Seeing home in a new light
I left my hometown and fell in love with it. After experiencing the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city that is Manila, I’m appreciating the peaceful provincial life even more.
Mornings at home would typically go like this: metal casseroles clanking in the kitchen, my mother shouting my name from the dining area desperately trying to wake me up so we could eat breakfast together (even though sometimes sleep just gets the better of me, sorry!), my father talking to me even if my eyes are still half — other times completely — closed, and Sachi, our dog, scratching my face, barking from time to time, trying her own luck to get me out of bed.
In Manila, my day would typically start with my phone’s alarm clock waking me up, me sighing from yesterday’s exhaustion that still hasn’t left my body, getting ready to leave the house hours early for any appointment or commitment because traffic is ever treacherous, and eating breakfast at lunchtime. And it’s barely even a day.
After the most grueling year that was my final year in college, I finally came back home. I live in the outskirts of the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP), Catarman, Northern Samar, which is often referred to as a university town.
Even though I go home at least once a year, I have never seen home as how I see it today. This is probably the first time I’ve noticed — and actually appreciated — the mountains that tower over the long stretch of houses on our street, how our neighbor’s chicken clucks in the morning, how our garden is gradually filled with various kinds of plants from my Lola, how the sunlight peeping through the windows in our living room matches the yellow seat cover of our sofa, and how, in the afternoon, the smell of the earth overwhelms the air after the first drops of rain. Not to mention, I’m literally just a five-minute drive away from paradise — the beach. ¬
UEP, my home for 15 years before I left for college, is everything I hope the city could be — inexpensive, clean, peaceful, stress-free, and comfortable. Sadly, the Manila I’ve come to know is far from all these. It is everything I hope home will never be — noisy, foul-smelling, polluted, and just time-consuming in all aspects.
Manila is tiring. The daily commute is gruesome. Fares are high and basic goods are expensive. The nights are scary. Sidewalks are deadly. Sometimes, too, the honking of vehicles could be heard all the way to the fourth floor of my apartment even if it is already inside a compound. Fast-moving passengers and drivers alike have the tendency to be reckless. It always feels like I need to chase time. Some days, I wish time would speed up so I can finally call it a day. Other times, I wish there were 50 hours in a day, because everything just can’t fit within 24.
No wonder Manila ranked third among 53 countries with the lowest quality of life in the May 2019 report by Deutsche Bank.
But, despite these imperfections, I’m going to give it the credit it deserves. It welcomed me when I transitioned from a probinsyana to a semi-independent college girl. It gave me a place where my dreams and I could take off. The tough daily grind made difficult times seem tenable. The independence and bravery the city requires gave me lessons I wouldn’t have learned had I been in a different place. It taught me how to look after myself, take care of myself, and fight for myself.
It offers the most trivial and the most important things, too: fancy coffee shops, good restaurants, various entertainment options, better school selections (I say this only because the top four universities in the Philippines are in Metro Manila), and more job opportunities, to say a few.
Manila gave me things I know I would love for the rest of my life — the oldest Catholic University in the Philippines sprawled along España, the people I made friends with through triumphs and failures, the city landscape and skyscrapers that are a good addition to the already beautiful horizon, the things I outgrew and the dreams I planted there — and, okay, fancy coffee shops. Living with my siblings has kept me sane, too.
Months from now, I will need to go back to the city for work. When will I be back home? I don’t know. The peace and calm in the province are for free (well, except for the airfare coming here), but are still the most luxurious thing I currently have.
The thing about going home to a place whose beauty you have often overlooked is that you get to appreciate it more, love it deeper, and long for it more strongly. When people say distance makes the heart grow fonder, I now know what they really mean. It’s ironic, but I think this is just how reality works: You get to appreciate something more profoundly when it is slowly becoming the unusual and the fleeting.
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Ianna Gayle S. Agus, 20, a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas and former Philippine Daily Inquirer intern, is currently breathing in more of home before she leaves for the city again.
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