Cebuano in the Metro

“I hate Manila and I will never go there to work!” That used to be my constant mantra. Like every other die hard island probinsyano, I had dreams of living and dying in my beloved island with declarations of regionalist loyalty escaping through my last breath.

Perhaps I had made that hasty vow because I truly loved Cebu. On second thought, maybe I also felt that way because despite the advance in years, regional biases have not died. For some Cebuanos, the thought of living and working in Manila is eventually accompanied by thoughts of imperialistic Tagalogs who look at us as poorly clad, unfashionable, bumbling bumpkins. For many of us, Manila was inhospitable, strange and uncomfortable.

But people and their tarnished concepts of the capital do change. That change did not come upon me easily. Cebu itself became the one single catalyst that would eventually push me to rediscover what I had been missing, what I had never known existed behind the prejudice.

It all began in January when we Cebuanos do what we always do to kick off the new year— celebrate the Sinulog. As usual, I drank my share of fun and spirits and loved every bit of it. It was the same thing every year. After the festivities, we would all go back to the daily grind of life; and then it dawned upon me. After 27 years of island life, there was nothing new. I knew everything there was to know about my island and the people in it. Living life simply felt like going through the motions, or worse, living through endless repetitions of a movie that never had an ending in sight.

In short, I only managed to grow horizontally but my core had settled into a comfortable cocoon that made development impossible. So I made the decision to jump ship and leave my comfort zone.

I prayed for a sign that would show me where to swim to. It came in an e-mail from my former classmate Kooky Padua. We shared the same island blood but it seemed as if Manila had fit her to a tee. She told me that trying out my luck at the capital would be worth my while. I felt I had nothing left to lose. Armed with my polo barong, slacks and my resume I crossed the seas to the place that once populated my nightmares.

To make a long story short, I finally bagged a position in a company in Manila in August 1, 2007. I must admit, prejudices aside, my experience from that time on has been both humorous and enlightening.

Some of my most notable experiences were traveling around the metro and attempting to get a grasp of the enormity of everything. All of a sudden, I truly felt like a poor, lost probinsyano. My friends gave me VERY general instructions on how to get around and taught me to memorize the line, “Boss, san nga ba yung MRT dito?” without the Cebuano accent.

Well, my friends’ efforts did manage to get me to the MRT but on my first exit from the unfamiliar transit, I lost my bearings again. I ended up walking over the entire stretch of Ayala Avenue up to the RCBC Tower in high noon. That was like the death march revisited. If not for the obvious embarrassment of it all, I would have sprawled my dehydrated body over the Tower steps.

Naturally, I realized that it would have been more convenient for me to ride the jeepney than to have gone on a needless odyssey of a hike. The first time I rode the jeepney in the metro though didn’t turn out so well either. When riding a jeep in Cebu you say “lugar lang” to make the driver stop. I forgot how to say that in Tagalog so I had to text all my Tagalog speaking Bisaya friends. From my original destination to Kamuning in Quezon City, I found myself in an ironically warm place called “Welcome.” That was how long my friends took to respond.

Then there was that time when I went to Dampa, 186. I lost myself in the crowd but eventually found a bus to ride on. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and found myself in the heart of populous Quiapo. What a ride!

Other than my transportation mishaps however, the rest of my metro experience was well worth every second of my time. I was introduced to food like quek-quek (quail eggs), walastik (some sort of beef stew) and pares (another beef dish) and the jolly jeep (something like the punko-punkgo in Cebu). I suppose I haven’t experienced everything yet so I’m pretty sure there’s even more to marvel about.

At work, things were looking up too. It would have been tempting to get comfortable again but losing some teammates along the line reminded me how fast life and careers in the metro moved.

My prejudice has come to pass. I have learned to love the metro. Now I am even thinking of settling down here in Luzon. Perhaps I’ll get married here too. Who knows?

I am not saying that Manila has dethroned my island home and that I now fancy myself as Tagalog as my new distinctly, non-Visayan diction. I will always love Cebu. I will always be a true Bisdak. I suppose what has truly changed in me is my perspective. It’s all about moving with transitions, coping with changes and embracing the great diversity of people and experiences outside of my roots.

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5 Responses to Cebuano in the Metro
  1. Job openings in the Philippines
    April 7, 2009 | 4:20 am

    Jobs and finding jobs in Manila is really hard to find. This contradicts to the beliefs of others that Manila is haven for good opportunities. Partly correct, but not all opportunities are here. I am a certified Manilena and I’ve found my dream job here in Manila, but my cousins who are from provinces did not find their luck here.

    It’s not in the location guys, Manila is over crowded and the lifestyle here is too crucial than in provinces. If there’s a good opportunities in your provinces then go find a job there. I don’t want to sound as if I’m discouraging you all, Manila is a good place to have a career but the reality is, Manila cannot accommodate everyone.

  2. Henry Daquipel
    January 24, 2011 | 7:05 am

    Thanks for posting this article. I am also contemplating on working in Manila simply because the employment opportunities in Cagayan de Oro are so limited.

  3. Ninah
    January 24, 2011 | 9:11 pm

    Hi Henry. Yeah Manila does have a lot of opportunities. One thing to keep in mind though is that life there isn’t easy. If you’re bent on going to Manila, you have to be prepared to grit your teeth and live through a very fast paced life 🙂

  4. weng
    July 5, 2011 | 4:44 am

    honestly, i hate manila

  5. barbs
    July 21, 2011 | 4:12 am

    I am from cagayan de Oro and that is true. There are a lot of opportunities here in Manila but it is not easy to stay here. I had been moving from one place to another searching for a place to settle permanently. For a time, I would say Manila is ok but when times get rough I would always say there is no place like home. I am now considering putting a business of my own but in order for me to save for this business I will stay for another year here in Manila.

    So if you want, you can come here and work hard and save. You can put up your own business and then settle again in Cagayan de Oro.

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