RSS Feed

Chabacano in El Filibusterismo

Posted on

Not many Rizal readers today are aware that the National Hero knew how to speak Chabacano!

Below are two rare instances wherein Rizal used this Spanish-based Creole tongue in his second novel, El Filibusterismo. The first dialogue is taken from Chapter 18 (Supercherías):

―¿Porque ba no di podí nisós entrá? preguntaba una voz de mujer.

―Abá, ñora, porque ‘tallá el maná prailes y el maná empleau, contestó un hombre; ‘ta jasí solo para ilós el cabesa de espinge.

―¡Curioso también el maná prailes! dijo la voz de mujer alejándose; ¡no quiere pa que di sabé nisos cuando ilos ta sali ingañau! ¡Cosa! ¡Querida be de praile el cabesa!

Charles Derbyshire translation:

“Why can’t we go in?” asked a woman’s voice.

“Abá, there’s a lot of friars and clerks in there,” answered a man. “The sphinx is for them only.”

“The friars are inquisitive too,” said the woman’s voice, drawing away. “They don’t want us to know how they’re being fooled. Why, is the head a friar’s querida?”

The second Chabacano conversation in the same novel can be found in Chapter 28 (Tatakut)

―¿Ya cogí ba con Tadeo?” preguntaba la dueña.

―Abá, ñora, contestaba un estudiante que vivía en Parián, pusilau ya!

―¡Pusilau! ¡Nakú! ¡no pa ta pagá conmigo su deuda!”

―¡Ay! No jablá vos puelte, ñora, baká pa di quedá vos cómplice. ¡Ya quemá yo ñga el libro que ya dale prestau conmigo! ¡Baká pa di riquisá y di encontrá! ¡andá vos listo, ñora!”

―¿Ta quedá dice preso Isagani?

―Loco-loco también aquel Isagani,” decía el estudiante indignado; no sana di cogí con ele, ta andá pa presentá! ¡O, bueno ñga, que topá rayo con ele! ¡Siguro pusilau!

La señora se encogió de hombros.

―Conmigo no ta debí nada! ¿Y cosa di jasé Paulita?

―No di faltá novio, ñora. Siguro di llorá un poco, luego di casá con un español.

Charles Derbyshire translation:

“And have they arrested Tadeo?” asked the proprietess.

“Abá!” answered a student who lived in Parian, “he’s already shot!”

“Shot! Nakú! He hasn’t paid what he owes me.”

“Ay, don’t mention that or you’ll be taken for an accomplice. I’ve already burnt the book you lent me. There might be a search and it would be found. Be careful!”

“Did you say that Isagani is a prisoner?”

“Crazy fool, too, that Isagani,” replied the indignant student. “They didn’t try to catch him, but he went and surrendered. Let him bust himself―he’ll surely be shot.”

The señora shrugged her shoulders. “He doesn’t owe me anything. And what about Paulita?”

“She won’t lack a husband. Sure, she’ll cry a little, and then marry a Spaniard.”

Since I am not fluent in Chabacano and due to its numerous variations, I am not sure if the above conversations are Cavitén (the one spoken in Ciudad de Cavite) or Ermiteño (spoken in the arrabal of Ermita). Most probably it was the one in Ermita since Rizal lived in nearby Intramuros. I hope somebody who is an expert in Chabacano languages would be able to clarify this. Then again, both Ermiteño and Cavitén have Tagalog as their substrate language. So it could be difficult to determine most especially since Ermiteños is already considered as a dead language.

Chavacano has fascinated so many linguists and scholars both foreign and Filipino. But Rizal got ahead of their fascination by including these Chavacano dialogues in his novel. But why did he do that? What was he thinking of in including Chabacano while writing this novel in faraway Europe? What was his motive? Was it to promote these Hispanized dialects? As far as I know, he did not even add any comments or notes to caution readers that those dialogues were not Castillian but Chabacano. Or perhaps he didn’t consider Chavacano any different from Castillian, much less Filipino Castillian?

At any rate, these Chabacano dialogues provided some added attraction and even humor to the novel’s already dark theme.

3 responses »

  1. Dear Pepito,

    off-topic lang pare ko, pero have you seen this movie yet: Amigo (2011)

    If you’ve watched the movie, I want your thoughts posted here about it. gracias amigo. 🙂


    • Hindí pa, eh. Nasa SM Megamall camí ng asawa co nung hulíng araw na pinalabás ang Amigo. Pero di siyá pinalabás dun, eh. Sayang ngâ. So I guess I’ll have to wait for a DVD release or maybe wait for it to be shown in Cinema One. I heard, however, that Amigo has so many inaccuracies. That I’ll have to see. I’ll certainly write something about that movie. I’m also thinking of writing a late movie review about Alberto Martínez’s Rosario which was panned by critics. To my mind, that is one of the best modern Filipino films ever made. Stay tuned. Y gracias por tu comentario. 🙂


  2. This is incredible! And of course these have been lost in english translations of the novel since they were not even referenced as being Chavacano! This does indeed open the questions you mentioned. What was his motive? I bet this isn’t even touched upon in school when this text is studied. There is something hidden there! This absolutely needs to be discussed by historians and those that study Rizal!

    Yet another very VERY important reason to read this work in its original spanish. Thanks for shedding light to this, Pepe!



Please share your thoughts about this article.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: