Virata attests: Zambo, indeed Asia’s Latin City PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 22 November 2010 11:29

Former prime minister and Cavite Historical Society President Cesar Virata has declared Zamboanga City as the one and only “Asia’s Latin City” in the entire country and Asia as he lauded Mayor Celso Lobregat and the city government and other concerned agencies for their vigorous advocacy to preserve the chabacano language.
Unlike Cavite and other parts of Luzon, Zamboanga City has maintained and retained the chabacano language despite numerous factors such as migration and programs to focus on the Pilipino and English  languages as medium of communication,  he said.
“The Zamboanga Chabacano is very much alive. There is a conscious effort by the city government headed by Mayor Lobregat and his predecessors and the business sector and other private and public organizations to preserve the chabacano language and it is not a wonder why Zamboanga City is known as the Asia’s Latin City”, the former prime minister, in his keynote speech during the opening program of the National Chabacano Conference held in the city Friday, said.
The city’s new branding, he said, is “unique in as far as the Philippine situation is concerned, as about 300,000 people speak chabacano here, it is the main language of the Zamboanguenos”.
The branding “Asia’s Latin City” is a result of Zamboanga’s enrollment in the City Development Strategy (CDS), a development program implemented with the assistance of the World Bank, the Cities Alliance and other institutions. After a series of consultations, it was noted that the city’s old tag, “City of Flowers” is no longer unique to Zamboanga as many other cities in the country and the world can claim to be such.  The chabacano language, spoken and understand by majority of the Zamboanguenos on an everyday basis is what makes Zamboanga unique, thus, the branding “Asia’s Latin City”.
Dr. Rollie Santos, author of “Chabacano de Zamboanga”, a compendium and dictionary, said chabacano de Zamboanga is a creole of Spanish and Spanish is a creole of Latin and it is indirectly a Latin City. “WE have to look at it that way—Latin City in terms of coming to us from Latin, Latin to Spanish and then to Portuguese and on to chabacano, that makes it the Latin City”.
Santos, was one of the resource speakers in the Chabacano Conference, attended by participants from other parts of the country, most notable, Cavite City.
The Chabacano conference, held at the Le Jardin, Marcian Garden Hotel in Gov. Camins Avenue and locally convened by the Association of Culture and Performing Artists of Zamboanga led by Prof. Bert Torres and the Western Mindanao State University in cooperation with the National Historical Commission, the De La Salle University-Dasmarinas, Cavite and the city government of Zamboanga, was a sequel to the chabacano festival held in Cavite last year.
The conference yielded one significant result: the chabacano in Zamboanga City is very much alive because of conscious efforts of the local government and other organizations to preserve and further enhance the language.
The former prime minister himself admitted that the chabacano language in Luzon is diminishing as compared to the chabacano in Zamboanga. This could be attributed, he said to changes and modernization efforts brought about by the national and local governments starting during Commonwealth era which encouraged the use of English and  formation of national language, Pilipino.
“There were few efforts to preserve the chabacano Caviteno, chabacano was spoken only by Caviteno elites and transmitted the chabacano culture through print and broadcast media, however due to lack of vigorous initiatives to preserve the language, Cavite chabacano was not transmitted to the young and new generation who are schooled in English and Pilipino schools”, Virata said.
At present, he said, the Cavite city government through the Cavite Historical Society and other groups are intensifying efforts to revive the Chabacano-Cavite, which was developed in Cavite Puerto, which was a very important place of the Spaniards as it was where the Spanish Navy headquarters and the shipyard were located.
He stressed learning chabacano is good because of the growing importance of the Spanish language which is being used in the business and academe.
On the other hand, the former prime minister encouraged Zamboangueños to further intensify efforts to preserve the chabacano language saying that the responsibility to preserve the Spanish culture does not only rest on the government officials but on the community as well.
Like Virata, speakers from Cavite City—Dr. Enriquez Escalante and Prof. Remedios Ordonez also confirmed that only a small portion of the population speak and understand chabacano in Cavite because of migration, changes and modernization efforts brought about by the national government starting during the commonwealth era that pushed for English and the formation of national language Pilipino.
Ordonez even cited studies conducted by the Tourism Office of the Cavite City government in 2006 which showed that of the total 24,691 students (from pre-school to high school) including teachers surveyed, only .014 percent speaks and understands chabacano; .027 percent can understand but cannot speak chabacano while .957 percent have no knowledge of chabacano at all.
Cavite city through the Cavite City Historical Society at present, according to Virata, Escalante and Ordonez, is stepping up efforts to highlight the chabacano language and to re-introduce it among the young Cavitenos.
Chabacano, according to the Summer Institute of Linguistics is a “Spanish Creole with predominantly Spanish vocabulary and Philippine type grammatical structure”.  Cavite and Zamboang are among the areas in the country where chabacano emerged due to the influence of the Spaniards.
The Conference speakers and their topics included Dr. Hermenegildo Malcampo who talked about “Asunto Historico del Lenguaje Chabacano”; Dr. Bert Torres who talked about “Maga esfuerzo del Gobierno sobre el chabacano”; Dr. Julieta Tabacug- “Creolized Form of Chabacano: a socio-linguistic phenomenon in language development”; Dr. Rollie Santos- “preservation of chabacano: which chabacano?”; Dr. Enriquez Escalante and Prof. Ordonez talked about the state of chabacano in Cavite and Prof. Calbi Asnain who talked about chabacano in Jolo, Sulu. -- Sheila Covarrubias