When I was living in Manila before I moved back to Bacolod for my recovery, I was living in my brother’s condominium in San Juan. I’ve pretty much always lived in San Juan. It was what was familiar. I grew up there. I could never get lost in the side streets of Little Baguio and I could maneuver my way around that part of the city without a problem.
I did stay in Eastwood twice, a year’s duration each –, in 2009 and 2012 — and while that was a necessary move due to my financial capabilities at the time, San Juan was always the preference.
But now came my big move and my brother has sold his condominium very near Greenhills and I had free reign to choose wherever I wanted to stay.
I chose Poblacion because in 2014 and 2015, all my work was in Makati. I wanted to be nearer to where my work was going to be so that I didn’t have to commute all the time and cutting down transportation costs would have been essential. But I can’t afford to live in Salcedo Village or Legazpi Village or Rockwell. I don’t have that kind of earning capacity. I wanted a small place that was near my work but I’m also just across the Pasig river so I can make it to my other brother’s place in San Juan for family day.
Living alone meant needing a support system and I have so many friends living in Rockwell, which is a ten-minute walk from where I live now. Moving here, I discovered I had more than 20 friends living in the area. I won’t ever be alone.
At the same time, so many people work in the area. They get to see me and check up on me before they head home. So that’s a bonus.
But I discovered living in Poblacion does have additional benefits.
My place is less than five minutes from three water stores, three laundry services, more than 6 stores (we call them sari-sari stores in the Philippines), and over five canteens. A convenience store just opened a block away. I’m ten-minutes away from Power Plant mall but I’m also ten-minutes (in the other direction) to the part of Poblacion that is filled with all the places to go for a night out. I can meet with friends to hangout and just walk home right away. I don’t have to commute.
What I also like about Poblacion, as a writer anyway, is that it’s not posh. I’m pretty privileged and sheltered so it’s quite gritty for me though I know it’s still actually pretty normal. I’ve just lived in good areas most of my life so my idea of Poblacion is grit but I’m aware enough of my privilege to know it’s not.
I really had to emphasize that because I know it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be but it’s important for me to feel it. It’s safe at night. The people here are tough and they drink in the streets and are quite brusque but it’s safe. These people have jobs and they go to school. It just feels tough but people are getting by and it’s not as gritty as the other places that I can imagine in Manila.
And that is important to me. That it’s not posh. I don’t get caught up in the idea of my privilege and my sheltered-ness. I see regular people and I’m hearing Tagalog spoken all around me and it’s good for me. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble. It forces me to constantly check my privilege and to understand, somehow, what it feels like.
I’m a writer and this is important for me. I want to write films for Filipinos and most of my friends are highly educated, sophisticated, smart, and worldly. They are part of, probably, just about ten percent of the country’s population. I can’t just write movies for them. I need to write it about the majority of the Philippines and to understand that, I have to somehow walk in their shoes.
This feels real to me. I know it is even worse in other places but I have to watch myself and this place is safe. But it grounds me. It grounds my writing. It grounds my ideas for film. And that’s why I really, really like it here. That’s why I really think moving here was a good idea.
I had many different reasons for choosing to live in Poblacion but now that I’ve been living here for three months and counting, I’ve discovered what the best part of living here is.
And, of course, it has all to do with my writing.