HomeManilavol. 3 no. 1 (2007)

Chabacano Ermitaño: Manila’s Creole Spanish of Yore

Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos

Discipline: History



The first part of my paper briefly introduces this lingua franca of the Manila of yore called Chabacano. It further discusses its Caviteño, Zamboangueño, Ternateño and Ermitaño or Ermitense variants as well as their great similarities, nuances and demographic distribution.


We shall then shed light on the origin, growth and development of the Chabacano Ermitaño in several districts of Manila—Ermita, Quiapo, Malate, San Nicolas, Binondo, Santa Cruz, Trozo and Paco—through the centuries. There will be a short historical account of the Liberation of Manila by the American soldiers who eventually freed the capital from the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army Forces. In the process, the American Liberation troops, especially through aerial bombardment, unfortunately demolished the once-plush Ermita district. Not long after, the Chabacano Ermitaño language disappeared. The wealthy Ermitaño speaking residents had totally abandoned the land of their birth and moved to other enclaves in adjoining towns.


The Ermitaño variant of this Chabacano language can now be studied solely in the literary outputs of their long-gone authors. The last part of this paper includes an anthology of selected works by Chabacano Ermitaño writers. Among them were León Ma. Guerrero and Manuel Guerrero who authored a collection of short stories titled Prosa literaria.


Poet laureate in Spanish, Jesús Balmori of Ermita, also published Chabacano Ermitaño literary works: three beautiful sonnets as well as a short story "Na Maldito Arena" we have unearthed in a 1932 UP masteral thesis which providentially survived World War II.


Not to be left unmentioned is the prolific Chabacano poet Eliodoro Ballesteros of Ermita-born parents who migrated to San Roque, Cavite City.