I was born in Manila.
Not until I was two, my Mom and Dad brought me here in Bicol. I stayed here since then and we just went to Manila every other year as part of vacation. As a child, I was so thrilled everytime Mum told me that we will be going to Manila for summer. I thought that everything was in Manila and that Bicol is just plain and ordinary. I remember staying at my Tito’s house in Muntinlupa when I was around 6 or 7 years old, shortly after my grandmother (from my mother side) died. I stayed there with them for a month or more until Mum and my sister followed for vacation. I was so naive back then that the only thing I remember was that I was so pleased with what was in Manila. Too much food, too much toys, too much of everything that’s not in Bicol. I compared it to Bicol too much and told myself that I want to live there. But I do remember missing Mayon Volcano so bad as well.
It became a tradition. We went there every other year, and soon, it was every year. The longest time I can remember was way back 2006 when two of my aunts from Canada and United States went home. We stayed in Manila for almost two months. I was an incoming sophomore student then and all I wanted was to “shop”. That was the moment I realized that if you don’t have money, you won’t enjoy short trips in Manila, much more if you will be staying there for a bit long. When I entered third year, I was sure I wanted to study in Manila. I was even thinking of applying for scholarships for the universities I am planning to take entrance exams for. But my Mum didn’t want me to study there. And so, I gave up my “Manila Dream” in terms of my studies, and studied here instead.
We still went to Manila every year. Every time we went back, I was more motivated to study well in college so that I could land a job there after graduation. I was so determined because I heard that people in the IT industry in Manila tend to get high salaries and all. I wanted to earn more so I can give more to my parents. I wanted to earn more so I can have a beautiful and well-furnished house. I wanted to earn more to have more. I wanted more than I could possibly have. I still wondered what life could have been for me if I was able to pursue what I really wanted or what could have been there for me if I studied there. Everytime we went back, those what ifs and could have beens still lingered in my mind. But all I knew was that, I wanted to land a job in Manila. That was it. End of story.
But it suddenly changed.
I just came from Manila last week and I can still remember how Ma’am Lea and I talked about the both of us not being able to imagine ourselves working in Manila while we passed by ladies wearing office uniforms or corporate attires with their matching nobody-cares-how-many-inches-it-is shoes that are not really practical to be worn all throughout the day especially if you are commuting. I just feel that it is too fast paced and that I may not be able to keep up with the flow. All the more because my perspective has changed. I wasn’t that greedy and proud anymore. I wasn’t the very juvenile Rej who focused more on wealth than other important things. I changed. This time, I want to savor every taste, cherish each memory, make every moment count and live each experience as fully as possible. I was not the same Rej who went to Manila last year who said “I want to apply in that company.” or “Whatever the odds may be, I will submit a resume to that company.” Yes, I do want to have a brighter future, a greener pasture too. But as of now, I can’t imagine myself working and going with the flow with all those people in Manila. It’s not because I have something against Manilenos, but it’s my own choice. It’s not that I am afraid to come out of my comfort zone, but there are just things that are more important to you more than chasing good fortune and opportunities. People you’d rather be with than others. Places you’d rather go back to more than a hundred times than others. Memories you’d rather look back to every now and then than others.
Some people may think that I’m letting go of a dream that could help me have a brighter future, or that perhaps this girl is a bit insane to pass up any opportunity that may come her way. But what use would it be to me, if I try so hard and use up all my energy in working when I can’t even relax? Or when I can’t do more important things, the ones that really matter? Or when I can’t be with the ones I love, just because I am working 24/7? Or most especially, when I can’t even have time for God? What use would it be to me? The past months, I have been going through a lot of changes. Changes that even I myself could not imagine I could be undergoing. Yes, I may be born in Manila and I may have stayed there for almost 1/8 or more or less than the years I’m living, but I’m a Bicolana by heart. I’m not closing my doors for any opportunities that may possibly knock after graduation, but if I were to be asked where I want to be, I’d stay here.
But if it is God’s will for me that I land a job in Manila, then I’d be more than grateful and just try to adjust for the better. I have learned that I should consult God in every decision I make, in every step I take, and that what I want will never be equal to what God wants for me because He only wants what’s best. But do you know that feeling when you’ve been to Manila for a couple of days, weeks or months, and you suddenly go back to Bicol and still feel that everything’s the same, that you’re home, and that no other place can take that away? Those green parts of the city, the smell of fresh air in certain places, the stillness in some parts and the incomparable view of Mayon Volcano. There’s just too much in my hometown that I could not trade for anyting. I may come from a province, but I am proud to say that I am a probinsiyana.
Maybe that’s why Manila may not be for me.