In one of the netforums, my debate on the my beloved hometown Bacolod went like this:
Isn't it awkward when you enter a restaurant all heads turn to you because everyone's brains are scanning their who's who registry as to who this person is? And when someone recognizes you, you go to their table and do the aristorcratic routine of exchanging pleasantries. "Uuuyy.. amiga, maniaga ka di? Sino upod mo??" Beso. Beso. or "Migs! Kaon ka upod sa amon!" That's why it's acutely embarrassing to eat alone in Bacolod cuz people around you are speculating what's wrong with you.
Isn't it funny that even with the nice sidewalks and near accessibility of everything in Bacolod, people still prefer to ride their cars or the jeepneys? It's as if people are embarrassed to be seen walking down North Drive or Lacson. Perhaps we're afraid that a car will stop by, its windows drawn down wherby your classmate will say, "Nagalakat ka haw? Waay salakyan? Upod ka na lang!" Sige nga, tell me if you have strolled the sidewalks of uptown Bacolod! (nevermind downtown)
There's no argument about the cleanliness and the infrastructures of Bacolod. These are static features, unlike Bacolenos who can either be a blessing or a curse. We're like a two-sided coin that if you attend our aristocratic soirees and inumans, then you'll be on our good graces, but if you've made a huge scandal or social faux pas, you'll have to expect the full brunt of humiliation. Not true? Well, tell that to the rich girl who was in Bacolod scandal where everywhere she went, she can hear people murmuring "Namit gid!" (her line in the sex scandal) Do I need to say more?
Then, some of the comments that followed were: (names altered)
C: hahaha...i find it very true...especially that beso-beso thing in a restaurant...
D: I eat out at least once a day and most times I eat alone either at Bob's, Pendy's, or some other restaurant. I don't mind eating out and I don't mind if they look at me for a minute. It all depends on you, whether you will allow other people to get to you. I also walked a lot to and from school. In fact, I'd rather walk if my car is being fixed than take a jeepney. I don't mind walking. It doesn't mean I'm any less than anyone else. And I'm not aware of people stopping to say condescending things. In fact I don't find anything wrong with "Nagalakat ka haw? Waay salakyan? Upod ka na lang!". In fact I do stop in the proper manner if I find a classmate on the street - except for smokers that is - because I would rather share my ride with them. I think it is indeed a good thing for people to be mindful of how everybody else is behaving just so that everybody would behave well. In fact I find Bacolenos to be better behaved than the rest of the country. The only Bacolenos that complain of Bacolod's "small town mentality" are those who have committed a "social faux pas". Bacolod is indeed a competitive society - which is good for keeping everybody in their proper and best behaviour. As for that lady, it was her fault in the first place.
The reason why I have a hard time finding Filipino friends where I'm at because most of the Tagalogs here are so ill-mannered. Last Christmas, I invited some of my colleagues to a Christmas presentation at church and I found their behaviour very, very, very, embarrassing. One grabbed a British kid just so he could have a picture taken with Westerners... he could have simply asked in a nice way and I'm sure the kid would have agreed. The other started asking a South African how much his salary was...another sign of ill-breeding. Still another brought home some church property as a souvenir.
C: I think (the author) only wants to point out how the "lower-class" would think about the "snobbish", the "elegance", the "fine" manners and attitude of bacolod's high society...
D: I don't think it is the lower class that would be complaining of the "small town mentality" of Bacolod. I think, that those who had been behaving badly are the ones who are complaining about the "gossipy titas" and hypocrisy that they think pervades Bacolod's society. I only know of two people who are complaining about this - also because of their own fault. One grew up in Manila and behaved differently - earning the ire of close relatives. The other, dated too many women that people started talking about him. My lower midddle class friends have no complaints as they have a different set of friends. But even then, because they do have a few upper class friends, they have learned to behave properly.
So I said:
I'm not arguing about the social ignorance of other Filipinos. I can't comment on the upbringing of Tagalogs or Cebuanos, but I'm sure they're raised in the best and decent way possible. Most Bacolenos are indeed well versed in the "oro plata mata" style of delikadesa and propriety. Kiss your tita-tits, I tell you! The lower middle class cannot break into the social glass ceiling imposed by the rich, that's why they don't have hang-ups with the everyones who's who registry, family trees, and social faux pas. For instance:
Rich boy: (Castilian accent) Mama! I'm going out with some friends to a party tonight at Bar21.
Rich mother: (Bastardized Basque accent) Really hijo? Who are you going with?
Rich boy: Ah, with my classmates Carlo and Paolo.
Rich mother: Do I know them hijo?
Rich boy: Umm... I think so. Carlo is the only son of Agustino Valdezayco and his mom is Felicita, you know the consultant at PNB.
