While sitting in a coffee shop in Podium, I heard two people conversing in a language I am familiar with. As I was listening further, I discovered that they were both speaking in Ilonggo and they were talking about things from my hometown, Bacolod City. Indeed, encounters like these are nothing new in many areas of Metropolitan Manila. Oftentimes, I would bump by one in the train or a random coffee time in lets say Greenbelt or Serendra. It seems that Negrénses have invaded the Metro, from the poorest of communities like Baseco Compound to the richest of gated communities like Forbes Park or Dasmariñas Village. Most of them have moved here like me for the better opportunities it presented but I know not one Negrénse will disagree with me that they still look at going back to the native homeland when the ages have ebbed before us.
What does it mean to be an Negrénse in a gargantuan metropolis such as Manila? Negrénses in Manila are in many instances grouped with their Ilonggo kin because of language affinity but there is something else about Negrénses here. Even as they sometimes intermarry will people from other socio-ethic groups, Negrénses never lose touch of their heritage that they can even successfully pass them from generation to generation though sometimes at the expense of language. What characterizes a Negrénse here in Manila is his flexibility to adapt local culture while at the same time still in touch with the gentle and sweet culture that defines what a genuine Negrénse ought to be. Negrénses have a stereotype of being hacienderos of the old here in Manila and that might be attributed to the fact that it is still Negrénses that make an impact in the Manilan society. Their dealing with culture is that with finesse and not mediocre since mediocrity is least in the mind of a Negrénse.
Negrénses love the company of other Negrénses that I do get invited often to birthday celebrations among other Negrénse kasimanwas here. Though we love to meet and group together, we do not discriminate in our friendships among the true-blue Manileños. In fact, we love to even share the Negrénse experience with other people. The stories are laced with issues and matters but more often, there will not be an opportunity lost to share about the treasure troves we miss from our native island. A Negrénse’s joy is often taking Manila friends on a trip to Negros. I had the opportunity to do so myself especially on my upcoming birthday. Places like Mambukal, Punta Bulata or the foods like the genuine inasal nga manok or sinabawan nga isda sa batuan become a centerpiece of every Manilan’s experience in the Sugarlandia. As for the exhibition of the proud Negrénse culture, this website itself does not waste space in heralding a proud past, a humble present and a glamorous future of Negros.
The only missing piece in the picture is a conglomeration of Negrénses that will cement their close kinship as much as other groups like Bicolanos, Ilocanos and Warays have done. Armed with ingenuity and the spirit of resilience that has made successful the Negrénse ancestors that have braved the Negros frontier to transform it to a bustling society, the future of the Negrénse in Manila is bright indeed. I would like to see more Negrénse CEO’s, successful career men, big-name church leaders and maybe even a Negrénse in Malacañang. Who knows? Countless possibilities lie ahead for a Negrénse in Manila.