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An Invasion of Probinsyanos

Let’s talk movies: Ang Probinsyano, which translates to “The Man from the Province” or “The Provincial Man” was a 1997 action film that was starred in, written, directed, and produced by the undisputed “King of Philippine Movies”, Fernando Poe Jr. He plays a dual role as city police officer Ador de León, who was killed in a drug bust operation after being betrayed by his colleagues, and as provincial cop Cardo, who assumed his twin brother Ador’s identity to bring the members of the drug syndicate and the corrupt policemen responsible for his brother’s death to justice. The film was a box office hit and a sequel entitled Ang Pagbabalik ng Probinsyano, which was still top-billed by Poe, came out a year later. In 2015, the film was remade by ABS-CBN as a TV series (teleserye) starring Coco Martin, which has been a consistent blockbuster in the prime time segment for the past four years.

Trivia: Did you know that until the new millennium, the term probinsyano was considered a racial slur against people from the provinces? The terms ‘syano, which was a shortened version, and promdi, which was slang for “from the province”, were labels thrown by urban city slickers at people who just came from the simplistic barrios and provinces and were new to the complex and modern ways of the Big City. Probinsyanos, ‘syanos, and promdis were originally considered as innocent, unassuming and honest simpletons who are not used to the civility, complexity and duplicity of a major city like Metro Manila.

However, looking at our fellow city dwellers while driving around in heavy Metro Manila traffic, I cannot help but feel that we have all become probinsyanos, ‘syanos and promdis. Let me explain:

It used to be that only simple provincial folks don’t know how to use sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian lanes, simply because there were no major roads in their area. Thus, when a ‘syano strays into a big city, he or she would not know what those Zebra lines and “Ped Xing” are for. Looking at how today’s city dwellers cross the streets with utter disregard for the jaywalking laws, I could safely assume that a lot of us have become ‘syanos. If you’re one of those rare breeds that still cross at pedestrian crossings, then you’re not a promdi.

These two female jaywalkers are obviously probinsyanas or they may have just not seen the very large sign.

It used to be that only simple provincial folk get into or alight from a tricycle, taxi, jeepney or bus in the middle of the road, simply because there were only single-lane dirt roads in their area. Thus, when a ‘syano tries to get a ride or get off a ride in the big city, they don’t know that there are Loading and Unloading Zones, where they can safely do so without obstructing traffic flow. Looking at how today’s city dwellers just get on or off public utility vehicles (PUVs) even in front of No Loading/Unloading Zones, it’s a sure bet that a lot of them grew up in the outer reaches of civilization. If you insist on getting into or off PUVs only in designated areas, then you’re one of those rare well-bred civilized authentic urbanites and definitely not a ‘syano.

We suspect that there’s a large group of promdis trying to get a ride on No Loading/Unloading Zones.

Young and old promdis always ride jeepneys at No Loading Zones.

It used to be that only simple provincial folks don’t know how to drive properly, simply because there were very few motor vehicles in their area. They may know how to operate a Willys Jeep, a tricycle, or even a kuliglig (a makeshift wagon attached to a hand tractor), but they sure don’t know how to practice road courtesy and follow traffic rules and regulations, simply because they weren’t taught about these things. Looking at how today’s city dwellers drive their cars or ride their motorcycles, I can confidently say that a lot of our drivers got their licenses from the provinces, where annual competency exams are not required. (Hey, wait a minute…) But if you’re one of those drivers who stop at stop lights, keep intersections open, stay in your lane, drive courteously, and follow traffic rules and regulations even when there are no traffic enforcers around, then you’re a very rare breed, indeed and definitely, not a promdi.

Promdi riders don’t know that there’s a law that requires helmets for motorcyclists and passengers, as well as a law that limits the number and age of riders… (photo by: Digypho)

… and that solid yellow lines means No Overtaking, but promdi riders don’t know that.

‘Syano tricycle drivers don’t know that they are not allowed on major highways like EDSA…

… or that they obstruct traffic when they hog the fast lane on highways.

A probinsyano is obviously driving this Liteace that’s going against the flow of traffic.

Another probinsyano going the wrong way in a One Way street.

You’re a ‘syano if you don’t know your way around a rotunda.

It used to be that only simple provincial folks don’t know how to park their vehicles properly, simply because they have a vast amount of space in the open fields to park whatever few vehicles they have in their area. Heck, they can even park their kuliglig in the middle of a flowing stream so they can wash away the dirt after a hard day of tilling the soil. Looking at how today’s city dwellers park their vehicles, I am afraid that almost everybody in the city was a farmer at some point in their life and that they forgot that they’re not parking a kuliglig but a car, AUV, SUV or another vehicle that occupies a substantial piece of land in a limited area. Wake up, promdi. This is not the bukid. This is the crowded metropolis and you’re crowding it even more by parking on the streets. But if you’re a conscientious driver who parks his or her vehicle properly, then you’re Ador, the city boy, not Cardo, the probinsyano.

The promdi’s car maybe small but it’s still parked illegally. (Photo by Martin Aguilar)

The drivers of the silver gray AUV and the white car in front of it are obviously promdis because they parked facing the wrong way.

The ‘syano driver of this armored truck parked against the flow of traffic and became a danger to other motorists by driving the wrong way in a One way street.

I know that nowadays, a lot of what used to be provincial areas, such as Laoag, Vigan, Baguio, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas, Bicol, Samar, Leyte, Iloilo, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, and the like, are as urbanized or even more so than Metro Manila, Metro Cebu or Metro Davao. The formerly simplistic, naïve and unassuming probinsyanos are now more urbane than most city dwellers. But unfortunately, most of their road manners haven’t evolved. Thus, we have the chaotic traffic that is prevalent in most of our large cities.

If FPJ was alive today, he would cringe at how the concept of Ang Probinsyano, that of a simplistic honest provincial cop thrust into the complex and deceitful world of urbanites and city dwellers to seek justice, was turned into a dragging 4-year-long 28-minutes-a-night 5-nights-a-week teleserye that seem to have no end to its mind-numbing plot. And if FPJ was alive today, he might cringe how the city has been taken over by probinsyanos, ‘syanos and promdis, whether on the TV or on the roads. He might probably shoot them all to smithereens! (With special thanks to FPJ Productions.)