chavacano Infinitive Past Tense Present Tense Future Tense
to sing cantar cantá ya cantá ta cantá hay cantá
to drink beber bebé ya bebé ta bebé hay bebé
to sleep dormir dormí ya dormí ta dormí hay dormí

The Chabacano of Cavite uses the words ya, ta, and di plus the simple form of the verb to convey the basic tenses of past, present, and future respectively:

English Infinitive Spanish Infinitive Chabacano Infinitive Past Tense Present Tense Future Tense
to sing cantar cantá ya cantá ta cantá di cantá
to drink beber bebé ya bebé ta bebé di bebé
to sleep dormir dormí ya dormí ta dormí di dormí

While the Chabacano of Ternate (Bahra) uses the words a, ta, and di plus the simple form of the verb to convey the basic tenses of past, present, and future respectively:

English Infinitive Spanish Infinitive Chabacano Infinitive Past Tense Present Tense Future Tense
to sing cantar cantá a cantá ta cantá di cantá
to drink beber bebé a bebé ta bebé di bebé
to sleep dormir dormí a dormí ta dormí di dormí
Perfect constructions

In Zamboangueño, there are three ways to express that the verb is in the present perfect. First, ya can appear both before and after the main verb to express that in the present perspective, the action has already been completed somewhere in the past with the accent falling on the final ya. Second, ta and ya can appear before and after the verb respectively to express that the action was expected to happen in the past (but did not happen), is still expected to happen in the present, and actually the expectation has been met (the verb occurs in the present). And third, a verb between ta and pa means an action started in the past and still continues in the present:

Chavacano Past Perfect Chavacano Present Perfect Chavacano Present Perfect
ya cantá ya. ta cantá ya. ta cantá pa. / ta canta ya.
ya bebé ya. ta bebé ya. ta bebé pa. / ta Bebe ya.
ya dormí ya. ta dormí ya. ta dormí pa. / ta dormi ya.

The past perfect exists in Chavacano. The words antes (before) and despues (after) can be used between two sentences in the simple past form to show which verb came first. The words antes (before) and despues (after) can also be used between a sentence in the present perfect using ya + verb + ya and another sentence in the simple past tense:

Past Perfect (Chavacano) Past Perfect (English)
Ya mira kame el pelicula antes ya compra kame con el maga gulusinas. We had watched the movie before we bought the snacks.
Past Perfect (Chavacano) Past Perfect (English)
Ya mira ya kame el película después ya compra kame con el maga gulusinas. We had watched the movie and then we bought the snacks.

Zamboangueño Chavacano uses a verb between "hay" and "ya" to denote the future perfect and past perfect respectively:

Future Perfect (Chavacano) Future Perfect (English)
Hay mira ya kame el película si hay llega vosotros. We will have watched the movie when you arrive.

Zamboangueño Chavacano also uses a verb between "ta" and "ya" to denote the present perfect:

Present Perfect (Zamboangueño Chavacano) Present Perfect (English)
Ta mira ya kame el película mientras esperando con vosotros. We are already watching movie while waiting for you.

Passive and Active Voice

To form the Zamboangueño Chavacano active voice, Zamboangueños follow the pattern:

El maga soldao ya mata con el criminal The criminal was killed by soldiers.

As illustrated above, active (causative) voice is formed by placing the doer el maga soldao before the verb phrase ya mata and then the object el criminal as indicated by the particle con

Traditionally, Zamboangueño does not have a passive construction of its own.[5]

Archaic Spanish words and false friends

Chabacano has preserved plenty of archaic Spanish phrases and words in its vocabulary that modern Spanish no longer uses; for example:

"En denantes" which means 'a while ago' (Spanish: "hace un tiempo"). Take note that "En denantes" is an archaic Spanish phrase. Modern Spanish would express the phrase as "poco antes de hoy" or "hace un tiempo", but Chabacano still retains this archaic Spanish phrase and many other archaic Spanish words. This word is still being used in some areas of the southern spain.
"Masquen" means 'even (if)' or 'although'. In Spanish, "mas que" is an archaic Spanish phrase meaning 'although', nowadays replaced by the Spanish word "aunque".[6]
In Chavacano, the Spanish language is commonly called "castellano". Chavacano speakers, especially older Zamboangueños, call the language as "castellano" implying the original notion as the language of Castille while español is used to mean a Spaniard or a person from Spain.
The pronoun "vos" is alive in Chavacano. While "vos" was used in the highest form of respect before the 16th century in classical Spanish and quite archaic nowadays with modern Spanish (much like the English "thou"), in Chavacano, it is used in the common level of usage (lower than tu, which is used in the familiar level) as in the same manner of Cervantes and in the same manner as certain Latin American countries such as Argentina does (informally in contrast with usted, which is used formally). Chavacano followed the development of vos in same manner as Latin America did – (the voseo) or, incidentally, as English "thou" vs. "you" did.
"Ansina" means 'like that' or 'that way'. In modern Spanish, "así" is the evolved form of this archaic word. The word "Ansina" can still be heard among the aged in Mexico.

