Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Talking Prom Di Heart

When Ines Bautista-Yao and I first thought of writing an anthology set outside Metro Manila, we were excited. We're both probinsyanas at heart, and it wasn't long before we gathered other authors who, like us, were more than willing to write a short story set in the province.

My short story "Drummer Boy" is set in Aklan, which I consider my second home. My parents are both from Aklan, and my sisters and I spent every summer (and the occasional holiday) there when we were younger. After working in advertising, I decided that I had enough of the city for a while and moved there. It’s the perfect place to recharge: it’s fairly quiet, there are beaches and rice fields everywhere, and by six-thirty, the streets would already empty. That is, if you go there on any other week except during Ati-Atihan.

I have only missed one Ati-Atihan celebration ever since I graduated from college because it's really one of my favorite times of the year Friends come over for a week of religious devotion and dancing and drinking, although not necessarily in order. We always have such a blast that the unofficial group motto seems to be, “What happens at Ati-Atihan, stays at Ati-Atihan.”

If my enthusiasm for my province is quite evident, then think of five more stories written in that same spirit. Ines and I encouraged the other writers to write from a local's perspective, and I thought we had a great mix of characters: one had a chip on her shoulder about imperial Manila, another felt that she needed to change once she left her province, still another couldn't help but show her love through the letters she wrote to a friend.

But while we have a soft spot for 'promdis', we also have to acknowledge that 'promdi' is a stereotype. It may have come from the fairly innocuous phrase 'from the province,' but in everyday conversation, the term takes on a sometimes-mocking, sometimes-self-deprecating tone, depending on the speaker. Someone talking with a hard, unforgiving accent? Promdi. Someone looking incredibly lost inside the newest high-end mall? Promdi. Someone who can't figure out the latest gadget or dresses unfashionably or remains incredibly naive?

You got it.

We believe that stereotypes shouldn't define the promdi so we wanted to embrace being promdi through this anthology. But don't get us wrong. This really isn't about how the countryside is better than the city. It's not about shaming Belle over wanting more than her provincial life. It's really just about showing that there are just as many unique scenarios set in the provinces as you can imagine, told through romances that we hope will be as familiar to you as they are different.

Writing about this is very important to me, personally. My first novella, Cover (Story) Girl, is set in Boracay, but from the perspective of a local guy who commutes daily to the island. My short story collection, Wired Differently, contains a few stories with the same promdi roots, including a speculative fiction story set entirely in Aklan. I've always felt the need to tell these kinds of stories, not because I'm anti-Manila, but because these are the stories that resonate with me. I want to keep on writing more of these, and to keep on reading more of these in local fiction.

But anyway! Here they are: six sweet probinsyano stories just for you. I hope they take you to where you need to go :)