I’m 19, turning 20, and I live in “the province,” where people would mostly treat us like some sort of alien because of choices that we have in life. Choices like what we prefer to wear or even with the choice of music we listen to, the things that we do, the words we say, and the photos we post on the internet.
Apparently, living in the province means you follow the traditional aspects of job—education, law, public service, medical or business field.
Experiences like nightly debates with your family as you try to convince them how much you value the art of clothing—explaining them that it’s something that you’re really passionate about. Or when you started to disapprove what your Lolo and Lola say about how brilliant the president was—it’s frustrating. People from the province, at least in my province, don’t agree with that. They believe our country is just a big, happy, round place with its own set of rules that can’t be tested. Rules you should obey.
Well, this experience is not fiction. Welcome to the province.
I’m writing this for the sake of understanding. Once upon a time, there were people who told us we couldn’t make it. The narrative I grew up every time I would tell my parents I wanted to live in Manila and follow my dreams was met with a resounding “No.” Apparently living in the province means you follow the traditional aspects of job—education, law, public service, medical or business field.
Or the same struggle on being stacked in the phase and take courses that your older brother and sister took just because your mom and dad wanted you to follow the same track in life. Where the way of life is simpler, so are the option in making that life worth it. So is the people from the province have undeniably mastered the art of stereotyping. It’s distracting. It’s really hard as for someone like me to follow the craft that I really wanted when I hear people in my own place, or my own family take it as something inappropriate.
Where the way of life is simpler, so are the option in making that life worth it.
Growing up, I was told that the NCR has that culture we always wanted. I was told that this is the only place we might love and curse at the same time. The city of dreams—where budding fashionistas get the spotlight, writers get to publish their works, artists get to sell their art, actors were privileged to perform in front of the camera and the businessmen get to achieved their sales.
Of course, I had conditioned my mind to always think the glossy imagery of Metro Manila as something that attainable, that pleasurable, for those who grew up and were raised in the province. A general belief of a “creative culture” that is free to aspire, to have, is something that we in the province die to have, though ultimately can’t unless we defy what is being expected of us.
Being creative in the province also connotes being ambitious and being inappropriate.
Being creative in the province also connotes being ambitious and being inappropriate. Not to mention the numerous times we were called “too much” by elders, trying to remind us how crazy the latest generation after them is. Not to mention the existing challenge like being far away from Manila, where we believe the actual scene where we could showcase our craft in the industry without the nonstop judgment we receive from the people who have cultural “disbeliefs.” Is that the truth? Is believing in Manila as a cultural Mecca of sorts real? Perhaps not—Manila can be swapped out with any of the “big cities” from pop culture—but it’s a belief in a place where I can truly be myself. I know it’s not a dream. It’s something worse: something unreachable from this provincial ground where I am currently rooted in.
As I try to tell my story, I believe struggling stories of others matter too. So I’ve asked young creatives also from the province to share their own experiences.
Here’s what they say:
Jim Bendoy, 20, writer/LGBTQ+ advocate
“Aside from having lesser opportunities or outlets wherein I could showcase my creativity and craft, living in the province with such a colorful personality is much complicated than living in Manila. A lot of people in the province are very conservative and reserved. When I try to be something different by showing my personality which is a bit different from my age, people will tend to question or haul my growth because of being different. Also, being part of the LGBTQ community, the stigma plays such a big role in the lifestyle of some people in the province.
Harold dela Rosa, 20, graphic artist
“Hmm…dalawa. Siguro opportunities and how to market these creatives? Ang daming magagaling dito sa [province], kaso kakaunti lang ‘yung nakaka-penetrate sa labas. Madami namang creative groups dito, pero kung ipu-push pa nila at hindi lang mag-stay dito, kaya naman natin. At saka self-branding na rin, kasi kaakibat no’n, kailangan dala-dala mo talaga ‘yung sarili mo.”
Miko Pagaduan, 19, student journalist
“The hardest part of being a young creative living in the province is that your chances for exposure and growth are little and limited since we are physically far away from Metro Manila. Like in my province, there are small number of agencies and companies that cater creatives which hinders us to explore our craft. Also, there’s this stereotype that creatives only exist in Metro Manila—that you cannot be a legit creative if you live in rural areas.”
Aira Wycoco, 18, makeup enthusiast/fashionista
“I think the hardest part of being a creative or fashionista in the province is handling the judgmental stares and comments from the local. As an individual whose passion is for makeup and fashion… it’s really hard for me to express my style in the province where people, from young to old, disapprove of your style. The probinsyanos are known for being conventional, anyways. But like other challenges, I see this as a stepping stone to “up” my drive in dressing as loud as I can.”
Miguel Romero, 20, photographer
“Siguro it would be the concept of the shoot lalo’t dito sa province limited ang pwede maging props and locations. But despite being limited sa resources and location, mas free ka dito to move.”
Hannah Bolisay, 24, singer/tattoo enthusiast
“Naja-judge ka nila kaagad na baka adik ka, ex-convict or babaeng pariwara. Kasi ‘di sila sanay ng gano’n ‘yung appearance lalo na ‘pag babae. Tapos as a singer naman, mahirap yung nababastos ka ng audience kasi akala nila basta-basta ka lang.”
Confession: being a creative and being probinsyano is challenging. As I try to avoid from ideal distaste we receive in our own place, the judgment become more inevitable and take as a valid criticism. We live in life that’s full of discouragement and doubts. And for someone like me who are still trying to master the art of storytelling, it is hard to pursue what you really want especially when you feel that your own place, your supposed backup haven fails to appreciate your craft.
Art by Chaiseng