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Southern living, Pinoy style |

Young Star

Southern living, Pinoy style

UNWRITTEN - Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan -

I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ was saying that she would go on a date with one of the first guys who called the station. Her only requirement was that the caller be from the South (yes, the word South has now been upgraded into a proper noun with a capital letter “S”).

So, what exactly does it mean to be from the South? The DJ, when she was asked what she meant by “Southern boys,” said that these were guys from Ayala-Alabang, who speak with a twang and whose sentences are never complete without words like “dude” and “pare.”

Being from the South myself, I had to laugh at her description because there are a lot of males (teenage or otherwise) in my area who do speak like that. Their female counterparts (a.k.a., their sisters and girlfriends) are the often joked-about “like” and “parang” girls. It’s funny really, because it’s so easy to recognize teenage Southerners by the way they speak — much like the Southerners in the US, with their country drawls.

In much the same way that there are different accents across the globe, the syntax and tone of speaking are products of the culture in the area. Believe it or not, there is a big distinction between Manila or QC-living, and Southern living. Beyond language, there is a marked difference between the attitudes, smarts, and general upbringing of children.

Southern living is mostly suburban — cookie-cutter houses and mansions, yayas and drivers, biking for fun rather than necessity, golf, English as a first language, the works. Life revolves around the home, the school, the church, the mall, and the many, many community projects. There is a club for everything, be it Magic cards, mahjong, bible studies, or music. Also, the South being a small community, everyone is someone’s classmate, neighbor, church-mate, choir-mate, carpool-mate, and country club co-member.

These are the characteristics of a Southerner or “Alabanger,” as I like to call them. Living in Alabang does not make one an Alabanger, and at the same time, there are Alabangers who don’t actually live in or anywhere near Alabang.

As a result of the lifestyle, Alabangers are well-educated (although sometimes it doesn’t seem that way), well-rounded, and super friendly — Philippine versions of the American southern belles and gents, in other words. They’re cowboys who say “dude” instead of “partner,” and wear flip-flops instead of boots.

In the subdivisions in the South, most people can speak English, even the yayas who are forced to speak it because their charges can’t understand Tagalog. Of course, knowing English doesn’t mean being able to speak it well — sometimes it is the most conyo-looking Southern kids who speak terrible carabao English (probably because of the joint influence of their parents and caregivers).

Another part of being an Alabanger is the importance of being a good neighbor. There, being neighbors means living in the same village. I personally don’t know my neighbors by face or name, but they seem to know me, and they say hello and good morning all the time.

In contrast, back when I was living in Manila, being neighbors meant living on the same street or at most, a few streets away. I actually knew and

liked my neighbors back then, and I wouldn’t even dream of talking to someone I didn’t recognize on my street.

There is such a great degree of trust in the suburban setting. Despite not actually knowing my neighbors (a faux pas in the Southern area), I trust them. I let the kids play with my cats. Back in Manila, someone killed my cat, and made pulutan of the roaming askals.

Maybe the difference in the lifestyles between the urbanites and suburbanites lies with the distance factor. Not only is the South far from Manila (an hour’s travel is considered a quick trip!), but everything is far within the South itself.

In the cities, there is always a corner sari-sari store, a nearby marketplace, a mall within walking distance of the home. Let’s not forget the decent commuter system in the north! There are plenty of jeepneys, buses, tricycles, taxis, and a few trains to make traveling without a car possible. In the South, no car means no-go-anywhere. “Malapit lang” translates into a 15- or 20-minute car ride to the nearest supermarket or convenience store.

Most Alabanger families have at least two cars. In a place where vehicles are absolutely necessary, two is actually a small number. The really richy-rich have a car for every person in the family. A sports car for dad, an SUV for mom, a tiny car for ate (may or may not come with a driver), a bigger and flashier ride for kuya, and a school service for the elementary school runts.

Pretty much isolated from the rest of the civilized world, the South is much more laid-back than its northern counterparts. Maybe because there’s not much to do in the first place. Chores are handled by the paid helpers. There are no night hotspots to speak of, except the restos in the malls. To go to a big party or bar, one has to trek all the way to Manila, and with the traffic on the SLuT (that’s the South Luzon Tollway), most Southerners prefer to stay and siesta in their comfy homes or chill out at the local Starbucks instead.

Maybe that’s why that radio DJ was looking for a Southern boy. She’s a damsel in distress with the hectic schedule of someone in the media, and all she needs is the Southern cowboy to make her feel the relaxed pace of life in South. Then again, maybe she just wants a “dude” with a nice car who can give her designer duds, and buy her expensive frozen yoghurt.


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