A Day in Ternate Cavite: Finding Chavacano II

“TA RECIBI MIJOTRO CON USETEDE CON TODO CORAZON”: Everyone’s welcome here. Instead of Tagalog and English the Ternateño’s used their local language to welcome their town’s visitors.

When I wrote an article about the Chavacano situation in Cavite City last year – I was also thinking about Ternate. I’ve always been interested in our creole language. Is it experiencing alarming decline like what Cavite City is experiencing?

When I visited Municipalidad de Ternate my questions were answered.

I was relieved that Chavacano usage in Ternate remains high even after decades without conservation programs. It was almost noon time when I reached Ternate. A town with its own version of Chavacano (that some of them claim to be “mas puro”) not far from Cavite City. The welcome arch greeting is written in old Chavacano – an indication of how proud Ternateño are of their culture and language.

The old poblacion is where you’ll find a significant number of Chavacano speaking families. Speaking with the gracious Ternateños, descendants of the original settlers from Ternate in the Maluku islands was a pleasure and I’m already looking forward to go back maybe celebrate their fiesta with them one of these days. Their appearance reminds me of the Ilocanos of the north. I found out that the Ternatenos, their ancestors, characteristically have darker skin tone and solid built. The loyal Christianized Ternateños  have also figured in many battles against the Moros in defense of Manila. They were trusted and respected during the Spanish era.

The facade of the church of Sto Nino de Ternate. I’m uncertain if the original was damaged or destroyed during the war. How I wish that the original that most Ternatenos during the 19th century grew up with was retained. Sto. Nino is still a popular devotion among Ternateno. This devotion has shaped the Ternateno tradition as we know today. I’m surprised that there are no mass in Chavacano – something that I believe the Church leadership should address.

I entered the Church of Sto. Niño de Ternate to pay my respects to what has become the center of the towns art tradition. Their fiesta is reputed to be one of  the liveliest and most original in Cavite. Locals recount many stories about how their Sto. Niño saved their town from man and natural danger. They’re a people who still pervently believe in the power of prayers offered to their child Jesus. The “hermano” of this Sto. Niño, according to the locals is in the Aglipayan church, a stone throw away from the Catholic church. Its interesting how both groups co-exist in harmony. In fact, some people attend both churches which I find fascinating.

I tried to gauge the usage of Chavacano by observing the people around first then interviewing some of them. I was always welcomed with a smile. A friend once told me that the old families of Ternate are very honest, cheerful and hospitable – he was right. They’re the reason why the Ternateño tradition is alive and well. The first person I got to speak with is Councilor Wilfred Huerto. A cheerful chap with a great sense of humor. He was with his wife and kids near the plaza. Right away they agreed to speak to me and did not mind  our conversation being recorded. Apparently, most Ternateños who speaks Chabacano are likely to teach the language to their sons and daughters because this instills a sense of identity. In their own words, a Ternateño must speak Chabacano. “Most of us speaks Chabacano exclusively inside our homes” said the good councilor.

Children that grew up in these parts are all good swimmers I was told. Fishing is still one of their industry. I can just imagine generations of Ternatenos who had done the same, swimming and fishing around here. I wonder what the Ternatenos of the old would think of the “land fill” and the language situation today.

I then posed the question: why is it that the number of speakers is decreasing then? his answer made sense, “because there are far too many people relocating here, they are outnumbering us!”. The couple acknowledges the presence of the huge Tagalog and Visayan speaking community that moved in the area as a threat but both expressed with confidence that Ternateño will never die. “Imposible” said the councilor who said that Ternateños are too attached to their language that separation is impossible.

The couple’s relatives in Europe and in the US, whose kids has never even set foot in Ternate are speakers of Chabacano. This they told me is “proof” why their version of this creole language will never go away. I can tell that they’re so proud to be Ternateños. They love who they are and this is exactly why its important that we appreciate our history and culture because with this we are able to maintain our true unique identity.

Councilor Huerto, a former seaman, also told me of an experience he had in Ermita back in the early 60’s: “While I was in Manila, I had with me some Francos that I intended to convert to pesos. So I went to Ermita. There I spoke with these money changers near the plaza – I caught them speaking, whispering, in Chabacano, it has a different tone and phase but I can tell it was Chabacano – right there and then, I knew that they intended to buy low. I then spoke to them in Chabacano and they were surprised – I haggled for a higher price in Chabacano of course!”. It was the 60’s, were those people  speakers of the now extinct Ermitense? “I can never tell but the tone was different”, Councilor Huerto said.




