“I shall return…“
The famous last words of General Douglas MacArthur said to Manila.
I have to say it as well. Probably, not just me, but also the thousands of Filipinos who moved away from their own land to look for a better pasture elsewhere.
I’m one of them.
Looking back at how far I’ve come, it makes me feel that I will always go back to the home that once nurtured me, educated me, embraced me and most of all, showed me how life works.
I was born and raised in Tondo, Manila. I have seen the city in its various shapes, forms and colours. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of the city. Yet, I still feel that I do not know her well.
Divisoria, Tutuban, Binondo, Carriedo, Intramuros and Luneta were in my backyard. This was the metropolitan life that I know and had.
Familiarity blinds and numbed me from all the chaos and craziness of the city. Poverty kept me busy, wanting more. After all, that’s life as we know it! That’s what we have seen over and over again.
I failed to give my attention to the city that nurtures me and gave me home.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my roots and background. It might not be on the “right” side of the tracks, however, this empowers me to strive for something more. It shaped me to aim to be better.
Maybe I should blame the government, maybe I should blame the generations before me. But I have realised that I can blame no-one but myself for not taking actions. For not embracing fully what I have and for who I really am. A Manileña.
I should tell people how beautiful you are, Manila. The endless stories you have kept within the walled city of Intramuros should be shared passionately and how you’ve blossomed over the decades. There might be some parts of you that have been forgotten over time but we will do our best to revive and protect it.
I should tell people how brave and strong you are, Manila. You’ve turned things around after the chaos of the war and no matter how many challenges you’ve faced, you didn’t give up on us.
Even though I’ve seen the regal Big Ben in London, there is nothing like the charm of the clock tower of the Manila city hall that signifies that I’m home. And definitely, nothing can beat the beautiful golden sunset scene from Manila Bay.
You, Manila, have never failed to fill my belly with all the goodness of street food! Oh! The hopia, isaw, Kwek Kwek, fish balls, kikiam, taho and so much more!
I’m forever grateful to the city that shaped my character, gave me the tools and skills to be resilient to whatever life throws at me.
Even if I’m halfway around the world away from the city I called home, I will always do my best to make Manila proud.