Sunday, October 17, 2010


fragmentationThe nearly five-month stay in Manila was a unique experience, to say the least, and in hindsight, I regret not documenting more of the day-to-day doings and occurrences that ensued. It seemed that the chaotic circumstances frequently distracted or just did not permit. More often than not, times of relative stability, places of decency, or planned outings had a higher chance of getting captured on camera. Yet, this was just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The photos in this post only show special occasions or gala-gala outings (plus out-of-town errands to Cabangan, Zambales and near the peak of Mt. Malasimbo, Dinalupihan, Bataan), but there was really much more to it than that. As a result, I find myself posting this enjambment of bits and pieces taken from those times in the metropolis.

During my initial stint in the bukid or farmlands of southern Zambales, the blog was actually my main focus, so I was able to devote more time and energy into documenting and photographing even the lesser details. In Manila, however, one is bombarded with floods of varying and oftentimes intense stimuli. Combined with the stresses of life in the urban jungle, it was difficult not to be left in a state of relative confusion, mentally or sensory-wise.

Splitting the rent with my friend Simon, we lived in a small apartment in the cramped municipality of Sampaloc, not uncommon in Manila. Thin-walled, one prudently kept neighbors in mind, though they would remain strangers. With remnants of the old lacquered hardwood flooring, it was expensive for its structural worth; its price was justified by its real estate, as a decent space, no matter how small, is hard to come by in the metropolis.

Water would come and go, usually stopping or abating to a trickle by the evening. We adapted by storing jugs of water during the day as a reserve. For drinking, there was the distilled kind from one of the metro-wide blue-gallon providers. Not great health-wise and quality questionable, it is the cheapest and healthier alternative to tap water.

As for food, we were fortunately only about half a kilometer or so away from the nearest small wet market or talipapa. Here, fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish could be purchased, though the freshness is sometimes questionable. There have been rumors or even news reports of double-dead meats or formaldehyde-laden fish being sold. Grocery stores, especially the ones owned by SM, are starting to grow in number though, and I believe will eventually replace the urban wet markets. This should eventually minimize freshness issues, but it still depends on close monitoring and quality assurance. Though financial circumstances usually require one to buy and prepare one's own foods or live off of canned goods, we have found it efficient to sometimes just purchase turbo-roasted chickens, which are quite common. Combined with rice and perhaps a small tomato and onion salad, it makes for a relatively hassle-free meal that is not too expensive considering the speed in preparation.

Transportation is a big budget eater in Manila. There is the saying in the city, "Lahat ng kilos mo ay may bayad," or roughly translated to, "With every movement there is a cost." It is certainly true. Though tricycle and jeepney rides are similarly priced compared to in the province, it is not an understatement to say that it is an extreme discomfort and very unhealthy to travel in such open-air vehicles through heavily polluted Manila, especially for long distances, which may amount to very long exposure due to the horrible traffic. Taxi cabs are usually healthier and faster alternatives, but they are much more expensive, sometimes harder to come by, and drivers may pressure you into paying for more than the meter (I recommend jotting down the cab's information and reporting all nuisance drivers to the LTFRB). The MRT/LRT is a great transportation alternative in regards to the cost and beating the very heavy traffic, but it is oftentimes cramped (like sardines, they say), not ideal if you have a lot of baggage with you, and will leave you standing and in a stationary position for an extended amount of time depending on destination.

If it rains hard, then it floods, especially in Sampaloc. This is when it gets even more hectic to run daily errands (time to go for that turbo-roasted chicken for lunch and dinner, and maybe the leftovers for breakfast). Despite the river outside on such occasions, we remained relatively dry inside our humble abode. And it was always a decent refuge from the omnipresent pollution outdoors, except when the neighbors seemed to be messing with gas or paint, during which the fumes are just unbearable, but you just deal with it.

Did I mention that the pollution in Manila is horrible? Well, it is. Everywhere you go, there is some remnant of its presence. It is in the air, in the water, on the ground, and for some, even where they sleep. You can't escape it, except perhaps in high-end locations where the wealthy frolic or live. But, even then, it is only temporary, unless you are one of the elite who move inside a bubble and can afford to encapsulate all their doings. Though this paragraph remains as an understatement in regards to the actual environmental condition of Metro Manila, I would just like to add that the pollution there literally gives me migraines and can many times leave one quite nauseous. Even the people who say that they have become used to it due to the years they have spent living there, it still does not do much to prevent the illnesses, disease, or cancer they may be suffering or may eventually suffer from.

One of the popular places that serve as a temporary refuge from the pollution, or so it seems, are malls. The mall culture in the Philippines is quite unique. Unlike in other countries, where malls serve as a place to get a special item and then get out, malls in the Philippines are social hubs where people meet, eat, and socialize. This is not to say, however, that you cannot find things that you need. Whatever it is that you are looking for, I am willing to bet that you can find it in Manila; it just might be hard to find.

Though much more refined, in a way, malls still share the same appealing aspects of Manila. Perhaps it is the high-population density that makes it easier to meet new people and socialize and provides the 'warmth' that one is not alone. Maybe it is the hustle and bustle of the city that gets the adrenalin pumping and gives an energizing thrill. It might be the numerous eateries, parks, entertainment sites, and just places to see (and things to do) in general that satisfies our senses. Or, it might be the artificial comforts, luxuries, and pampering that can only be found in the Metro. It could be all of these reasons and more, yet it is clearly hard to pinpoint what it is about Manila that appeals. It is expensive but exciting. Intensely rich, yet intoxicating.

Due to all the artificial candies, it may feel like that you just can't get enough of what Manila has to offer. But, you do, or you will. Something will break. You may just get sick of it all -- maybe even literally sick. Or perhaps your budget can no longer finance an urban lifestyle. As for my case, it was a combination of both.

Our friend Simon sought 'greener' currency and left the Philippines to work abroad in Nigeria. I could no longer afford the apartment in Sampaloc on my own and the living expenses in general was becoming unmanageable. I also opted not to take several cubicle job offers that, in my opinion, seemed to be underpaid positions considering the circumstances (graveyard shift, daily Manila commuting, Manila living conditions in general, high-stress position, getting tied up with corporate work, etc.). Thus, I made the choice of moving to the rural provinces.

Though Manila has its perks, to me, it is only a place that is nice to visit on occasion. It has a little of this and a little of that, which may be pleasing -- individually. In order to live a semi-decent life in Manila, you need a considerable amount of money. It is with this money that you will have to try to piece together necessities and what may be lacking in every aspect of an inherently fragmented artificial life. On a long-term basis, it is this urbanity that I cannot live with. Hence, for the second time, I have chosen to return to the safe-haven and more wholesome lifestyle that is the rural provinces.


Pinoy Boy Journals said...

Manila has its charms, although some people will beg to disagree and find it overwhelming. I still think, to each his own!

As for me, i was born, raised and is currently living and working in Metro Manila. Amidst all the luxuries of life, i know i will find myself in a few years, living the best days of my life in Southern Visayas. :)

mr.nightcrawler said...

i am one of those people who prefer to live outside of manila. in many ways, the city is a big opportunity to a lot of people but i wouldn't trade a simple and quiet community to a loud, polluted city. i hope i can be as brave as you are one day mr. coconuter. cheers to your exciting life and adventures :P

pusakaldiaries said...

Malling should be on the to do list if you are visiting manila. Maybe he charm of Manila lies in its people, the unique Manila hospitality. I hope the Department of Tourism will have more projects to improve and promote the tourism industry not only in Manila but eco tours. showcasing the wealth of natural wonders the country has!

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