New kids' visual dictionary breathes life into Chabacano Caviteño

CAVITE – Many Caviteños perceive Chabacano, Cavite City’s Spanish-based creole, as a language spoken only by the elders. A newly released visual dictionary for children is trying to change that.



Copies of El Primero Chabacano Caviteño Diccionario Visual given away for free to registrants and Cavite City schools (Photo from Che Enriquez/MANILA BULLETIN)


El Primero Chabacano Caviteño Diccionario Visual is a collaborative effort between food and cultural blog Lutong Cavite and publisher Che Enriquez. The project stems from a firm belief that future generations of Cavite City “deserve to inherit Chabacano as a linguistic treasure.”

Lutong Cavite’s advocacy to preserve the Chabacano language started during the closure of the Cavite City Library and Museum a few years ago. The library previously served as a gathering place for Chabacano enthusiasts, hosting events that celebrate the language.

The blogger behind Lutong Cavite, who requested anonymity, told the Manila Bulletin that she comes from a family deeply rooted in the creole language and local heritage. She is related to Chabacano poet Don Eliodoro Ballesteros, city historian Purificacion Ballesteros, and a grandfather who was part of Circulo Chabacano Caviteño – a group dedicated to preserving the language in the 1960s.

Lutong Cavite’s Facebook page started publishing posts featuring Chabacano Caviteño lessons in 2023 after seeing a growing demand for learning materials. Grade school students in Cavite City have been learning Chabacano as part of their Mother Tongue subject over the past academic years. 

“Several times, parents of young students reach out privately for help with Chabacano word assignments, poem translations, and some even sharing examples of incorrect Chabacano lessons, and exams taught in city schools,” the blogger said.

Fueling a renewed interest in Chabacano Caviteño

In May, the people behind the visual dictionary announced a sign-up opportunity for people interested to get a copy of the 40-page illustrated book. The public’s response was overwhelming, with the first sign-ups coming from interested parties in Nueva Ecija and Zamboanga, where another variation of Chabacano is spoken.



Copies of El Primero Chabacano Caviteño Diccionario Visual (Photo from Che Enriquez/MANILA BULLETIN)


After tallying the number of registrants, the organizers decided to give away the first batch of published books for free as part of their advocacy for preserving and promoting the language. Larger copies of the illustrated dictionary were also distributed to Cavite City schools.

“Some recipients were so happy during the delivery that one even shouted with joy upon receiving the copy, as if she had just won the lottery! It was a heartwarming and humorous sight,” Lutong Cavite shared.



Cavite City's Chavacano de Caviteño Spoken Poetry Competition 2024 held in February (Photo from Mayor Denver Chua's Facebook page/MANILA BULLETIN)


In February, the local government unit of Cavite City hosted a Chabacano Caviteño spoken poetry competition in celebration of National Arts Month. The event sparked a renewed interest in the language among young residents.

Lutong Cavite hopes to see more efforts to preserve the language in the future, including strategic long-term plans.

“A crucial step would be prioritizing the reopening the Cavite City Library, as having a dedicated hub is essential for any heritage preservation efforts. It is also highly important to create Chabacano educational materials with guidance from real experts of the language,” the blogger said.