Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Being Tagala in Negros

My roots are definitely Ilocano. Pakbet or diningdeng were daily fare. I thought pinapaitan was party food. I spoke only English or Ilocano for the first 9 years of my life. Imagine learning to speak colloquial Tagalog only at the age of 10! To this day, I still need my bagoong fix.

In the Visayas though, I'm regarded as Tagalog. We were in culture shock when Mom's work brought her here nine years ago. It was a time everything was closed on Sundays except churches and the local sabungan. Only recently has there been patis and bagoong alamang in the grocery shelves(!). Both patis and toyo are local terms for soy sauce. I have learned not to flinch when called "'Inday," which is a term of endearment. But I refuse to put catsup on my siopao and pizza.

This city welcomed my Mom, an urbanite to the core, when she was first assigned here. Everybody knows and greets her with due respect. She chose to retire to here.

When we got news of my father's unexpected death in Manila one early morning, everybody came. They brought breakfast, finished my cooking, and brought 10 tickets for the next flight home! (Who does that!?) I'm still trying to recall if they did all our packing too.

The thing that puzzles/fascinates me is that Dumaguete runs at its own pace. It was a constant source of irritation and a strain on my schedule until I heard an expat yell in disgust: "What the hell is wrong with you people!?" at Lee Plaza. Although I wanted to come to the defense of the young girl, I could see where he was coming from. I was standing behind him at the line for 30 minutes, waiting for our parking tickets to be validated. He was first in line. I now remind myself that patience is a virtue and these are my friends.

Beyond that, the people Dumaguete City adopted us way before we adapted to them. I drive along the ocean every time I go downtown, how cool is that!? Everything is so mellow, even typhoons don't come. We have more mestizas and expats here than in DasmariƱas Village. It's the closest the Philippines has to a college town. I heard that is was Jose Rizal who coined the name "City of Gentle People." Our National Hero was right on!


  1. We don't do the whole 'ketchup on siopao' thing on our side of the island. We also don't call our pork barbecue 'tocino'. :P

  2. LOL! It doesn't mean Ilonggos don't have their quirks. It's all relative!
    I took out a whole paragraph about you in particular. You wouldn't have found it funny:p