Probinsiya and the Probinsiyano

If you’re travelling to the Philippines, you’ll definitely come across the terms probinsiya and probinsiyano. Probinsiya is defined as a “part of a country at a distance from the capital; a big regional division of a country” (see Tagalog Dictionary). It’s equivalent to the Filipino term lalawigan. A probinsiyano, on the other hand, is someone from the probinsiya.

I took the liberty of shortening it to probinsya; the correct spelling is probinsiya. Anyway, the probinsya is more than just a bland definition. To give you a proper perspective on what probinsya means, here’s a portion from the article of Mr. Conrado de Quiros:

The air was redolent as much of summer ease as of Lenten penitence, which made me think of some of the things to love about living in this country. My list breezed past 10, but columns are not hospitable to more than 10 of the things to love about being in the Philippines — which does not include writing columns. So 10 it is:

One, Baguio and Boracay…

Two, fruits…

Three, hometowns. The desolation of Metro Manila during Holy Week drove home the point that most residents of Metro Manila come from somewhere else in the country. “Taga saan ka?” [Where are you from?] is a normal question you ask of a Metro Manilan, which suggests that those whose antecedents for several generations date back to any part of the metropolis are the minority, probably a small minority. My own hometown is Naga City, though I was born in Manila. It is where I spent my boyhood and adolescence and learned my first language, which is Bicol. It is where I go to charge my psychic batteries. I barely know anybody there anymore from childhood, but the place itself holds a raging volcano of memories for me, which sends electrical surges through my soul. Hometowns give you a sense of bearing in a world — especially so this country — seemingly drifting in space, bound for nowhere. (Full text here; second part here)

I didn’t know that Mr. de Quiros is a probinsyano. Perhaps we could chat with him one of these days and post the conversation here. On the other hand, here’s a portion of an article by Mr. Michael Tan:

TWO of my former work colleagues in an NGO here in Manila have packed up and are returning to the “probinsya,” with hopes of carving out a better life.

I’m sure that sounds very strange, considering that in the Philippines, “probinsya” means a place that’s less developed, even “backward.” Generally, that means any place outside Metro Manila, so that even a huge and bustling metropolis like Cebu might still be probinsya. (Full text here)

In other words, probinsya is not just a place or a group of people. Probinsya is a way of life.

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