Rich mother: Ah yes hijo! Now I know. She's the cousin of my good amiga, Meredith Gastolacson. I should invite her to play mahjong soon. How about Paolo? Who's child is he?
Rich boy: He's the son of Mr. and Mrs. Taculing.
Rich mother: (blank stare for 10 seconds) ahhh... really now. His dad works where?
Rich boy: His dad is a college professor at LCC, architecture I think. His mom works in city hall.
Rich mother: (another 10 seconds of stupefid look) ahhhh.... I see. Well then, don't be late, hijo. Oh, don't forget you have an afternoon flight tomorrow to Brussels for your CISV trip!
"The other, dated too many women that people started talking about him." I'm sure the whole city too.
As to your wonderful hypothesis that only those who have incurred social debts and faux pas are the ones who complain, don't you also mean that those bacolodnons who are regulars in Bar21, North and other watering holes of the la buena familias who always burn their elbows from partying don't have any problems at all? I'm sure the comments they hear are: "How's your papa, hijo? Has your tita soledad arrived from Europe?" or "Pre, kadto ta sa punong ni tito Z, may clan reunion!" ( Pare, let's go to the prawnfarm of uncle Z cuz we have a clan reunion!") and never "Ay! Ara ang bata ni X. Amo na sya ang nagso-and-so kay Y. Merece!!" (Oh! There's the child of X. He's the one who did kwan to Y. He deserves it!)
Two amigas eating in Bob's Restaurant...
Amiga 1: (whispering) Huy Soling! Look who just came in! (Lips pursed while pointing to the direction of the door)
Amiga 2: (whispering) OMG. It's Diego! He must have snucked in from LA. No one told me that he'll be arriving today.
Amiga 1: Me neither. ... (Blanching!) Look! He saw us! He's coming this way!
Amiga 2: Ok. Let me handle this.
Diego: Oh, hello tita Carmen. Tita Soling. It has been a while since I've seen you two. I just arrived in Bacolod. (Beso-beso)
Amiga 2: (fanning herself) Oh! ha-ha-ha Diego. Nice to see you again. How's things in LA?
Diego: Oh it was fine. My skin treatment in LA went well. Dad knew of a specialist who deals with this, and he's great. Anyway, twas nice to see you both in good health. I'll leave you two, I'll just say hi to my cousins at the other booth.
Amiga 2: Ok hijo. Oh, do come and visit us this Friday. Bring your cousin Pilar too. I have something to give her then. (Diego sauntered off to the other booth)
Amiga 1: (whispering harshly) OMG! His skin, his albino skin hasn't improved a bit. It's a pity that with all his pork-gotten money Cong. Monivilla wasn't able to cure it here and had to send him to LA.
Amiga 2: Hmmph! (fan closed abruptly.) Let me tell you something. Ruel (Monivilla) sent that boy to LA not to have a skin treatment, but because he discovered the boy had an affair with their driver! (triumphant look)
Amiga 1: (shocked look) Dios de mi alma! Are the rumors true that Diego prefers the other side then?
Amiga 2: My lips are sealed amiga. You think what you want to think. If my husband was in politics though, I'll make sure to keep any dirt as far away as possible. C'mon, let's get the chit and go to Melinda's house. She'll get a kick when she finds out who we saw at Bob's!
Amiga 1: Oh yes! I'll call call Lourdes too. At least there's something fun going on in Bacolod other than to hear about utangs ni X or querida ni Y.
As they would say, "Familiarity breeds contempt" and with Bacolenos penchant to be familiar with everybody's affairs, we are indeed a contemptible lot. My point is this: Bacolod is such a small town that everyone's family tree (bastard or not) is known, every utang is exposed, every ugliness is noticed and every mistake is amplified through the social grape vine. It's insidious and embarrassing. What your tita-tits tell in front of you may not be the one she tells to her amigas. It may not apply to you but I have seen during my stay some people being talked about because of their mistakes right in the middle of Bob's or Calea. Then, how can one redeem his-/herself in this society? As for the girl in the sex scandal, she did what she thought was best for her: to ditch Bacolod for Manila. Good for her!
Sometimes, I feel it's better to go and live in Manila just to appreciate the fact that you can go to Glorietta without bumping anyone, or go to Rob with your special someone without a relative accosting you to divulge your friend's biodata, even going to malls na nakatsinelas. In bacolod, everyone dresses up to sevens just to watch a movie!!! Jus go to Rob and see people in their sunday's best bedecked with brillantes that can blind you. "La mona en seda, mona secada." But I have to admit, people in Negros have style and knows how to carry themselves.
But ultimately, it's always nice to go back to Bacolod and spend vacation there. Only vacation. and maybe retirement. Life is so good in Negros and much better than Manila. Even I have some bad quips about my hometown, I'll still go back and live there.