Being the argumentative wife that I am, I always manage to bring this matter up with my Zamboangeno husband but he must have gotten exasperated with me and so he told me, "Woman, why don't you think about and write about when you first told your family about me for a change?" I thought about it, and I grudgingly admit that it wasn't actually much different from my experience with his side of the tree.
By the age of 19, I was fairly independent, although I have been independent (in a way) since age 10, and so I did not go through the process of having to introduce suitors to the family and let them have an opinion on who should I choose. No, that did not work for me. I met this guy in seminary, got to know him and said yes to his proposal, all on my own. Two months before we decided to tie the knot, I informed my family that I was getting married. My mom asked where's this guy from, what kind of family he has, etc. I said he's from Mindanao, and my mom's response was pretty much similar to that of my mother-in-law's when she learned that her firstborn was marrying an Igorota. My mom said, "Are you sure? Do you really know him? For all we know, he might be an Abu Sayyaf!" Then she went on to say that she hadn't heard anything good that comes from Mindanao. When I told my friends that I was going down south to be introduced to my future in-laws, my friends expressed a degree of fear for me as if there is an 80% possibility that something evil will happen to me if I go.
I have been to Mindanao many times since my fiancee took me there to meet his family in 2003. Every time I come back, I would tell my people about how life seem to move a little bit slower there. (I am not ruling out the fact that it may be due to the fact that I usually go there for vacation and so my mind and system is set up to enjoy whatever experience I get) but truly, I have noticed that life is so much easier there, at least in my husband's part of Mindanao. You can buy more than a kilo of fish for 20 pesos. There are so many coconut trees that when I made a comment about why I have not seen any buko pie or buko salad anywhere, the neighbor who heard my comment gave me two sackfull of buko. I don't mean to say that the Luzonians have forgotten the beautiful culture of giving without expecting anything because my neighbors here in Nueva Vizcaya still bring me some food every now and then, as in agpadpadigo da pay laeng. My point here is that it seemed to me that it costs less to live in Mindanao, so I told my husband, "You know, let's just settle here. We can make it here with half the amount we live on in Luzon." I do believe that life down south is easier, but oh well, life can be easy or difficult depending on what vantage point one is looking from; (and in spite of that belief, I still come back up here after two weeks or so). You know, there's no place like home, as they say.
As I have said, I have done a little bit of visiting here and there, exploring Mindanao and the experiences, the people I've met, the food I tasted, the places we've been to were all worth going back to again. I told my friends and family about the good things I saw and found in Mindanao but whatever I say is not enough to dispel their fear and belief that there is nothing in Mindanao but violence and bloodshed. In other words, Mindanao is stereotypically known to us northerners as a place where our young soldiers die, foreigners are kidnapped, etc., and therefore a land to shun and to be scared of. In view of this, I can forgive the fact that Mindanaoans still do not believe that a pure undiluted Igorot blood is flowing in my arteries just because my hair is straight and I am fairer than they, just as my people do not believe that Mindanao is ethno-linguistically diverse as opposed to their belief that the only people there are the MI/NLF and the Abu Sayyaf.
The above can show us the level of awareness or orientation that Filipinos have of their fellow Filipinos which is not much. We have a very limited knowledge of who the other Filipinos are and there is an unwillingness in us to relinquish our old stereotypes even if we are told otherwise. Therefore, I am not gonna give up telling people there that indeed their concept of the Igorot is wrong not just to show them that I am a proud Igorot but to at least bring into some people's awareness what is true and what is not regarding Igorotness. I also wanted to get across that stereotypes are almost never true not to mention the fact that stereotyping defeats the concepts of uniqueness, and diversity.