Old timers in the public market are all Chabacanos and those people that would come to do business have no choice but to learn the language. A vegetable vendor, originally from Cebu, told to me that she can’t speak Chabacano but could understand it well.

I was then led to the house of the poblacion’s barrio captain located next to the river where a brahminy kite incessantly circles up above the scenic Maragandon river. Children were jumping in and out of the water near where I was interviewing the man they simply call Kapitan Meyong. He was a very accommodating man. He was pleased hearing that someone from the outside is interested to study their beloved language.

Capitan Meyong and her daughter with the visitor. Almost all the old families residing in Ternate are descendants of the legendary seven clans that came from the Maluku islands, Ternate, an Indonesian island situated in the Malay peninsula which was once governed by Manila.

Capitan Meyong is from the old town of San Jose where Chabacano is exclusivley spoken.Its common to hear locals transacting in the creole language in the market place but perhaps the biggest community of Chavacanos can be found in Barrio San Jose. “San Jose is 100% Chabacano”, he confirms. But all the other barrios outside the poblacion and San Jose are not speakers of Chabacano he said. Unlike the couple I spoke with earlier, Sr. Meyong is worried that Ternate would be completely wiped out by Tagalog and that one day it will finally lose its foothold in  Ternateño society.

He acknowledged that there has been no major project to promote Chabacano as a Ternateño laguage that can be offered to all people now living in the municipality. But he firmly believes that it is necessary. He said, “we have to teach this (chavacano) to all children that is now living in Ternate, whether from the original families or those who recently settled here”. I mentioned that Spanish as a subject in school is already close to being realized. He said, “much better, we could understand Spanish, Cavitenen (Cavity City) and Zamboanga anyway, its all related”.



When I visited the Barrio Captain, he was having a hearty lunch with his family right beside the river. I wonder what the place use to look like in the old days. I’m always consumed by what places use to look like. I try to find an old photo and compare them with the new ones that I shot – it amazing seeing the transformation, sadly, most of our old towns had seen better days.

The Barrio Captain then spoke about the  pressing issues the municipality have like the garbage dump its effect on the enviroment. This is truly a sad development. I believe no town deserves to be a site for waste disposal – I could not imagine the pain (giving up space for other towns garbage) this people have to live with. Garbage disposal is a tricky and complicated issue, we all know that garbage will have to be deposited somewhere and I’m sure no one wants to be given this unfortunate role – I hope that someday no town would ever have to deal with being elected as garbage site.

After my visit to the Captains home I headed straight to San Jose where I met an old woman who married into one of the oldest clan in Ternate. Almost everyone is related in this beautiful town, well, at least it felt that way. She was Waray but has resided in Ternate for almost four decades now and believes that she’s a Ternatena through and through. “I’m more Ternateña than waray”, she said with a big laugh. She told me that it only took her “less than a year” to learn the language. The language sounded like “singing birds” to her when she first arrived in the 70’s. All her grandchildren speaks Chavacano saying that its ” [not speaking it] unacceptable as it is our language inside our home”. She then instructed her son to take me to another relative of theirs who have “more stories to tell about the history of the town and the language”. The man then invited me to his tricycle and took me to this relative – he refused my payment.

A reputed Ternateno from the days of yore. not exactly sure if he really was that colorful but its the thought that counts. Right?

The man we were supposed to visit wrote a book about Chavacano and is an active member of the historical comittee of the province. He is considered a foremost expert in the creole language. Unfortunately, he was not there when I dropped by. True to the hospitality of the Ternateno’s I was still invited inside their home which is right beside a basketball court. Not far is a monument, painted in color of an ancient Ternateño dressed in his traditional costume standing proud amidst the modern houses and structures that surrounds him. They are indeed a unique people and I’m really happy to have been able to meet so many of them in one day.


38 responses to “A Day in Ternate Cavite: Finding Chavacano II

  • HispanicFilipino

    I am Filipino-American and support the preservation of Hispanic Filipino culture. Chabacano and the teaching of Spanish in the Philippines is linked. Spanish films, TV and shows should be shown locally in Cavite. I organized a Spanish practice group and Chabacano speakers are welcome.
    Please join the Spanish Language Meetup of the Philippines.
    Siempre he querido apoyar la preservacion de nuestras lenguas chabacanas (espanol-criollo) de Filipinas. Se ha escrito que la preservacion del Chabacano se basa en la continuacion de la enseñanza del espanol. Son vinculados. Porque la lengua es un ser vivo y se necesita nueva infusion de espanol, si no, se mezclara con mas ingles u otro. Ya ocurre con el Chabacano de Zamboanga.
    Soñamos, luego planeamos!

