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Travel Stories & Inspiration

What it means to leave Manila behind

“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.

Public Transportation

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! 


Got questions about enrolling at Deutsch class? Ask me! 

Born, raised, and forever loyal to the Philippines. Catherine is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. She writes every day. She's in love with Africa, beaches, and books. Her favorite books are " There Is No Me Without you, One woman's Odyssey to Rescue African's children, and "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace. One School at a Time". And her ultimate dream destinations are Madagascar and Hawaii. Check out more of her stories on her blog.


  • Kate Flores

    I’ve lived in Makati for more than five years – when I’m finishing my Bachelor. Makati (Ortigas and the Fort) is the luxurious side of it but the real face of Manila? I think I couldn’t live – honestly. As a Filipino who lived far abroad aside from this city, I cannot accept the incredibly long queue from the train ticket station and the stress walking on the streets and sidewalks (with a lot of illegal vendors and gang-owned beggars) Its hurts to see Filipino people – suffering from the government corruption and improper management of the Philippine taxes. Nothing is new since Marcos. Thanks for your blog – reminded me of my sweet bitter memories as a student – the only thing I love in here (aside from my loved ones, of course ) and you! Haha! Muwaaaaa

  • Sarah

    Well done for realising that Manila is no longer for you. I understand how you feel. I used to live in Bangkok, first it was exciting and then the excitement wore off. Now I’m living in the countryside, so much nicer and a lot more affordable too. Enjoy your escape 🙂

  • Lisa Rivera

    I’ve never lived in Manila, but seeing photos of it just stresses me out! It’s good you got out of the city to a quieter place. I live in London so do understand your pain! It’s very expensive here too (relative of course!)

  • Lauren Pears

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this. I know how you feel – I live in London and while I love it, I can feel that I’m beginning to tire of how busy it is. I’m glad you’re now enjoying the countryside.

  • Valerie J. Wilson

    This is definitely an emotional post! I have never live in Manila, but I would have to echo you on the crazy traffic. Manila has crazy traffic. I’m glad you are enjoying the countryside and are away from the traffic… even if you do have to go back

  • Parnashree Devi

    Living in countryside is bliss. Though I live in the capital city of India and live a very fast paced life, I do crave for peaceful location all the time. I loved the way you have conveyed your true emotion about a city like Manila. Its a great read

  • Soul Drifters

    I have been to Manila and it is a hectic busy city in fact I don’t remember it sleeping at all! We all get to a point in our lives where we search for something that will make us feel more fulfilled. Congrats to you on taking that step, it is a big one, change can be an amazing experience. I wish you all the best in the country side.

  • YUKTI Agrawal

    First of congrats for shifting to peaceful countryside and leaving behind the busy Manila life. It is great that you will relax now in quiet place, because I can understand how a busy place like Manila stresses you out. I lived in Mumbai and therefore I can understand better about this. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

  • Daniel Kiteski

    Manila is the last capital I didn’t visit in Southeast Asia. And I feel I learned a lot while reading your post. This will be very useful when I decide to visit.

  • escapesanddiaries

    Bitter sweet memories! Thanks for the comment, babe! You’re a rockstar! And true, really hate the public transportation in Manila and the same old Manila! I miss you ! See you and see you soon!

  • escapesanddiaries

    Thanks Sarah! Oh I also lived in Bangkok for 4 months last year! And I really enjoyed it! And even tho it was a big city for me, it was kind of different vibe for me! Enjoy the countryside, I am living in the countryside now, too!

  • escapesanddiaries

    Thanks, Lauren! Oh you and Lisa Rivera both live in London! I can imagine how London looks like! I really wanna visit that place! I only know London bridge so far, the famous kiddie song! haha

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