No te vayas de Zamboanga: thoughts and translations

I came across the wonderful little song “No te vayas de Zamboanga” (Don’t Leave Zamboanga) on Youtube and was intrigued. The description says it is in Chabacano1, the Spanish creole spoken in Zamboanga (and in some parts of Cavite and Davao), except it isn’t: the song is written in Spanish—español, castellano, whichever you prefer—much like the more familiar ballad “Zamboanga hermosa” (Beautiful Zamboanga), with some dialectal idiosyncrasies peculiar to Philippine Spanish.

For example, porque is clipped to become que, as in lines 2, 4, 6, and 7, of the song, which is honestly confusing. Also in line 2 one reads: “[por]que me puedes olvidar,” instead of the standard “[por]que puedes olvidarme.”

Here are the lyrics of the song, followed by my translation in English:


No te vayas, no te vayas de Zamboanga
Que me puedes, que me puedes olvidar.
No te vayas, no te vayas, no me dejes
Que yo sin tí, no puedo estar.

No llores, paloma mía.
No llores, que volveré.
No llores, que cuando llegue
Paloma mía te escribiré.

Con una pluma de ave,
Con una pedazo de papel,
Con la sangre de mis venas,
Paloma mía, te escribiré.


English translation (the repetitions are removed):

Don’t leave2 Zamboanga
Because [then] you might forget me
Don’t go away, don’t leave me
Because without you, I cannot be.3

Do not cry, my dove.
Do not cry for I’ll come back.
Do not cry, for when I arrive
To you my dove, I’ll write:

With the plume of a bird
With a piece of paper
With the blood in my veins
To you my dove, I’ll write


Another extant version contains the traditional lyrics together with some lines meant for rap, written in Chabacano. The lyrics follow, with accents added for easier reading.


Si na Zamboanga tu ay visitá
Bien mucho vista puede tu mirá
Puede tu andá na Pasonanca
Quitá tu camisa y allí tu saltá
Y si na pueble tu ay andá
Con las bellas bonitas no pihá que pihá
Cay si blando el di tu corazón
Delicao ay cau el di tuyu calsón
Si quiere tu comé cangrejo y locón
Allí na Tugbuñgan tiene un montón
No lang olvidá prepará tu cajón
Si encaso’y atacá el altapresyón
Si jendê tu ta cre con este diamon canción
Ta ofrecé kamé el imbitasyón
Prubá tu vení y man bakasyón
Ay sabe tu jendê kamé pamparón.

The vocabulary is for the most part Spanish with some easily decipherable changes: the infinitive, for example, loses the -r (but not the accent) and thus andar becomes andá, visitar becomes visitá, etc.; “en el” becomes “na”; the verbs are not conjugated for person or tense; the underlying word order changes from the Spanish SVO to the VSO of Philippine languages (e.g., puede tu instead of tú puedes, ofrecé kamé instead of nosostros ofrecemos, etc.). There are a few words of non-Spanish origin, specifically from Hiligaynon and Cebuano: jindê (hindî), kamé (kamí), lang (lang), among others.

Here is my translation to Standard Spanish, then English


Si tú visitarías Zamboanga
Hay aquí muchas vistas que puedes mirar
Puedes ir a Pasonanca
Quítese la camisa y sáltese allí
Y si vas a la población
No te fijes a las bellas bonitas para que no las amarías
Porque tu corazón es blanda
Y sus calzones son muy delicadas
Si quieres comer cangrejo y locón
Allí en Tugbuñgan hay un montón
Solamente no te olvides a preparar tu ataúd
En caso de que tengas la hipertensión
Si no crees esta canción
Te ofreceremos una invitación
Para provarlo: ven aquí por las vacaciones
Y sabrás que no somos pamparones4


And in English:

If ever you’ll go to Zamboanga
There are many things to see here
You can go to Pasonanca
Take off your shirt and run
And if you’re going to town
Don’t stare at the ladies lest you fall in love
For your heart is soft
And their breeches delicate
If you want to eat cangrejo or locon
Go to Tugbungan where there’s a lot
Just don’t forget to have a coffin ready
In case you die of hypertension
If you still don’t believe this song
We’re offering you an invitation
To come here and prove for yourself
And you’ll know we aren’t liars


Frankly this sounds like some half-lousy tourism ad but whatever.


  1. The variant Chavacano also exists, especially in literature written in English. “Chabacano” is Spanish for vulgar. Rizal himself often used the Ermiteño dialect of Chabacano in his novels Noli me tángere and El filibusterismo, which he called español de tienda or marketplace Spanish.
  2. “Te vayas” is the 2d person subjunctive of irse, to go away, but I translated it as “to leave.” “To leave” is dejar. Cf. line 3.
  3. Or: I cannot stay.
  4. Phil. Sp.: grandes mentirosos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s