    • Arnaldo Arnáiz

      Congratulations for what you do. We have to do our part in promoting Spanish and educating Filipinos of its historical and cultural significance. – un abrazo, A

      • HispanicFilipino

        Thanks, man. I started to write in 2011 but got too busy. See the humble start of my writing and my links on my profile:
        Are you related to Antonio Arnaiz of the Avenue fame? I am in Miami, USA but going back to the Philippines this week for personal family affairs. Join my group, all levels!

        • Arnaldo Arnáiz

          he is according to family accounts an uncle of my father, but i have yet to find written records of this. i live in Singapore but i can get you in contact with spanish interest groups in PH. I would recommend you meet them and my distant uncle, guillermo gomez rivera, foremost advocate of spanish getting back to our schools.

  • Pinoy Subasta

    Speaking as a Zamboangueño, it is saddening to hear that Ternate Chavacano is threatened to disappear. Makes me wish it was more mainstream like us here, even with the influx of people from other parts of the country. I’ve always wanted to meet, speak, and listen to Chavacanos from Cavite. And I think Vigan has, too?

    I’m not sure if there is already but maybe the local governments of Tenate and Zamboanga City should form a partnership to stay connected and promote the dialect. Maybe we can start, too. If you are interested, message me add me in Facebook, Pinoy Subasta.

    • De AnDA

      I’m all for the promotion of our local languages and I hope that these Chabacano municipalities would work together in the future.

  • Eating Paella in Chinatown | With one's past...

    […] By all indication, Chabacano speakers in Zamboanga are increasing. Unfortunately, the Chabacano spoken in Ermita and some other places has long been lost. Cavite city is struggling to keep their numbers up. While Ternate in Cavite is having some success through education and parents insisting that their ch… […]

  • jj julian (@FuchaPenk)

    hi!could somebody help me translate chavacano word into tagalog?badly needed lang talaga..please have time to message me..or text 09493929777.thanks!

  • Dante Straulino

    Chabacano (de Zamboanga, de Cavite, de Ternate) in the Philippines must be not only protected but preserved. Filipinos should know that when Spain ceded the archipelago to the US, it did so under duress. Today, it has been proven that the blow-up of the Maine vessel was purposefully carried out. Americans just wanted to have their colonies. SHAME ON THEM.

    El chabacano (de Zamboanga, de Cavite, de Ternate) en Filipinas tiene que ser no solo protegido sino preservado. La población filipina debe saber que cuando España cedió el archipiélago a los EE.UU. lo hizo bajo presión extrema. En la actualidad, ha sido probado que la explosión del Maine fue absolutamente intencional. EE.UU. sólo quería sus propias colonias. QUE CERDOS HAN SIDO.

    • De AnDA

      Well, that’s America, The state of their economy would force their hand to change. I hope. They have so much to offer this world. They can lead but not by policing the world but by doing what they do best – creating technology and pioneering science research. And making great movies of course

  • andy rotairo huerto

    buenas dias….. kel ya ase yo website http://ternate-cavite.tripod.com tieni aya pahina de translasyon di english, tagalog i chavacano….ya escribi yo kel translasyon para di mga persona quiere sabe ay palabra di bahra. andy r. huerto

  • andy rotairo huerto

    buenas dias….. kel ya ase yo website http:///ternate-cavite.tripod.com tieni aya pahina de translasyon di english, tagalog i chavacano….ya escribi yo kel translasyon para di mga persona quiere sabe ay palabra di bahra. andy r. huerto

    • L

      Ola Señol Huerto, tiene ba bo nuevo publicaciones tungkol na bahra? Hasta gora ta estudia pa yo platica lenguaje di bahra. Ta visita yo siempre el website di bo. Gracias.

  • dyudit sagun (@heydyudit)

    Good day to you! I am judith, a 3rd year student and I was really happy as I read your blog about Ternate. I said YES! I’ve learned some ideas about the Case Study that we’re going to conduct this coming Wednesday! Thank you for the information’s, it will help us a lot.
    If you don’t mind, I have certain questions. I also really want to know all about Ternate. If it is okay to you, can I get your email add so that I can email you? I just really want to have a background study about the place before we go there. :>)) I can give you my email and you can also response there – dyudit.sagun@yahoo.com. Thank you very much! God bless you. I’m looking forward to your positive response. Thank you!

    • De AnDA

      Sure Judith. Email is withonepast@gmail.com I have very limited time these days but whatever I can do to help you let me know. I’ll probably refer you to very good resource persons.

