“Wow, Manila girl, city girl!”
This used to be my favourite line (with extra exclamation points). Being a girl who finished schooling in the province, I couldn’t hide how amazed I was upon meeting someone from Manila ( particularly Makati city, because during those times, this city has great reputation for everything appealing and trendy) and dreamed that one day, I’d also be called one.
It had always been my dream to work, live and, hopefully, have fun in a massive metropolitan. Besides seeing skyscrapers, I wanted to enjoy the fruit of my labour at shopping malls, cafes, and restaurants. The urban jungle was like another country to me. Every time I went there, I couldn’t contain my palpable excitement.
Time flew by. Eventually, things changed.
Having seen too much of the fast-paced metropolis, I’m sure some of my friends would agree with me when I say, “Don’t you think Manila is getting too chaotic?”
If you have the same sentiment, well, thank you, I’m not alone! If you think otherwise, I’m proud of you.
When I came back from Hanoi in April, my one-week stay in Manila felt like eternity. I wouldn’t deny that I almost got suffocated.
One afternoon, I was waiting for the rain to stop. I stayed at a fast food restaurant where the queue was endless. I was reading a book entitled ALeph by Paolo Cohello, but I was zoning out. My mind was wandering. I felt unhappy. I was trying to calm myself by slowly sipping the hot brewed coffee I ordered.
I watched people rushing, covering their heads with their bag or with other stuff they were carrying as the rain started to pour like cats and dogs. The queue in the restaurant began to fill. Public utility vehicles got packed with people and the passengers’ struggle was evident.
Many people from the provinces got used to the daily routine in Manila. I, on the other hand, couldn’t take it anymore.
Which is why I no longer looked for a place to rent and called myself homeless for a couple of weeks. I just thought that I wouldn’t really want to stay.
So I just couch surfed at my friend’s place. While I was there, though, I got stressed out, as I had to wait for the internet connection to get approved. In this country, it seems that having internet is only for the enormously privileged.
To be honest, I want to revive the joy I had about residing in the metro where I built my dreams. It’s just that, I couldn’t find the pieces to complete the picture.
You might be asking, though, why I came back from Hanoi. Well, my visa expired. And I also had something extra important to attend to in the Philippines.
On the bright side, I basked in the joy of experiencing the perfect (at least for me) weather, the warmness and kindness of people (compared with those of the city I previously lived in). But I definitely didn’t miss the turmoil I endured for 4 years.
Nothing had changed since I left. I’ve been wondering, when will this unfavourable situation in Manila change?
I’d like to write down top 3 things I loathe about Manila.
Real talk: When did you ever find the public transportation in the metro amusingly convenient?
Public transportation is a hell of a situation. A supposedly 20-minute commute extends to an hour or so due to the heavy traffic. Not to mention the scarcity of Grab cars. Or the surge pricing when demand is high.
Nothing is free. Everything is expensive!
I’m aware of that. I’m neither poor nor rich, but I could live only the lifestyle I could afford. Because, that’s how it’s supposed to be, right?
From PHP8 before I left, minimum jeepney fare now is PHP9! And getting onto a jeepney sometimes takes forever because of the long queue especially on Fridays, or paydays, or rainy days! No kidding!
I used to rent a flat for $300 a month. That excluded internet charges, utilities and monthly dues. When you add everything, I had to spend around $400 a month.
It’s true that it’s in the metro where many people can find high paying jobs. Some of them can get the hang of city life, but others opt to go back to rural life.
I may seem to be a coward for refusing to stay in a massive metropolis. I used to enjoy the luxury of living in my own space. I’m beyond delighted to have been able to live the life I once dreamed of, to have been able to set foot on the concrete jungle. But I just can’t deny the fact that this life isn’t for me anymore. And I’m saying goodbye to it.
If you want to pursue your dreams in Metro Manila, of course, there is totally nothing wrong with that. This, let me share with you the lessons I learned. ( you might also want to read this Learning from the worst month of my life )
Live the lifestyle that you can afford with your income. Don’t try too hard to be “in.” Forget about living up to the trend if you can’t afford it in reality. That doesn’t mean you’re left behind. It only means you can be unique by being comfortable with your own style. Stay simple and think about what can give you a better tomorrow.
Don’t live someone else’s life. If your friends squander some bucks for something that they like and you can’t do the same, so what? It’s okay. Always help yourself and your situation to get better. There is always a way. Always live below your means. Spend less and save more. And remember the golden rule: Do not be a one-day millionaire.
Choosing to leave Manila seems like a spiritual awakening for me. It’s as though I could put myself on the other side of the world in a snap.
Nevertheless, Manila, where my dreams were made and tried to achieve them, will always play a big role in my life. It will always be my reference point. And I think, I will visit the city every now and then.
See, I can’t let go of Manila completely. Even my Deutsch class is being held in Manila, so I will have to travel every week to attend it. At least, I don’t have to endure the stressful life, right? I’m happily settled for now in the countryside where everything is natural and composed.
What about you? Have you lived in Manila? What’s your most and least favourite part of it? Let me know in the comments below!