Spanish linguist plans Forum for Chavacano in Zamboanga

August 9, 2012 12:04 am 

By Felino M. Santos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Aug. 8 — A Spanish linguist plans to establish a forum in this city to help propagate and preserve Chavacano, a language adopted, spoken and developed by the natives of Zamboanga through the centuries, beginning with the occupation of the tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula some 377 years ago.

Chavacano, or what some say is the Spanish that is spoken in Zamboanga, evolved after the Spaniards occupied Zamboanga on June 23, 1635. In effect, Chavacano is the Spanish mixed with native words, that is spoken and developed in Zamboanga.

Noted Spanish Journalist, author and publisher Manuel Liguineche who visited Zamboanga years ago said "No hay grande diferencia el Chavacano con el Espanol (There is no big difference between Chavacano and Spanish).

Spanish Priest Angel Calvo said "mas cerca el Chavacano conel Espanol en Mexico comparando con el Espanol en Espana, (the Chavacano is more closer to the Spanish spoken in Mexico compared to Spanish in Spain).

Prof. Jorge Lopez Cortina of the Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the United States, spent two weeks in this city and left Tuesday for America with the promise to return sometime next year for a yearlong work on his project to preserve Chavacano.

While there are people in Zamboanga who wrote books on Chavacano, Cortina said this will not be enough to preserve and standardize the language.

At least two television stations, TV-11 and TV Patrol, air their newscasts in Chavacano while radio stations use chavacano in their newscasts and commentaries.

A local newspaper, the Sun Star Zamboanga published a weekly edition in Chavacano but this flourished for only a year before Sun Star closed its printing press in Zamboanga sometime in 2005.

Unlike identified indigenous natives as the Subanens, Tausogs, Samals or Badjaos, the typical Zamboangueño is the offspring of settlers, immigrants as well as foreigners who settled in the area starting during the Spanish regime, and intermarried with the natives. As it is with his nature, so it is with his tongue.

The exigency of the times obliged the Spaniards to share their language with their offsprings/neighbors and thus was developed the Chavacano.

About 80 percent of the Chavacano vocabulary is Spanish with the remaining percentage composed of adaptations from other local dialects and English.

There has been attempts by well meaning scholars to introduce rules as to how Chavacano should be written or verbalized. Few such scholarly attempts are extant today.

Cortina said that the Chavacano Forum should involved a cross section of the community as the academe, businessmen, the education sector, politicians and the city government.

The city government has sponsored the printing of a reader for Chavacano for use in the elementary grades in line with the use of the vernacular as the medium of instruction in schools starting this school year.

In his two weeks preliminary visit to this city, Cortina has managed to gather a collection of books and phamplets written in Chavacano. This includes a compendium and an English Chavacano Dictionary by California based Linguist Rolando Santos, a Chavacano English Spanish Dictionary by ex journalist Bernardino Camins, a Chavacano Handbook and Chavacano for Beginners by Felino Santos, a Chavacano Cartilla and several teaching materials accumulated by some universities in Zamboanga.

In another Development, Carlos Palanca Literature Awardee Antonio Enriquez has started the translation of his novels and short stories from English to Chavacano while Chavacano Poet Butch Aquino has recently published a book of Chavacano poems in Manila.

The Spanish linguist said that unless actively promoted, the Chavacano will be on its way to extinction, just like the Chavacano in Cavite, Ermita and other parts of the country, as more and more native words are creeping into the language on a regular basis. (PNA) CTB/FMS/mec

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