On August 1, I will be celebrating 15 years here in Manila. Those who know my story and those who have witnessed my life in Cebu understand exactly why I celebrate my move to this big city every year.
I was barely 25 years old when I uprooted myself from the only home I knew. I didn't have any family here and I remember feeling scared and unsure. I had no place to live and was about to start work for the UN, an organization I knew so little then.
Little. That was all I had when I got here -- a little suitcase that contained everything I needed to start my life: five pairs of office clothes, hangers, sky flakes (which my Mom insisted I bring just in case I go hungry), a pair of shoes, a few weekend clothes, and 800 pesos in my pocket.
I still get teary-eyed at the memory.
When I got here, I rented a bedspace in a cramped, filthy boarding house in the not-so-nice part of Makati. It was the cheapest I found. It was about five blocks away from where I worked, so I walked to and from the office. I can no longer count how many times I braved the floods during those walks to work.
Despite missing home, I was excited about my new life. Everything was fresh in my eyes. It was almost like I was given a clean slate, a chance to start over. And just being in Manila, I told myself then, was already a fulfillment of a dream.
You see, ever since I was kid, I've always been fond of writing down my dreams. In highschool and college, I would write them in cartolinas and put them up on my bedroom wall. One of those dreams was to work here in Manila. Well, actually, the dream was to get out of poverty. This city is New York to me. If I'll make it here, I know I'll make it anywhere. There are about 12 million people in Metro Manila alone and if I survived and succeeded here, that would be something, at least for me, who grew up in a small barangay in a small city.
It was an incredible journey, the past 15 years. It was a blessed one but not devoid of difficulties and heartaches. I worked hard, struggled, and made sure I tick off items in my dreams list. I met a lot of wonderful people, found true friends, traveled a lot, and learned a gazillion new things. While I made so many good choices (woohoo!), I also made a lot of mistakes which, thankfully, taught me valuable lessons. I had moments of silliness and pride and doubt. There was even a time I trusted the wrong people who eventually broke my heart. While my life is nowhere near perfect, I believe I am in a much better place than where I was 15 years ago.
Manila has been very kind to me. It gave me opportunities I never even imagined for myself. This city embraced me when I got here and adopted me. It gave me my own place under the sun among the millions of dreamers roaming around its streets. I will always be grateful. Oh, this reminds me, my friend Joy said I should make a list of 15 things (a wishlist), places I still want to see in Manila, etc. But that would be for another blog entry.
I have a long list of people to thank (for another blog entry, too) but right now, here's a little shoutout to CBB who, even though he lives in another city, has been my constant partner-in-crime (haha), my cheerleader, my moral support.