Manila Bay has been a strategic location throughout Philippine history. In the past, it has been a prime area for military defense. However, more than a distinct fort, the bay and its surrounding regions served as an avenue for intercultural engagements. Such interactions later on created distinct cultural as well as linguistic outcomes, which is evident in the province of Cavite.
Cavite has an interesting geographical location. It is at the heart of the Tagalog region, close to the historic Manila Bay and Corregidor Island. The province is surrounded by Manila to the north, Batangas to the south, Laguna in the east, and Manila Bay and Corregidor in the west. Now, it is home to a mix of ethnic communities, and most specifically the Caviteño.
The People and their Language
The name Cavite came from the Tagalog word kawit, which means “fish hook.” At present, Caviteño is a term used to collectively identify an individual of Cavite descent. Linguistically, however, the Caviteño language is a variant of the Spanish-based creole Chavacano. This type of creole language is from the combination of the local native language and that of Spanish. Based on close studies of this creole in Luzon, specifically in the areas of Cavite, Ternate, and Manila, the people used a Tagalog and Spanish mix.
Cavite Chavacano came to be the result of such a mix of languages. However, at present, this language is exclusively used in Cavite City and the coastal area of Ternate. The Cavite Chavacano used in the municipalities of San Roque and Caridad in Cavite City is considered highly endangered. This is because only about 4% of the population in the city speaks this language. Also, only older people are active speakers of the language. Though there are oral records present, there are some available texts as well as a part of the revitalization efforts in the region.
Ternate Chavacano has more speakers than Cavite Chavacano but is still considered endangered as the only oral practice available is through informal usage in primary school.
Mix of Cultures
Throughout the reign of the Spaniards and the Americans, it is no surprise that many of their cultural and customary beliefs were also passed on to the consciousness of the Filipinos. This is not far from what the Caviteño people experienced. However, their cultural rituals that have survived the test of time are proof of how the mix of indigenous and foreign cultures could bring about a distinct indigenous tradition such as that of the Caviteños.
Some of the cultural rituals that can still be observed today are the (1) Karakol dance, (2) Live Via Crucis, (3) Sanghiyang (or Sayaw sa Apoy), and (4) Mardicas dance. Each of these practices reflects a piece of history that the people of Cavite had to live through in the past centuries and decades.
First, the Karakol dance is a celebration that shows Spanish influences as the people dance on the streets with their patron saint. After the street dancing, the Karakol is followed by a fluvial procession.
Second, the Live Via Crucis is another one of Spanish influence. It is a passion play that shows the Station of the Cross. It is relatively new as its earliest record is from 1974 (as per the province’s records). In this presentation, the locals dress in biblical outfits and re-enact the different stations of the cross.
Third is the only pre-colonial ritual still practiced at present. The Sanghiyang (or Sayaw sa Apoy) is a celebration by the locals of Indang and Alfonso. The fire dance is performed by fire walkers to give thanks to Bathala (a supreme god). In modern practice, however, it can be observed that the Sanghiyang is a mix of folk religion, magic, and even of Christian faith.
Last, the Mardicas dance in honor of the image of the Santo Niño. The dance is comprised of a procession with a simultaneous performance of the war dance of the pirates. In this re-enactment, the locals hold a tabak (short sword) in one hand and a balaraw / balarao (winged dagger) on another. Through the use of those weapons, the performers show how they fight their way to save the image of the Santo Niño as the people believe that it is worth dying for.
Ethnic Groups Philippines. Caviteño people
Pérez, Marilola. Cavite Chabacano Philippine Creole Spanish: Description and Typology