Wisdom > G-Force

Here’s why I don’t miss Manila as much as I want to

The author reflects on his recent vacation in the Philippines

Traffic like this is no longer surprising. It's just exhausting. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Let me start this piece with the following lyrics from the song Manila” by Hotdog:

Hinahanap-hanap kita, Manila
Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga
Mga jeepney mong nagliliparan
Mga babae mong nag-gagandahan

Illegal plates and bad parking go unpunished. Surprise, surprise. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

I can understand why my relatives abroad sing this song whenever they visit the Philippines or when they just wax nostalgic about how life used to be before they migrated. After having lived and worked in New Zealand for just under a year and a half, I was interested to know if I’d feel the same way. After all, it might all be a classic case of not knowing what I had got until it was gone.

I just came back from a four-week trip to the country. And sadly, I didn’t end up sharing the same sentiments as my relatives and Hotdog (except for the line referring to the ladies).

The noise from these motorcycles pierces the ears in a bad way. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The ingay they were mentioning is the continuous drone of rust buckets plying Manila’s roads. The unmuffled pops and bangs from motorcycles are just unpleasant. Coming from a place that’s eerily quiet most of the time, the sounds felt even more repulsive. I do like listening to cars make beautiful noises, but the never-ending cacophony of straight pipes from underbones is just too much for the eardrums.

Jeepneys need to fight for passengers because of the boundary system. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

And how can I forget about the classic jeepneys? They may no longer be the kings of the road, but I certainly did not enjoy seeing them flying as much as Hotdog did. They still have sooty smoke blasting out of their tailpipes, and drivers still need to pump their squeaky and dodgy brakes. The engineering is clearly from a bygone era.

I did notice the increased presence of modernized jeepneys. And I’m happy to see that even those with air-conditioning are packed, so commuters are obviously okay with paying a premium for a comfortable trip. But looking at how aggressive the drivers are especially during rush hour, what clearly hasn’t changed is the stupid boundary system.

The author couldn't fathom the harsh reality of a 50km drive being two hours long. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

Driving was also a massive pain in the butt. Getting used to left-hand drive again was easy compared to the agony of simply going anywhere. A 5km trip took 45 minutes instead of 10. I once went to Tanay, and the 50km drive took an agonizing two hours. Not to mention being stressed out from the endless stream of wayward road users that consistently get featured on our Facebook page.

Good food is one of the highlights of the author's trip. PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

What I truly missed was being in the company of those whom I had left behind. I’ve been away for only a little over a year, so I do have occasional bouts of homesickness. But I’ve come to realize that the longing feeling is associated more with the people rather than the place. The environment down under can be too quiet, so I sometimes wish we could have family and friends over to interact with.

I also missed the food. Don’t get me wrong: New Zealand has some of the world’s best beef and lamb I’ve ever had. But local flavors in terms of seasoning are just a tad muted. Even Asian restaurants turn down the spice levels quite a bit. I am aware that such a judgment is subjective, and I’ll eventually get used to the taste. But as I write this, I’m badly craving for my family’s special sinigang na bangus.

Getting to meet Job is worth braving the traffic for. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

This article will highly likely have readers telling me to go back to where I came from because I’m no longer happy in the Philippines. That’s exactly what I did, and I’m once again enjoying the fresh air and the open roads that Aotearoa can offer because I believe I deserve better living standards.

And guess what? All Filipinos do, too.

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.