Ang probinsyana

Dealing with the prejudice that comes with not being born within the borders of the big city can prove to be frustrating–only through education can this ignorance be alleviated.

Whenever I tell people that I hail from Cebu, their eyes widen excitedly and they start looking at me expectantly. A majority of the time, I get the anticipated “Oh, I love lechon!” response, sometimes the starry-eyed “I love the beaches there!”, but I’ll never forget the time a blockmate asked me with no small amount of snark, “Cebu? Do you live on a boat?”

I remember the moment quite vividly—I had been so stunned that I laughed awkwardly and could only let out a small, quizzical, “What?” Seeing my discomfort, the blockmate laughed at me again and told me it was just a joke, but it was one that I would never forget, not by a long shot. I thought about it afterward and wondered why they thought it was acceptable to poke fun at people’s real living conditions while simultaneously making quite a large generalization about me. I wondered too why I chose to laugh and keep the atmosphere light. I eventually chalked his “joke” up to simple ignorance—but I suppose I was being naive.  

When I recounted this strange experience to my friends from the province who had lived in the big city for longer, they could only impart to me similar stories, often involving some odd form of asking what kind of transportation we used to get to places (hint: cars do exist outside of the National Capital Region). The straw that eventually broke the camel’s back was when I revealed to someone that I was from the province and she blinked, seemingly astonished, and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed; you’re so updated with trends!” 

Of course, not all my experiences were like this; but these small pockets of ignorance were encountered enough times to grow a small well of resentment within me. For the longest time, I tried convincing myself that they meant no harm by these jokes and that was all they were: funny words to lighten the mood and establish rapport. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, but whether or not these Manileños meant well, the words just began to sting. I had also begun to realize that, subconsciously, I was starting to avoid telling people I had just met that I was from Cebu to bypass these occurrences. 

I spent quite a lot of time pondering the origins behind the notion of probinsyanos being country bumpkins who lagged behind on technology and development. While it was true that we did have less urban infrastructure and more green areas, that didn’t necessarily mean we lack what they had in the city. And where did the need to make them feel comfortable in their ignorance come from? 

Regardless of the reasoning behind this discriminatory mindset, I soon realized that I wasn’t helping eradicate these harmful stereotypes and hasty generalizations by smiling politely and letting them slide. Simply turning the other cheek gave the impression that it was okay to say these things and that there was no harm done. Since then, I’ve found that the best weapon against ignorance is education and these types of actions should be called out and discouraged. It feels much more fulfilling to let these people know that these preconceived notions that they have about people who live out of their big city couldn’t be more wrong and quite honestly offensive. 

I stopped sidestepping the inevitable question of where I came from and would declare that I was from the province with pride. There was truly nothing to be avoidant about, anyway—it spoke more about the other person’s character if the way they decided to treat me was based entirely on whether or not I was born within the borders that they were familiar with. If anything, I now take these then-embarrassing opportunities to educate and teach.

Nowadays, when somebody approaches me with ignorance disguised behind distasteful humor, not a single chuckle leaves my lips.

Marie Angeli Peña

By Marie Angeli Peña

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