On the other hand, some words from the language spoken in Spain have evolved or have acquired totally different meanings in Chavacano. Hence for Castillian speakers who would encounter Chavacano speakers, some words familiar to them have become false friends. Some examples of false friends are:

"Siguro"/"Seguro" means 'maybe'. In Spanish, "seguro" means 'sure', 'secure', or 'stable', although it could imply as well as a probability as in the phrase, "Seguramente vendrá" (Probably he will come).
"Siempre" means 'of course'. In Spanish, "siempre" means 'always'.
"Firmi" means 'always'. In Spanish, "firme" means 'firm' or 'steady'.

See also


ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: crp[7]
ISO 639-3: cbk[8]
SIL code: cbk[8]


  1. ^ Spanish creole: Quilis, Antonio (1996), La lengua española en Filipinas (PDF), Cervantes virtual, p. 54 and 55 
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chavacano". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Número de hispanohablantes en países y territorios donde el español no es lengua oficial, Instituto Cervantes.
  4. ^ a b John. M. Lipski, with P. Mühlhaüsler and F. Duthin (1996). "Spanish in the Pacific". In Stephen Adolphe Wurm & Peter Mühlhäusler. Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas: Texts, Volume 2. Walter de Gruyter. p. 276.  
  5. ^ Chabacano de Zamboanga Handbook
  6. ^ Brooks 1933, Vol. 16, 1st Ed.
  7. ^ Ethnologue
  8. ^ a b SIL International


  • Brooks, John. (Feb–Mar., 1933). Más que, mas que and más !que!, Hispania,, (Vol. 16, 1st Ed.).
  • Chambers, John, S.J. and Wee, Salvador, S.J., editor, (2003). English-Chabacano Dictionary, Ateneo de Zamboanga University Press.
  • McKaughan, Howard P. (1954). "Notes on Chabacano grammar", Journal of East Asiatic Studies 3, (205–26).
  • Michaelis, Susanne., editor, (2008). Roots of Creole Structures: Weighing the contribution of substrates and superstrates, Creole Language Library Volume 33. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Rubino, Carl and Michaelis, Susanne., editor, (2008). "Zamboangueño Chavacano and the Potentive Mode", Roots of Creole Structures: Weighing the contribution of substrates and superstrates, Creole Language Library Volume 33 (279–299). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Steinkrüger, Patrick O. (2007). "Notes on Ternateño (a Philippine Spanish Creole)", Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 22(2).
  • Zamboangueño Chavacano por Jose Genaro Ruste Yap - Aizon, Ph.D.: (;jsessionid=ud7mj8tleegi?title=Home+|+Zamboanga+ChavacanoZamboanga+Chavacano+|+by+Jose+Genaro+...&page=

External links

  • A Blog about the Chabacano de Zamboanga
  • Chavacano Lessons with Audio
  • An abridged Chavacano dictionary
  • "Jesus" A two-hour religious film in RealVideo dubbed in Chavacano
  • FilipinoKastila The Spanish and Chabacano situation in the Philippines
  • Ben Saavedra's speech on Chabacano at the University of the Philippines (Web archive version)
  • El Chabacano El Chabacano en Español
  • Austronesian Elements in Philippine Creole Spanish (pdf)
  • Spanish world-wide: the last century of language contacts (PDF)
  • The Puzzling Case of Chabacano: Creolization, Substrate, Mixing, and Secondary Contact by Patrick O. Steinkrüger
  • Confidence in Chabacano by Michael L. Forman
  • Chabacano/Spanish and the Philippine Linguistic Identity by John M. Lipski
  • Noun phrases in Creole languages: a multi-faceted approach by Marlyse Baptista
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