I came across this blog and was quickly reminded how fast everything seems to be going these days. The blog is about the vanishing Caviteño Chavacano, the Spanish-based creole language that was widely spoken in Cavite City but has long been neglected. Kudos to the author for putting up a site that would be a repository of his beloved language. It is filled with anecdotes and recollections about Chavacano and the people who use it.
I spent a day in the port city to observe and to get to know its people. Some found it strange why I was asking them if they speak Chavacano. I wanted to hear people use it. A tricycle driver resting near a convenient store said his family still speaks Chavano but attested that most of his fellow drivers do not because they are just dayo, meaning not originally from Cavite City.
In the public market, I heard tinderas speaking Chavacano with their patrons. I’m not familiar with the city’s districts but I assume that the town center is where it is still widely spoken. But it wasn’t easy finding people conversing in Chavacano. Maybe because I was just under the impression that it was still prevalent. There are many migrant families in the area and since this movement can’t be controlled, its effect on local traditions is inevitable. This makes the locals, who’s trying hard to keep their language, job more difficult.
Measures must be taken to ensure that traditional languages are still kept for future generations. When a society allows old traditions to just die out, then there is something terribly wrong. Either the people are not taught of its importance or they just don’t give a damn about traditions. Which is not surprising considering how Filipino history is taught to children these days.
I’m not really familiar with Chavacano’s present status in Cavite City. But I heard that some people are still struggling for its survival. I have nothing but good words for them. The old timers have organized a mass and even a local daily in Chavacano. Groups like the Asosacion Chabacano del Ciudad de Cavite and Cavite City and Museum has been actively promoting their language. These are very powerful actions which will hopefully inspire the younger generation of Caviteños.
How Chavacano evolved is not widely understood. Its birth and evolution can only be attributed to the community’s interaction with the Spanish sailors and army men. This is the reason why all major ports; Manila, Cavite, and Zamboanga had developed their own version. How each version became a language in itself is just simply amazing.
The Chavacano blogger made an interesting observation how Cavite Chavacano seems to be closer structurally to the original Spanish. Another interesting facet of Chavacano as a whole is how it differs from each other. I remember a story of an event in Instituto where Chavacanos from Cavite City, Ternate, and Zamboanga met and spoke using their own local versions. People around were amazed that they somehow understood each other!
I’m interested to know if Ternate still speaks the language. There is also a fourth version: Chavacano Ermiteño. It has been extinct since the war, but there were reports that an old lady and a grandson of hers in Las Piñas still speak it. Also, there have been rumors that some old Filipino folks in the US West Coast (those who were able to escape the horrors of World War II) still speak Ermiteño.
Señor Guillermo Gómez gave me a CD of his that has the song “El pasacalle del ¡aray”. The lyrics was from the great poet, Jesús Balmori, who himself was an Ermitense. He often wrote using his beloved Chavacano. Some of his literary works, such as this song, offer us a glimpse of the extinct Ermiteño. Professor Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos of UP has written a book entitled, “Essays on Cavite’s Chabacano Language and Literature” in 2006. In it, he wrote about the literary heritage of the language, proving that Chavacano was more than just a “lengua de tienda, y de nula dignidad, lengua de trapo”.
Like Spanish, the same effort should also be put up to restore our country’s various Chavacano tongues.