A terrified boy in Manila | Inquirer Opinion

A terrified boy in Manila

Recognition may be one of those things that strengthen our pride. A feeling of self-respect when you enter a group of people even without introducing yourself, your city, or your school because you are simply that “someone.” But what if you’re just a small boy from a small province?

Just this week, I went south, to the center of the country, in fulfillment of our educational tour unit. Wherein, we go to different companies to have a sneak peek at different industries. I was hopeful that it was going to be fun—a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was … but not in that way.

I spent four years in college and all those years were nothing when I saw the world outside the walls of the academe.

“Spread spectrum modulation techniques,” “frequency hoping,” “chirp spread spectrum technology,” “wideband linear frequency modulated chirp pulses,” “multimodulation.”


Those jargons intimidated me. I felt stupid for a moment. I was just nodding the whole time to pretend I understood what the electronics engineer was saying to save myself from looking dumb. I am not dumb; I always recite in class and I always get high scores. But at that moment, I was the most stupid person in the world—and it was just our first day.

I wanted to go home, to my hometown, and isolate myself in the comfort of my bedroom. Whenever I am in a depressive situation, I always think of my room. My room has no air conditioning nor fancy foam, it does not even have paint on the walls, but it is my sanctuary.

Despite my initial reservations on the first day, I found myself increasingly excited about the trip and its potential to be a source of motivation for me. I was hopeful that I’d see my future self; in the industry, in a tall building, sitting in a swivel chair in a nice and cozy office, and busting my ass doing the job that I love.

Reality slapped me so hard that I panicked. I felt incompetent, unready, and feeling unfit in the big city that I’d always dreamt of. I am a “nobody,” I’m still that poor boy from a small province lost in a sea of intellectual beings; it almost felt like having thalassophobia. I was holding back my tears on the bus going back to our condo while I was seeking help from our guidance counselor.


Maybe it was just fatigue from the 12-hour trip that contributed to my heightened emotions but I can’t deny that deep down, the small boy inside me was struggling to adapt to the unfamiliar culture. Despite my efforts to remain composed, I could not help but feel overwhelmed by the cultural shock I was experiencing, which triggered a panic response.

The next day, I was advised to just focus on one goal: to be inspired. Nothing more, nothing less.


And on that elevator going up to the 32nd floor, I was feeling sanguine. I was a bit edgy, not because I was having motion sickness from the sudden lift but because I was going to give a speech and I didn’t prepare anything—not a single stroke of ink on my notebook. So, I just told them the truth. In front of the company heads and my classmates, I spoke my heart.

And there I was, on that small bright stage, telling a story about a small boy from a remote barangay whose dreams started in an entry-level Windows XP computer and a Smartbro broadband stick that his mom uses to compute grades and make lessons. And how that boy fell in love with technology and computers and how he chased his dreams and now he’s so afraid of the noise of the real world because he’s not feeling loud enough to be recognized. When you’re from a less recognized demographic, you’ll always feel intimidated by those whose schools are from the Big Four and those from big and rich cities. But someone told that boy to transform his fears into inspiration, and that’s why he decided to keep going.

That small boy was me.

I have the choice of staying inside the circle of my comfort zone but the “what ifs” in my head are too loud—even louder than the terrifying Edsa traffic and the sound of commuters shouting and racing to the entrance of the bus. I will not let myself be Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

In the world of design, small details make the output more beautiful. So, don’t be afraid to be the small details, be afraid of being insignificant. Everyone has the power to make a difference, no matter how small they may feel. And at every end of a chapter, I know that my journey is just beginning.

If ever I’d walk the crowded streets of Manila or any big city again to continue chasing my dreams, I won’t be afraid anymore because a brave small boy from Bugnay will hold my hand.


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Neil Bryant Baliao, 21, is a computer engineering student at Mariano Marcos State University. Born in a rural area with big city dreams.

TAGS: city, computers, trip

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