Of this world, I am certain of three truths: one, a good story has a beginning, middle, and end (though order is of no importance); two, the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell; and three, I make stupid decisions without any foresight whatsoever.

Number three is how I ended up here in Manila, everyone’s temperamental lover, except of course if you have generational wealth. Which I do not have.

To set the scene, it was around 2017 and I was in limbo after resigning from my job in Cebu. And much like a defeated soul desperate for any semblance of hope, I applied everywhere including Manila.

Surprisingly, I got invited to a set of interviews. Best of all, my Mom was scheduled to go to Manila, too. It was a double win because I got to spend time with my Mom and enjoy a break from Cebu.

This turn of events led me to ask: Is this a sign that the universe is finally making it up to me? I really should have known better given my track record with life.  

So off to the big city I went. To keep up the pretense, I went to the interviews with efforts amounting to mediocre. Still, I felt like on top of the world with all the free food and momentary reprieve. Yet, everything good must end. I went back to Cebu with renewed vigor as I prayed once again to the employment gods out there.

Somehow, my prayers got distorted along the way because after a few weeks, I got accepted to a job in Manila. Mom then accompanied me to find an apartment and buy all the room essentials. It’s an unexpected restart and I had no choice but to wing it.  

Sadly, my initial plans fell through. I had to retract my application because the company wouldn’t let me start without a diploma and I did not have money to buy a flight ticket to Cebu to get that one piece of document. I also did not want to trouble friends because of my stupidity.

During this time, I have never felt so small, so insignificant. I was on my own in this confusing city and my ribcage felt like it was caving in with every breath. I usually do not have issues with being alone but at that moment, the world felt too massive. And all the universes inside me were condensing into one compact ball leaving me waiting for the impending explosion.

Though that was how my Manila life started, I had to pretend to be a mature adult and move forward.

Half a decade on and I still have a complicated relationship with her. Even now, it still feels like a cruel feat of cosmic irony for someone like me to be here in this city that won’t hesitate to chew you only to spit you out.

I was unlucky with the celestial lottery. I’m an introvert and in the instance of encountering even a small crowd, my limbs will freeze while my heart will beat like it has run a marathon. But I know this uncontainable chaos is a consequence I need to live with.

Do I regret moving? I could have avoided all the stress if I stayed put, right?


Unprepared as I was, I knew it was something that was bound to happen.

I hail from a third-class city called Kidapawan and the closest urban center is Davao. Maybe I was suffocated, maybe it’s too everyone-knows-everyone. I always had this nagging feeling that there was nothing for me there and I needed to escape.

I bet it all on my college application—which was a huge thing considering I only applied to two universities. I needed to go somewhere far. Not Davao because I knew lots of other people who went there to study. Instead, I went somewhere you’ll need a plane ticket to get to. That’s how I ended up studying in Cebu.

There, I found great friends and at some point I thought it could be where I’d stay, where I will establish my roots. But in the back of my mind, everything felt a little too good. I think Kacey Musgraves summed best the complex feeling of living with a dark undercurrent of issues in her song “Happy & Sad”: “I’m comfortable when the sky is gray/ But when everything is perfect, I start hiding.”

And as expected, I found myself in this big scary jungle. I may feel lost and alone but those two feelings aren’t boulders on my back. Rather, they are these gray-tinged clouds that keep me company.

For the very special dark moments though, I have a surefire solution. I breathe slowly and count from one to ten then I  play a song like Tove Lo’s “Cycles” that features this hypnotic blaring synth. It grounds and distracts me, effectively lulling me to a mindless sleep.

Despite everything, I am confident that moving away paid off. Apart from being a spontaneous sprinter, I realized that I am an in-the-moment pessimist and an in-hindsight optimist. Like an evolutionary trait, I brave through the problems and pat myself on the back for making it through. I may not have the best navigation system, but I am moving onward, taking things day by day.

Here, I grew in ways I didn’t think I would if I stayed close to Kidapawan. Here, I am one of the many and far from being perceived. The distance gave me this expanse and freedom. I am using all of this space to discover who I am—and what to make of who I am.

So, will Manila be where I stay for good? Might as well answer: Will we ever know how vast space truly is? Will we ever invent time machines? We have yet to know.

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