      • dyudit sagun (@heydyudit)

        Hello again. Sorry for disturbing you. 🙂 Actually that is really the question i want to ask you, whom we shall interview or someone that we can talk to that knows all about Ternate. We need to make a study about the place about their main issues specially regarding the tourism spots there. If you don’t mind i can give you my number so that even you can’t able to reply here. I can text you because tomorrow is our schedule to go there.. :))) Thank you very much, you’re such a big help De Anda! :>)) here my mobile. 09153505986!

  • Miguel

    hola a tods!! yo de zamboanga y me gusta ujir este blog.. te supporta yo el preservacion del dialecto chavacano en cavite, especialmente a mi ciudad hermosa Zamboanga City la ciudad de flores y el nuevo nombre del este ciudad es ” asia’s latin city”.

    bueno, hasta aqui ya lang! muchisimas gracias .. ciao!

    Miguel de la Ciudad de Zamboanga, Filipinas!

  • José Rojas

    Amigos filipinos que hablan Chabacano, los admiro por la dedicacion y el amor que sienten por su lengua natal y por el esfuerzo que ustedes realizan para que esta lengua tan interesante siga siendo hablada en aquel pais de Filipinas.

    Un saludo amistoso desde Placetas, Cuba
    José Rojas

  • Jeje Sasutil Jr.

    Buenas dias con ustedes todo! Carioso el historia de ternate,cavite. Mi de ternate ahi yo ta queda.Gora ta mira quel mga muchachu muchacha no ma sabi platika chavacano, con suerte tieni sujeto chavacano na elementary y secondary aqui ya ternate para sabi lohotro platika ta queda nuai ma quel chavacano aqui ya ternate bung carioso quel lenguaje de mijotro aqui.

  • aris

    buenas tardes con todos mga chabacano aqui na cavite….sa totoo lang no yo original ya de cavite pero quiere yo este lenguaje de chabacano, y ya estudia yo este lenguaje na escuela chabacano aqui na ciudad cavite….viva con nisos todos…

  • guillermo gomez rivera

    Mi querido Arnaldo:
    Debes compilar todos estos escritos tuyos, con las fotos, en un libro. Cuando yo tenga dinero, yo voy a ser tu publicista. Abrazo de Guillermo Gómez Rivera

  • Ronan Paul Dayot y Bulahan

    Hola! buenas tardes!

    Que tal vosotros alli de Ternate?

    alegre gat yo lee este de ustedes blog donde segun ta explica acerca de vuestro lenguaje llamado Ternateño como uno del mana dialectas del idioma Chavacano y como yo un Chavacanohablante tambien pero usando el dialecta zamboangueño.

    aqui na de nuestra Ciudad, muchas ya mana resolucion ya pasa para queda ordinanza sobre el requerida usada del idioma Chavacano na Escuela, privado y na gobierno, de mas reciente solamente donde uno de los consejales ya pasa un resolucion para hace un ley donde segun para celebra el mes de Junio 23 1635 como el “Dia De La Fundacion de Lengua Chavacano” O ” Dia de Fundacion de Chavacano”. tambien muchas ya mana diccionario ya publece na publico para queda el guia del mana gente quien interesado aprende el idioma.

    si ya puede vosotros oi, recio ya tambien el tocada na aire el Musica Chavacano como el banda “Maldita”.;-)

    bueno… adios!
    hasta aqui ya lang el mensaje…

    Dios Te Bendiganos A Todos Ustedes!

    Ronan Paul
    un Ciudadano Latino Zamboangueño

    • De AnDA

      @Ronan – el municipio debe involucrarse mas. Se deben promulgar leyes para la protección y conservación del idioma Chavacano.

    • manuel Avendano

      yo soy Mexicano y adoro la idea que apoyen el crecimiento del idioma chavacano. Arriba el chavacano, arriba el Espanol en las filipinas.

  • richard

    Hi Sir! I’m enjoying all your blog entries! Pls. do continue and never get tired of posting wonderful articles about our culture. Always bear in mind that a lot of people are reading and enjoying these articles that you’re posting.

  • juanlu68

    que bonita historia Arnaldo… tengo que visitar algun dia.

  • Traveler on Foot

    Beautiful write-up about Ternate and the Chabacano.

  • Yhncesz Mojica

    hi! 🙂 lolo ko yung expert sa chavacano, qng gsto mo pang dag-dagan yang mga infos sa Chavacano namen, let me know. 🙂 muchos gracias. nakakflatter.

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