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Young Blood

‘Bisaya,’ ‘probinsyana’

05:03 AM July 03, 2018

Admit it. We all stereotype about people who are Tagalog or Bisaya, or probinsyana/probinsyano.

I’m a probinsyana. I was born and raised in San Juan, Batangas. My father is from Batangas, my mother from Cauayan, Negros Occidental. Growing up in the province was peaceful; imagine waking up in the morning with fresh air and the relaxing sounds of birds and insects. Living in the province taught me to wake up early to take care of animals, clean our
surroundings and wait for the vendor selling fresh fish, hot taho and bibingka or salabat.

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It took me one hour to travel from our house to my school. Back then, if you wanted to go to a mall, you needed to take a three-hour bus trip.

I dreamt about living in the city. How exciting it must be, I thought, if your house were near a mall, or just walking distance to your school; if there were taxis to bring you anywhere, and comfortable chairs to sit on in a cinema while watching a movie.

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I remember the day I planned to run away to live in the city. But my expectations about city life changed when teenage visitors from Manila came to our barangay. They had fair white skin, nice clothes and good shoes. They were labeled by our neighbors as “palamura” and “maarte,” just because they were scared to ride a carabao. I was expecting them to play with me; everywhere they went, I followed. But I cried when I overheard them say, “Sumusunod sa atin ’tong gusgusing probinsyana,” and then they laughed.

My Lola said people living in the city were “liberated,” and that they could do anything they wanted. They spent money on useless things and were very picky.

Lola generalized like that. One time, she hollered at me, “Alec, pumunta ka nga dito (Alec, come here)!” I thought it was my sister calling me, so I answered irritably, “Ano? Bakit ba (What)?” And my Lola said in a reproving tone, “Napaka-Bisaya mong bata ka (You’re such a Bisaya)!”

What she meant was that I was disrespectful—a description that, I learned later on, stemmed from the fact that people from the Visayas do not use “po” or “opo” in their everyday language.

Some of my relatives also said Visayas had a lot of NPAs. The way they presented the whole region to me was as a chaotic, scary place. When we had a helper from Negros, she was always laughed at because of her heavily accented Tagalog.

Then, in 2012, we relocated to live permanently in Bacolod. My Lola always reminded me not to forget my “po” and “opo.” In Bacolod City, I experienced culture shock because I saw tall buildings, malls and supermarkets for the first time; we didn’t have them in our barrio in Batangas. I also had a hard time understanding people because they didn’t speak Tagalog. Whenever I spoke Tagalog in a public area, people would stare at me like I did something wrong, or say something like “ay alog na siya gle (her dialect is Tagalog).” But mostly they remained silent.

In Grade 9, in a class where our topic was about the environment, the teacher asked why Luzon seemed always to get flooded. One classmate said, “Kay ang mga Tagalog hindi kabalo maninlo (Because Tagalog people don’t know how to clean their surroundings).” She added: “Kay damo na da mga adik kag pirmi na sila gapamuyayaw (Because there are many addicts, and people from Luzon always curse).”

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They all laughed. My classmates agreed that Tagalog speakers are rude, and that people who live in Luzon are very “liberated”—a bad word, as in my Lola’s case. I was disappointed that my teacher didn’t make any effort to correct these impressions.

I now realize that stereotyping people this way—Tagalog, Bisaya, “taga-syudad,” “probinsyano,” etc.—is pernicious, and perhaps one of the reasons why it’s hard for us Filipinos to unite.

“She’s Tagalog, maybe she always curses.”

“She’s Bisaya, she doesn’t know how to respect older people.”

“She’s probinsyana, what does she know?”

“She’s from Manila, liberated ’yan.”

Let’s quit this behavior. We were all born to distinct languages and regional cultures, but all within one country—the Philippines. We all have different stories; judging other people based on the way they speak and the places they came from is divisive.

We’re divided enough as it is—a country of thousands of islands. We should learn to go beyond that, move away from this negative tendency toward fellow Filipinos not from our hometowns, and see and celebrate, instead, what is common among us.

Alecxis Caringal, 18, is a computer engineering student at Colegio San Agustin Bacolod.

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