Ilonggos and Beyond

Like some kind of positive racism, Ilonggos are known to be malambing (gentle, soft-spoken). It is a quality that haunts any Ilonggo whenever they go to another city and are candidly asked to speak the Hiligaynon language. Apparently, the sing-song pattern/intonation of the language tickles the people who come from other regions.

Another form of identity attached to an Ilonggo is the kind that gets depicted in film and television: the atsayor housemaid identity. While it is true that a lot of Visayans (locally called Bisaya, a name technically exclusive to those who are Cebuano-speaking Visayans) move to Manila to work as househelp (submitting themselves to be called one name altogether: Inday), this does not define the Visayan peoples in general. In fact, our world from down here is far grander and more bizaare than what most cosmopolites are used to.

Sizing up an Ilonggo is perhaps one of the most difficult things anyone can attempt to do. What makes an Ilonggo an Ilonggo? What makes them unique? The long-winding history and physical and social elements come into play in shaping a true-blue Ilonggo. Of course, anyone who comes from somewhere would have the same, but for now, this blog is dedicated to Ilonggos in a simple kind of paradigm: A Guide to Understanding an Ilonggo.

1. Ilonggos are generally gentle. We speak softly. There is always a certain amount of meekness in the way we say things, and a smile usually accompanies it. The smiles are most often genuine, unless you are given the sarcastic treatment — which you would be able to sense too. This is one quality that never gets old and we take pride on this, lest we are challenged beyond tolerance.

2. Ilonggos are laid back. It is seldom that Ilonggos rush over work, or appointments or meals. They like things to go winding and taking it easy. It can be annoying to people whose idea of good food is take-out, but down here in Iloilo, we take our sweet time and it ain’t a bad thing because…

3. A lot of Ilonggos are rich. This part deserves an entirely separate blog to explain this bit of information, but to put it simply: Iloilo was the first Queen City of the South and was the center for trade and governance outside Manila. Iloilo has countless banks in every street and corner and families still keep the traditions of the old rich.

Downtown Iloilo ca 1930s (photo courtesy of LIFE Magazine from the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo archives)

4. Ilonggo women are beautiful — it’s like an “Inside-Out” kind of beauty. Add that quality to the genteel language and you get a Filipina as described in myth-like stories. As for the men, the Negrenses hold the title in terms of having more goodlooking males. Whether this has something to do with geography or the volcano, I have no idea.

Rice pounding during the early times (photo courtesy of the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo archives)

5. Ilonggos are the most discriminating foodies. Because good food is a way-of-life in Iloilo (even the poorest can manage to serve proper food to their families here), do not attempt to promise any earth-shaking food experience that you are not sure of. Although the typical Ilonggo would still compliment your food suggestion, you sure will be the next table topic once they get back to the comforts of their comidor.

6. Ilonggos have a difficulty showing appreciation to a particular performance. Clapping seems like a struggle. To make an Ilonggo crowd give a standing ovation is close to getting a miracle. This behavior can be attributed to the elitist quality that have been passed on from the Ilonggo familia regal systems.

7. Ilonggos never, ever show their real financial status with the way they dress or behave in public on a regular occasion. You would see millionaires walking downtown in short pants. Women who own lands of epic proportions do groceries at a wet market and would ride the jeepney. When in social gatherings, the old rich NEVER talk about their wealth and will not attempt to even give you a hint.

8. Ilonggos do not like being belittled. There is quite a good amount of pride running through our veins. Once this part is ticked, it can be dangerous. An outraged Ilonggo is very difficult to appease and are not easily forgiving.

9. Ilonggos are extremely stingy. In a good way, not too much of a Scrooge. They always say ang hirap ng buhay(life is difficult) – but really, that is more like a way of letting you know that you’re splitting the bill. In some places, lean months are pronounced (like August til September). In Iloilo it isn’t really an issue.

10. Ilonggos consider laughter as an assurance that everything is going to be alright. We have been through horrible times and have made it to the headlines, but we continue to celebrate the goodness of life and come together as a community of strong regional identity.

And another thing:

11. Ilonggos are very religious, prayerful and spiritual. I am not saying this just because we are the last stronghold of the Spaniards during the liberation thus acquiring an extraordinary loyalty to the doctrines of the church, but maybe that’s the kind of effect on anybody who comes from a family that equates being an Ilonggo to being religious too. It’s not a bad thing, so there.

The Jaro Tower and the Cathedral

(Reblogged and lifted from:


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