A Dream to Live in the Big City

Photo Credit: http://favim.com

Having lived and grown up in the countryside, I was used to simple living. When I was a little kid, I dreamed of one day, going to the big city where I want to live and work. From what I’ve seen on the telly and in the photos, the city seemed like a place where everyone wants to live in. The stories I’ve heard from people who had gone and worked there were enticing. It’s a place where one can find a really good job and make a living to help his family and fulfill his dreams. The neon lights made the nights alive. The busy streets seemed to take the boredom away. The city, somehow, offered a sense of freedom to anyone who had the courage to live a new life away from the plain rustic life. 

When I first came to Manila, I lived with my aunt, my uncle and grandparents in FTI, Taguig. From the moment the ship docked at the North Harbor Port, to getting a ride, and finally arriving in FTI, I felt nothing but being overwhelmed by what I saw and heard. There were more vehicles than I thought. During the first few days and nights, I felt so homesick. I didn’t know anyone.  The landlady was nice, and would tell me stories of how her life then when she first moved to Manila to work. I was awed at how she survived the chaos of city living.

The neighbourhood looked like a reclaimed area. It was hilly, and the houses were built right next to each other. The alleyways were narrow. The small compound where we lived had six houses or small apartments, including the landlady’s. One of those spaces was owned by his brother. The other four were being rented out. My aunt was renting a small studio type room. The water was delivered by a truck every other day. We paid for every container that we get from the water tank. So we had to use water conservatively. 

In the afternoons, I would sit by the wooden porch watching the planes fly by high above the rusty roofs of the houses. At times, I would go up to the open field along the road to see a different view.  I had no one to talk to since I didn’t know anyone.  I couldn’t speak Tagalog. The only words I knew then were ‘opo’ and ‘hindi’ (which mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’). I had a few hundred pesos in my pocket then.  And I was hoping that I would get a job soon, before my money runs out. We had a neighbor whose niece was working in a factory. My aunt’s co – workers at the electronics company would sometimes drop by the house. And so I became friends with them. I soon became familiar with their dialect – Ilocano. On Sabbath Days, I would go the church with my grandfather. 

Days became weeks. And weeks became months. I was still jobless. I have run out of money. I only depended on my aunt and uncle.  I fetched water and did the household chores so I can be of help to them.  About six months after I arrived, I was able to get a job in a bottle printing company. I worked there for about three months. Though it wasn’t very rewarding and the pay wasn’t much, it helped me a lot financially. Our pay was based on the number of bottles printed individually.

So, to save up on my money, my friends and I would walk at least 3 kilometers from FTI to Bagumbayan in the morning and in the afternoon, except when it’s raining. The railways became our route six days a week. I remember being sick one day, and still I had to go to work. Every Friday, we received our meager pay out for the week. Yet, I have never complained, as it was the least thing that I could ever do. 

Soon after, I landed a job in a supermarket.  It was a blessing because the coordinator, Letty, was very kind to me. On days that she would drop by the area, she would treat me for lunch or dinner, or we would go home together since she lived near FTI also. At times, she would treat me to a movie. We were partners in crime. I was very hardworking. I was never absent from work. I endured the traffic from FTI to Pasay Road in Makati, and vice versa, every day. Except on my rest days.  Though I became friends with quite a number of other employees at the store, I had a rough encounter with just one person. He was a bully. And everyday was a struggle. But I had to live with it for months. I was never friends with him even after I left the job.

After about a year, I got employed in an electronics company in Parañaque. It was where I have experienced what it was like to be really working and get paid well. Overtime was a welcoming idea, sometimes working for 16 hours straight. Since I wasn’t an outgoing person, my co-workers would invite me to come with them for a breakfast after a graveyard shift, take the service bus to Crossing watch a movie in SM Megamall. December came and I was asked to join the company rock band (composed of engineers) for the Christmas presentation, where I sang Honestly by Harem Scarem. It wasn’t the best performance of the night, but I think I pulled if off.

I then met my aunt who was living in Panghulo, Malabon.  She was my father’s sister. She and her husband had only one son. After leaving the electronics company, I moved to Malabon to live with them. At this time, I got a job at the department store at the children’s wear division. I was working six days a week.  Our inventory clerk one time heard me singing. She asked me to audition for the company choir. Soon, I was rehearsing with the choir every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, during which, the switchboard operator would page ACM to proceed to the timekeeping area. It was the locker area, actually. Out of curiousity, I asked one of the choir members, Jomar, what it means and said “Ang Cute Mo.” Well, of course, he was just making a fun out of it. ACM was an acronym for All Choir Members.

I became friends with Jomar and 10 other sales crew at the children’s wear department. We called ourselves The Circle of 12.  It was Jomar who became my closest friend among them since we’re both in the choir. At that time, I still felt that there were too many things to learn in life. I was emotionally immature. Being the youngest in the group, they thought of me as a kid, and treated me like one. Jomar played the older brother to me. I soon started going out with them. Once, we spent one Wednesday night after work at the PICC where we rode the bikes until the wee hours of the morning. Then there was a time when we stayed overnight in Gubat sa Siyudad resort in Novaliches . These somehow helped me grow as a person. The way I interact with people improved.  I was no longer a very timid person. I was no longer over – sensitive. 

I lived with my close relations. And I have a good number of friends. Yet, there were moments when I felt so alone. I could smile my brightest smile, and laugh a hearty laugh, but I could feel an emptiness inside of me. There were times that I feel so sad and down so I would keep myself busy at work, and thought about the happy times and the good things about life. Somehow, I would feel enlightened. These episodes of depression and sadness led me to be some sort of an introvert. There were times when I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I would confine myself in one corner away from the public. I became a loner at some point. And at times, I could be as perky and restless as a kid. And my friends don’t seem bothered whenever they see me around like that. But my friends would seem worried when I became quiet. It was then that I have learned to feign my emotions. I would always show a happy face whenever I started to feel down. I guess I was so overwhelmed with the life in the big city. A life that I wasn’t used to. But a kind of life that I need to live up with in order to survive the daily chaos, the traffic, and practically everything about the city living.

In order to cope with my condition, I didn’t go home to my aunt whenever I feel down. I would stay somewhere quiet, or go to a place where no one cares to look at me, or would bother to talk to me. I would go home when I felt good again. 

This went on for weeks and then months. And somehow, it worked for me.


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