04:03 AM October 15, 2019

Anak, take care of your belongings. Holdapers (muggers) and snatchers are everywhere.”

“Try to slip money inside your shoe in case you will get lost.”


“Don’t easily trust strangers.”

These are just some of the pieces of advice my parents and aunts gave me before I left Antique for Quezon City five years ago. I vividly remember how I was so anxious days before my flight. On the eve of my departure, I sat in the balcony crying, not because of the thought that I would be separated from my family for a long time, but because I didn’t know what to do if I ever encountered muggers and snatchers in the big bad city. As a girl who grew up watching afternoon dramas on TV, I always imagined such encounters as the end of my life.


Five years later, I’ve realized there’s more to watch out for when living in the urban jungle.

“Anak, take care of your belongings.”

Yes, Nanay. I’ve learned to take care of my belongings — and myself. Growing up with parents and family around, I relied on them in practically all matters. I got used to things such as my aunt cooking my breakfast and washing my clothes, or my sister waking me up in the morning.

But when I stepped out of my hometown, it was hard for me to adapt and adjust. I learned to cook and wash my clothes on my own, and to depend on my alarm clock to wake me up at 6 a.m. every day for school.

Independence was a real struggle for me. I remember trying not to eat for several days since I only knew how to fry hotdogs and eggs, and I couldn’t have more of them.

I remember carrying a bag full of dirty clothes to the laundry shop, because I was tired of doing the laundry myself. As the days and years passed by, I found out that independence is a long process, and once you get there, you can indeed “take care of your belongings.”

“Holdapers (muggers) and snatchers are everywhere.”


Yes, Nanay. I’ve seen and encountered them. I not only see them at night on the streets, I also see them in daylight wearing barong Tagalog and sitting comfortably in air-conditioned conference rooms. The many teleserye I watched back then were indeed true to life — encounters with so-called robbers do mean the end of life, and hopes and dreams and ideals, for many.

“Try to slip money inside your shoe in case you will get lost.”

Yes, Nanay. I tried. I remember getting lost in an unfamiliar city, not knowing what mode of transportation and route to take to return to my apartment. I remember getting lost in all the demands and responsibilities of my chosen career, and not knowing how to deal with the stress without the guidance of my parents.

But what brought me back was not the P20 that I inserted inside my shoe. It was something I kept every day in my pocket. Something made of round beads, centerpieces, chains and a crucifix. Yes, a rosary.

Every time, God redirected me and led me to where I am now. He continues to guide me whenever I am lost.

And lastly: “Don’t easily trust strangers.”

Growing up in a small, close knit community in the province, it was natural for me to see familiar faces wherever I went. Every time we hied off to the local market early in the morning to buy fresh fish and vegetables, we would end up going home around lunchtime, because we chatted endlessly with strangers, friends, relatives, former classmates and the like.

Communicating was a vital part of our small community, and there was no fear in meeting acquaintances.

After five years in the city, I’ve realized that these so-called “strangers,” urban dwellers like me, are quite different from those in the province.

Yes, Nanay, I did not easily trust strangers — but in some way, some strangers also turned out to be good people, becoming friends and blessings in life.

The life of a promdi, or people like us who grew up in the province, is not a bowl of cherries. The sense of dislocation in another place can be acute, but what’s great about having such a background is that it allows us to see and experience two different worlds. The hometown habits, beliefs, principles and values we learned may be tested constantly, but that is how we grow and learn. The experience teaches us to embrace our differences with city folk, and make the most of them.

In the end, we may choose to live in a place away from our province, or migrate to a different country. But still, there is no place like the old hometown. Happiness is my promdi roots.

* * *

Sascha Ausan, 25, is a fifth year medical student at St. Luke’s College of Medicine.

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