“Where are you from?” a classmate in Baguio asked me. It was the start of the second semester and we were given the opportunity to get acquainted with our classmates. It was just a classroom affair though.
Proudly, I told him that I was from Bataan. His round eyes widened and he let go a smirk.
“And where is that on the map?” he asked.
“I can’t believe you don’t know where Bataan is. It’s near Pampanga,” I replied.
“Oh, I haven’t been to Pampanga,” he said.
“Really, so don’t tell me you haven’t been to Manila, too. You will pass by Pampanga when you travel down to Manila,” I informed him.
Of course my classmate was just trying to annoy me by deliberately pretending that he didn’t know where on the Philippines my province was. He succeeded in annoying me though.
I left Bataan in 1994 for Baguio to pursue my studies there. Since then, I would only visit my province twice up to four times per year. Working in the lowlands after college gave me the opportunity to go home in Bataan weekly. Those were one of my happiest days. I was able to visit my family while exploring the beauty of my province.
It is true that you wouldn’t know what you got until you lose it. When I was away from home in college, I always dreamed of my grandmother’s house. It was a big old house where I spent part of my childhood and teenage years. There was nothing really special about that house except the good old memories of the persons who lived there.
Before we had the Robinson’s in Balanga, we were happy with VETAF’s and the arcade. The town plaza was simple and the Balanga Cathedral was old and mossy. We definitely have better structures now and better facilities; it’s good for the new generation to be growing up to a more modern society but I can’t help but feel sorry for myself for not taking the opportunity to enjoy the old Balanga as it was. Monuments and architecture are the artistic and realistic reflections of an era; I just lost my era to a better one, I guess.
An officemate proudly told me that she had been to Dambana ng Kagitingan for five times. I told her that I’ve only been there once and it was in 1993. So near and yet so far, when I was in Bataan, I wouldn’t care about the tourist spots there but now that I’m a province apart, I am pining to be there and explore the province. Maybe the same holds true for my current feelings for Bulacan or Quezon City; I wouldn’t appreciate being here unless I move to another place and realize what I have missed.
With Evangeline Pascual and Janine Tugonon as beauty front-runners, one of my officemates couldn’t help but conclude that most of Bataan women are pretty. Now speaking like an outsider, I agree with her observation because most, if not all, of the girls and women that I chanced upon in Beanery and some of the bars there were pretty.
But typical Bataeno/Bataenas are snob and do not merge easily into an outsider’s culture. The pride is inborn and the mentality of superiority is always there but never admitted.