I lived there during college in 1997. I belonged to a dormitory inside the walls of Intramuros and stayed there for one semester during my first year in college. After that one semester, finances became limited and my parents cannot handle the expenses of me living in a dorm so we decided that I try commuting from our home in Laguna. Commuting then was hell given that the Skyway was under construction and just the trip going to Manila lasts for four hours at the least. Imagine traveling for four hours one way just to get to a class that only lasts for an hour and a half and then travel back for another four hours just to get home.
After doing that for the two semesters and after the stress and strain it put myself and my grades in (I was always late for class), I found myself back in Manila. This time around I lived in a boarding house in Sampaloc (owned by my godfather and his family) with two of my classmates.
The traffic around Manila was (as usual) very bad. The drainage system at its worst during rainy season. I remember I walked from PLM to Sampaloc during a flood and the traffic is not moving. I walked atop a center island, I walked in the muddy waters, I walked under the rain.
The suspicious looking characters that abound in the city makes living in Manila doubly hard. I witnessed a snatching incident more than once, I was with a friend when a man took her bracelet at knifepoint, I was riding the same jeepney when a lady’s earrings were snatched while she was wearing them leaving her ears wounded and bleeding. Luckily for me, I was just that, a witness. I was never a victim of these incidents. Thank God.
It might be like I am writing a love story between me and the city. There are things that I don’t like about it – like the many street children that roam the streets and beg for money then you’ll find them sniffing something from a plastic bag – I cursed at some of them at one point but pity overshadowed the anger. If only these kids were being taken cared of by well-rounded parents then they should have been students like myself.
But beyond that, beyond all the negative things about Manila, the place grew on me. I learned to love the imperfections of the city. I could say that living there, almost my whole college life (5 years) and another year after getting married, built my character. There are a whole lot of memories that were developed there. I met most of my amazing friends during college, I met good people while I lived in Intramuros, in Manila I met my husband, I learned to value hard work and be thankful for what I have after seeing the street dwellers living in the streets.
Now, living outside the city is kind of living a slow-paced life. It is simpler, it is quiet, it is peaceful. But, there are times like this that I miss the hustle and bustle that only Manila can bring.
I know it seems like I am living abroad although the truth is I’m just a few hours away. Hehe! I was born in Manila, grew up in Laguna, now living in Cavite - but I feel like I am a true-blue Manileño.
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