Everybody dreams of living in Manila, right?
My younger cousin is finally deciding where she wants to go to for college. But from the way she talks, you could’ve sworn she thought the only place that had universities in the country was Manila.
I’m not surprised, though. I went to Manila for college, and so did my sister. It was a long time ago, but I still remember my 16-year-old self that wanted nothing more than to study in Manila. I can’t study here, I repeatedly told myself. There’s nothing to do in Cebu! If I want success, I need to go there!
I certainly wasn’t alone in thinking this way. At work now, it seems every Cebuano creative I’ve met has tried living in Manila. Not for vacation or anything, but because something had convinced all of us that if we wanted the best possible life, Manila was the only place to achieve that.
For a lot of us, Manila seems like a fever dream, an unbelievable land of opportunities. Every Filipino dreamer dreams of living there the same way every American dreamer dreams of living in New York.
So imagine my surprise when I met a girl from Bohol who told me, “When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to study in Cebu.”
What? Really? Cebu, of all places? But this place is just another dead-end province!
How I wish I could tell my younger self how wrong I was. Cebu is a province, yes, but it’s also a city that’s growing bigger and bigger every day. Buildings are popping up left and right, each new one taller than the last. Opportunities here are becoming more attainable. In a way, Cebu is becoming more and more like Manila.
And yet, despite that, there is still nothing to do here for entertainment. There are malls, I guess, and if you feel like going for a walk, there’s I.T. Park.
But if you want to see your favorite singer perform live or visit an amusement park, you’re going to need to book a plane ticket for that. Maybe that’s the price we have to pay to still be Cebu and not a carbon copy of Manila.
Does Cebu even want to be exactly like Manila? Will we soon have LRTs from Compostela to Talamban and jeepneys with no numbers anymore? How will we be able to differentiate a 62 C from a 13 C?
What is it about Manila that is so alluring?
For all the beauty and opportunity the land brings, it comes with a lot of cons as well. Manila is extremely expensive to live in. Despite what I told people and myself, I did not actually “make it” in Manila. Making it would suggest I had a good and stable life, which I did not. I was struggling to save money just to pay for basic necessities like water and food. I lived on a diet of canned goods and KFC saver meals.
Manila is also so quick and rapid. The traffic is crazy, especially when it rains. My friends used to joke about how traffic in Manila is instant—just add water! Cebu seems so eerily quiet and slow compared to Manila. If you can’t catch up, you’re going to be left behind.
And for all the talk about opportunities, nobody talks about how hard they are to get. There are many opportunities, yes. But in my field, for instance, there are also many creatives. If you’re not confident in your abilities, those opportunities are going to go to someone else.
Nobody ever tells you how living in Manila will crush you if you’re not ready for it. Or maybe they do, but you’re not listening. You’re 16 and success-hungry and far too hypnotized by all the shimmering lights to hear it.
For all my foolish talk about how I was going to study and make it big in Manila, I ended up back here in Cebu. And I’m perfectly happy with that.
When I first got to Manila, I thought I was living in the best city in the country. The more I lived there, though, the more I realized it was just that—a city. And I already had a city waiting for me in the Visayas.
There are certain opportunities that are only available in Manila, I’m sure, but I’ve found success and satisfaction right here in my home.
I went to Manila looking for self-satisfaction, and I did not find it there. But that wasn’t Manila’s fault in the slightest, it was mine. It doesn’t matter where you are, because the one thing you are always going to bring is yourself. You’re never going to be able to leave yourself behind. And where else can you find self-satisfaction but within yourself?
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Joey Reyes, 20, from Cebu City, studied BFA in creative writing in Ateneo de Manila University and now works as an assistant and designer for Republiq Group of Companies.