CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) — Promdi, of course, is the argot referring to someone viewed as a simpleton because he comes “from the province or barrio.” But “from the” is pronounced “promdi” by people with hard accents.
To be a “promdi” is to act like a naive person who comes from the wilds (rural areas) and thus is untamed, untrained, and unused to the refinements of urban or modern behavior.
It is a pejorative term, like “barrio boy” or “country bumpkin,” terms used in a patronizing tone to denote lack of manners, sophistication, education, or refinement.
In its heyday the stereotype characterized a promdi as crude and impressionable with low self-esteem. Not urbane at all. The typical put-down was: “Matagal ka na sa ciudad, tonto ka pa rin!”
The term grew with the rise in cities of slum-dwellers and migrant workers from rural areas, largely new to urban life, with none but the most rudimentary social skills or education.
They eked out a living on the margins of the city, in the process creating garbage-strewn, unsanitary surroundings, and slums like Smokey Mountain and Payatas—informal habitats that burgeoned with the influx of promdis.
These days one rarely hears the term being used anymore, but what it connotes in behavioral terms persist. It’s not so much the appearance of a person as of their neighborhood—disorderly, coarse, filthy, inelegant.
You’d think that’s all behind them now, having lived in the city for decades, worked in places equipped with technology and modern systems, or served in affluent households fairly well organized, equipped with appliances, and maintained according to civilized standards.
That being the case, it’s only fair to expect promdis to have absorbed modern perspectives, polished habits, and organized ways of doing things—plus they live in barangays that became formal governments, public corporations, and mini-economies since decades ago.
Many of them in fact have assimilated into the urban community, even assumed higher status and honor in many barangays as officials, functionaries, or voting citizens in their own right.
Thus you’d think they’d do better in managing the community they’re in charge of. What with the barangays flush with capital for development (internal revenue shares + income from fees) and generous allowances for officials (where none was had before).
But instead of developing their barangays into modern communities with amenities, they’ve turned them into little more than overgrown barrios, with all this term’s negative connotations.
About the only exceptions to the generally shabby surroundings of their barangays are the exclusive subdivisions or “villages” and “townships” that stand out like islands of modernity within their jurisdiction.
These “villages” are inside the barangay’s perimeter, fenced in, elegant and a pleasure to stroll around. They are managed privately and are peopled by upscale residents with more discriminating taste or standards than typical barangueños.
If you rule out these fenced villages from the picture, the rest of the barangay—the public domain which is the larger portion managed and maintained by elected public officials—you’ll hardly find an impressive feature or spot, one that you can point to as a delight to behold or to walk around in.
And that’s because this public domain is not well-managed, not well-designed, and not built or maintained according to standards. In other words, the public domain is notable only in that it presents a stark contrast to the smaller private subdivision within it.
Unlike the private domain, the public domain is not clean, not neat, and lacks amenities like clean toilets, a fitness or exercise area for youth or seniors, function rooms for exhibits, or educational activities, and such.
It is a disturbing contrast. It shows how inept or incompetent barangay public officials are, revealing them to be promdis at heart or mind, ill-suited for urban public administration, with negligent habits and very low standards of propriety or esthetics.
In general, not only in promdi-governed communities, evidence of neglect, abuse, or mismanagement, abound throughout the jurisdiction.
And, more disturbing, rare is the barangay whose people raise their voice or call their officials’ attention to things amiss.
It may be a street without a sign bearing its name, an abandoned vehicle rusting away on the side, uncollected garbage, illegal sidewalk occupation, unsanitary surroundings—all making the community unsightly.
The barangueño’s interest is focused mainly on his own home or compound, as if saying: To hell with the public domain beyond! There is no sign of interest in improving the condition of the entire jurisdiction. No sign that it is a community; nothing that indicates neighborliness, or solicitude about communal welfare or the common good.
Overall, the landscape of our communities, the basic units of our republic, reveal us as a society without sense of community, lacking in social consciousness, deficient in esthetic standards, and uncaring about quality of life except our own. Too bad…
How do you view your barangay, your community of residence? Are you concerned about its condition? Do you care what happens in it or what people do to it? Do you take pains to invest time or effort, no matter how little, to secure its wellbeing and protect the community’s welfare?
It’s important to address these questions. The answers go to the grain of our sense of nationhood and the degree to which we would take pains to secure its dignity or uphold its integrity—by taking care of it as an earnest of our love and loyalty to it.
Or are we content with being captives of promdi habits and values?
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, South East Asian Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]