One year in Metro Manila: What I learned so far

by Katrin Arcala

The first time I booked my ticket to fly for a job interview in Manila, I thought, “Heck I am ready for this!” An interview wouldn’t hurt, right?

I mean, my friends think I am an iron woman and I believe that I am one iron woman, so life in the big city could not possibly be that hard—or so I thought. Fast forward 2015. Here I am, a baynte something keeping afloat amidst the mix of pressures and treasures in the concrete jungle that is Metro Manila.

Many people have been wondering how a (half-inch less) 5-footer girl like me braved the streets of the country’s capital when life in my hometown was a lot different and waaay more comfortable. Although I had to trade-off the familiar comfort when I came here, I admit that there a couple of life lessons and life hacks that I wouldn’t be able to learn from living in the suburbs.

In my 365 days of rat-racing in the Metro, I managed to acquire a couple of tricks (and troubles) from the trade. So if you are thinking of coming over and joining our one massive party here, here are some of the things you might experience and get used-to along the way:

1. You won’t believe how much you can save! You won’t believe how much you can spend either.

A mere 50 pesos—if you don’t commute and eat much—is actually a fair amount to survive a day. Because, honestly, there are just days when you have no choice but to stick to your reddish 50 peso bill.

This brings me to point B. In other days, these three huge stores hold a 70 %-off sale and you see these beautiful shoes and think, “Yass! That’s a good bargain.” It is – until you start eating wheat bread for the next two weeks straight. You’re fasting and you’re broke. Totally living the life, right?

2. The commute is a necessary evil.

You won’t die riding an MRT because Transport Sec. Abaya, himself, even said that traffic in Manila is “not fatal.” (Pun intended) However, one must be prepared to smell like five athletes who skipped shower after-training.  But honestly, it’s not really as “bad” as how others put it and YOU WILL NEED TO RIDE ONE NONETHELESS.

So the million dollar question is: How can you get through EDSA on a rush hour, on a budget, in one piece? Trust me when I tell you that no matter how hassle it could possibly get, the MRT will be your blessing in fucking disguise. One. Huge. Fucking disguise.

It is, after all, a necessary evil.

3. Remember when you said that you are fine with being alone? I do. But mind you, being alone in the metro is different.

Some days, you just pray to all saints and gods in the universe that some friend of yours will miraculously pop out of nowhere so you can talk non-stop. There are also some days when you will accidentally speak Bisaya while talking to a Tagalog. Buanga. You just end up laughing and crying after realizing what you just did. They wouldn’t get the joke, anyways. That’s how much you will miss to have a buddy around and that’s how you learn to truly talk to yourself. Yes, I meant that—talk to yourself.

4. You live to count the days when you can finally go home.

When people ask you where you’d be going after work and you almost answer “home,” you catch yourself mid-sentence because you know how wrong it sounds. You realize that your boarding house/ dorm/ apartment/ condo will NEVER BE YOUR HOME.

To ease the homesickness, you resort on counting down the days. You text your mom right away to remind her of your favorite ulam when you get home.

5. If working life is already hard, how much more working away from home?

It is not only triple hard but it is unimaginably hard. I mean, after getting stressed from the office, I go home to an empty room without food and human warmth. Huwaw!

6. Working away from home is not a shortcut to getting rich.

It also doesn’t mean that if we work in the metro, our income doubles up. That’s totally a myth! I have batchmates who earn almost the same as I do and they chose to still live with their families. Plus, they get to save more. But don’t get me wrong, some of us didn’t come here for the money. Some of us came here for the incomparable experience.

7. There are more things to pay for than just food, fare, rent, and utilities.

You also have to buy the small essential stuff that becomes costly when you add it all up. For example, the tabo, balde, sabon, My friend, these will be your biggest investments! Huwag magpahuli, bili na!

8. Some weekends are bad – especially Sundays.

With no family to go to church with and no barkada to hang out with on a Saturday night, what do I do? Staycation and sleep.

9. A year feels like forever.

The year feels like a decade and the next time you go home, things will be the same but different as well. Like, how did my baby sister suddenly grow taller?

10. LDR is hard.

Maintaining a long distance relationship is hard…VERY HARD. You fight over the phone and that “magical” rub on the back or touch of the hand won’t be applicable anymore. All you can offer are words, words, and more words. Sometimes it will make you think how, when, will you see this person’s face again? Will your roads ever cross again?

But just because it’s hard, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Ika nga nila, kung ayaw may dahilan, kung gusto ay laging merong paraan. When two people commit and understand, they’ll take the extra effort to fly miles away to meet you. They’ll send you gifts. They’ll create Spotify playlists for you. They’ll mail hand-written notes. That’s how intimate it can get, despite the distance.

But the best part is—the reunions are always sweeter. And of course, you learn to be patient. Reaaallllyyy patient. Now that’s greater love, isn’t it?

KATRIN ARCALA, Conspirator

A life-juggler in Adventureland, Katrin eats crispy risks for breakfast. At 21, she decided to pack her bags, leave the comforts of Negros Oriental, and move to the concrete jungle of Manila.


2 thoughts on “One year in Metro Manila: What I learned so far

  1. It’s funny because i did the exact same thing, the only difference is that i’m staying here in manila for almost a month only. God Bless to all of us 😂😊


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