HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 29, 2012
My Philippine passport carries an Australian permanent resident visa that allows me to enjoy living, working and having the opportunities that regular Aussie citizens have in that country. Believe me, that’s a lot of privileges we are talking about including the many social benefits for health and education that Sydneysiders enjoy. There are a whole lot more goodies I can avail of as a resident there.
And yet, as the song Manila by Hotdog goes, “I keep coming back to Manila,” something I catch myself singing and doing all too often. Despite all our seemingly unsolvable problems — traffic, flooding, peace and order just to name a few — it is still difficult to write off Manila completely and just live in Sydney.
Here are 26 reasons why this is so.
1. The smiles are easy and natural in the faces of the people here. Even when people are shown on TV reporting a crime where they were victimized, it is not uncommon to still see them smiling somewhat. Why? I don’t know for sure. We are naturally friendly and easy-going even compared to Aussies whose “no worries, mate” mantra I have always found comforting. But I do believe it could be part of our coping mechanism. Whoever it was who said that “We laugh because we do not want to cry”, might as well have explained correctly why we smile amidst the often chaotic life we live here.
2. Manila is a 24-hour city. Sydney is not. One can find a restaurant even at three in the morning for some snacks. Sydney’s malls and shops close around 6 p.m., generally.
3. The Greater Manila Area has lots of what I call “pockets of nice.” There’s Eastwood, the Fort, Glorietta, and many other places that stand in contrast to the squalor that is in a lot of places and has been around for quite a long time. Because of their contrasts, these “pockets of nice” seem to stand out more.
4. Manila has quite a variety of restaurants to enjoy. And that is putting it rather mildly. There are so many eateries to savor everywhere. And there’s a quite a variety to choose from. I would be hard put to come up with a list of just 10 places since there are so many I would rate as quite good or even excellent.
5. It does not cost as much money to have a great time in Manila. Going “out on the town” in Sydney easily costs double or even triple to enjoy its Manila equivalent.
6. It’s easier to plan outings in Manila. I’m certainly not talking about traffic here. People are quite busy with their jobs and running their lives without household help in Sydney, so to indulge in a sudden dinner out with friends or go on sudden whimsical flights of fancy to a mall or some other place will take more days of planning.
7. The chances of having friends to invite out or hang around with in Manila is much greater simply because we probably have more friends here than in Sydney.
8. To have tailor-made clothes is easier and more affordable to do in Manila. I have yet to meet anyone in Sydney who has had tailor-made outfits done there. It’s just too damn expensive.
9. Our rainy weather here in Manila, which occurs almost the same time as winter in Australia, is actually more suited to the Filipino. I would rather use a mild sweater when it gets cold here than wake up shaking in single-digit temperatures while having to, say, clean the car, mow the lawn, or just do anything outdoors in Sydney.
10. This sounds crazy, but one is less paranoid about driving in Manila than in Sydney. It can be quite traumatic to fail a driving test, as some people I know can attest. The rules are many and quite strict. Enforcement is quite merciless. In Manila, very few ever really get caught violating traffic rules.
11. Dental and eye care, generally not covered by insurance in Sydney, is a lot cheaper in Manila. A lot of Pinoys who live in Sydney plan a vacation home and have dental and eye work done while visiting here. One time, my son had to have four tooth extractions done costing many hundreds of dollars per tooth without the cost of an anesthesiologist, and so he opted to travel home and have it done in Manila at less than half the cost plus vacation.
12. One may see a lot of insects here but you can be comforted by the fact that unlike New South Wales, which is home to many of the deadliest spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlies in the world, one will probably not die when bitten by spiders and the like here.
13. We have household help! That frees many from the tedium of housework and many other chores.
14. We have drivers! The traffic thus becomes a lot more bearable.
15. We have tricycles. Sometimes, I wish they had them in Sydney, especially when one has to walk long distances during summer.
16. Christmas has pleasantly cool weather in Manila. In Sydney, it’s tank-top time. The yuletide season is in the middle of warm summer and that can be a bit jarring to Pinoys.
17. When dealing with banks, groceries or other services, the exchange between customer and client, though more efficient in Sydney, is often friendlier in Manila. For one thing, there is no accent barrier and so one is less tense because one can be easily understood.
18. People need less documentation to present when renting homes. But in Australia, the ID system can be quite strict. To rent a house, one needs a 100 points or more of ID, meaning one must present a driver’s license (50 points), an employment slip (50 points), credit cards (10 points), etc.
19. In Manila, there are less restrictions about home repairs, extensions, etc. In Sydney, the council determines what can or cannot be done. Sometimes, this can get to be quite complicated.
20. Socially, one can find easier access. Relatives, classmates, province mates, etc., play a more important role in making one feel socially accepted.
21. There’s more time for to enjoy the material things one owns here than in Sydney where one’s time is spent doing home and office work.
22. It is easier to take care of younger children in Manila with the presence of yayas, in-laws, parents, etc. Everyone is helping out.
23. Movies are much cheaper here. In Sydney, we almost always watch movies on Tuesdays since that’s the only day when tickets are half-priced, and even with the hefty discount, it is still more expensive than in Manila.
24. It is cheaper to own cars here. In Australia, there are inspection fees to register one’s car. Throw in insurance and each car can cost you more than P40,000 every year. Insurance premiums increase with every traffic violation you do, and will also depend on the overall peace and order situation where you live.
25. Bargain sales are more spectacular here — by a mile!
26. Lastly, while everything is more chaotic in Manila, one gets the inexplicable feeling of “home” even amidst the discomfort and ruckus. Like I always say, even the potholes somehow “speak” to me in Manila. In a foreign country, one can feel total alienation amidst the hum of efficiency. Why? Because even if it has become home, it is still an adopted one.
To be fair, I could also make an entire list of 26 reasons why It is hard to give up Sydney. And that list would be as easy as making this!