From Cebu to Manila: Bisaya in the big city

Nile Villa

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From Cebu to Manila: Bisaya in the big city
I always will be a Cebuano but I am now a Manileño too

Bisaya ko. I was born and raised in the loving arms of the Queen City of the South.

I never thought of Cebu City as a provincial place – the real probinsya for me was my mother’s hometown in Lanao del Norte – but I did always know that Manila was the real deal big city in the country.

If a classmate went to Manila during a school vacation, they were living the high life. Images of them going to country clubs, sipping flavored water with the likes of Camille Prats and other child stars of the 90s, and going on shopping sprees for the latest Pokedex filled my mind.

I always imagined what it might be like to live in Manila full time. My chance finally came when college rolled around and I was accepted into the Ateneo de Manila University.

Excited for the change in scenery, I packed up and got on a plane but not before my mother gave me a few words of wisdom: “Kung awayon ka nila, ayaw’g pa lupig!” (If they pick a fight with you, don’t back down!)

Looking back 7 years later, this full-time Manila dweller realizes that there are a lot of myths about “the big city” that exist for non-Manileños. It’s time to put them to rest once and for all.

MYTH: Manileños dislike Cebuanos/Bisaya people in general

I started my life in the big city armed and ready for combat against those who might cause me grief because I was probinsyana, but that fight never came.

Most of my college life was spent trying to hide my Bisaya accent but it never worked because people would always ask me what province my accent was from.

TRUTH: People tend to get excited when they learn that a person is from a different place. Instead of making fun of you they start planning trips to your hometown now that they have a local to give them information on the best places to go.

There are still many moments when I use a Bisaya word in a Tagalog sentence and leave my friends confused, but it’s always good for a laugh later on and we all learn something new.

MYTH: Celebrities can be spotted everywhere

Aside from studying in Ateneo being a long-time dream of mine, I freely admit that one of my first thoughts was “I’ll finally get to see Sam Concepcion in person!”

Growing up, my daily experience of Manila was through teleseryes and movies where Kristine Hermosa and Piolo Pascual would be shopping in some random mall, where it would be very easy to go up to them for an autograph.

I knew full well that Manila was a big place, but it never really registered in my fangirl mind that my favorite celebrities might not be just around every corner.

TRUTH: When I was home on a school vacation I’d be asked numerous times which celebrities I’d met. People were always disappointed with my answer and so was I.

Celebrities do shop in malls and go out like everyone else but I know now that it is in quite specific places.

It would be an extremely rare gift from the movie gods if you ever bumped into the likes of Coco Martin in a random coffee shop and got to talking…but I haven’t lost hope just yet.

MYTH: Manila is the land of milk and honey

To be more precise, Manila is thought to be the place where people could get white and rich.

Hala, puti-a na nimo uy! Mura na gyo’g artista!” (You got so white! You look like a celebrity!)

This is a phrase often heard as a greeting for someone who just got back from Manila. Add to this the assumption that if you work in Manila, you visit home as a wealthy and successful jetsetter, and you have the usual welcome home dinner.

This may be due to the presumption that life in the province is hard labor under the sun, while the big city offers the comforts of air-conditioning and office chairs or because “lahi gyud ang tubig sa Manila.” (The water in Manila is different.)

TRUTH: In Manila, as it is in Cebu, you get darker if your work is under the sun and you get spared the heat if you find work in an office. The salary difference doesn’t count for much when you consider the cost of living in each city.

Sure, Manila has all the gimmick places you could want but most working people either don’t have the time, energy, or money (usually all of the above) to enjoy them…just like in Cebu.

MYTH: Manila-dwellers are too good for their hometown

That first time you accidentally utter a Filipino word while talking to your friends in Cebu, everyone jumps up and teases you for not knowing how to speak Bisaya anymore.

From that moment on you become the “Manila friend.”

Naka-tonob la’g Manila, hilas na kaayo!” (Just because she/he got to Manila, she/he’s become a snob!)

Moreover, one of the challenges of being a Cebuano living in Manila is that it gets to the point where you’re not sure where you belong.

You spend all your time in Manila being told you have a Bisaya accent, that you are a Cebuano, but when you get to Cebu you are told that you have a Tagalog accent, that you are now a Manileño.

TRUTH: Similar to OFWs, people who live and work away from their home province crave the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of where they are from.

Your ears perk up at the sound of strangers speaking Bisaya next to you on the MRT and it almost feels like home.

One belief that we Cebuanos have about Manila that is true is that, it is a melting pot of different provincial cultures. Manila is where a Cebuano can meet an Ilocano, a Palaweño, and a Caviteño by just walking down the street.

Each one takes on the big city life, adding his or her own provincial twist to how he or she does it. This makes Manila all the more colorful and interesting.

I have come to accept that I am the Manila friend because I have given a big part of my heart to this big bustling place. I always will be a Cebuano but I am now a Manileño too. –

Metro Manila image from Shutterstock

Cebu City image from Shutterstock

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