This street was my playground.
I was born and raised in a small town in a small island province in the Philippines. The first sixteen years of my life were spent in this beautiful and quiet place. My neighbor friends and I spent most of our childhood weekends playing patintero, piko, slipper game and other traditional Filipino games in this very road – right in front of our homes. We seldom play during weekdays because we had school and homework.
Children playing in the streets was not unusual back then. There were only a small number of public vehicles or jeepneys then such that there was a one-hour interval between trips. I had memorized the “schedule” of these trips. I knew exactly which “jeep” would pass by at 6:00 AM, at 7:00 AM and so on. Only a few people also had their own cars or motorcycles so there was no road traffic at all. We would just stand aside when we see a vehicle coming.
The situation is different, of course, these days. Jeeps, cars and motorcycles have increased in number, though still not enough to cause road traffic, and most kids prefer to stay in their homes, watch TV and tinker with their gadgets.
After high school, I practically moved to Cebu City for college. Yes, the small town girl moved to a bustling city, a city with more roads, more jeeps and more cars. I was quite familiar with the city life as I would often visit my aunts in Cebu every summer. But this didn’t make me immune from unfortunate circumstances like taking a wrong route and almost getting hit by cars.
I also spent the first five years of my career in Cebu. I landed a job in a big auditing firm and had to wear corporate clothes. Commuting became more stressful. Wearing heels and blazers while riding in jeepneys going to work was very uncomfortable and risky. It makes you stand out in an unsafe way as you may just become the target of robbers. I refused to travel in a taxi because it was (and is) expensive and condescending. But, as my workload got heavier and going home late from work became more often than not, I convinced myself that, as far as travelling to and from work is concerned, speed and comfort are for sale. Daily cab rides hurt my budget but it somehow eased my weary self.
As if my life in Cebu was not challenging enough, I accepted an opportunity to move to another city, a more chaotic one – Manila. People are not exaggerating when they say that commuting in Manila is like going to war. It is. Luckily for me, my office is located in Makati City, the country’s financial hub. Traffic should generally be not as bad as other areas. I experimented for a while with how to get to work in the fastest and most comfortable way possible. Should I take a jeep, public van or taxi? If I travel by taxi, which route is the best?
I have been living in Makati for more than three years now and I have come to terms with my living conditions here. Friends from home and from Cebu (my second home) have asked me how I survived living in a supposedly toxic place and if I have plans of coming back to Cebu. My answer to both questions is a tentative “I don’t know”.
I love my independence as much as I miss home. I get to visit my hometown twice a year and I’m fine with that. However, last year was a different story. I was able to go home in December 2016. The last time I went home before that was October 2015. Fourteen months of being away from home was too much. My family has been asking when I will be able to come home and my answer was another unsure “I don’t know”. There were things I had to deal with at work and it was very upsetting on my part. I felt like I betrayed my family and the precious memories from home. So I booked a flight to home deadlines be damned. I needed to assure myself and the people back home that I have not forgotten where I came from. It was a sneaky three-day break but it kept me sane. I have never been happier to be home.
I took the photo above as I was leaving for Manila after the short time off . The untroubled view reminded me of When You’re Home from In the Heights: Everything is easier when you’re home; The street’s a little kinder when you’re home.
Yes, without a doubt.