I’m a born and bred Metro Manila girl, having lived in Quezon City for more than half my life. It wasn’t until I moved to Cebu at the age of 26 did I realize that there was more to life than just Metro Manila. You see, before moving out of my comfort zone, I always thought people lived the way I did in Quezon City and I had this feeling of “superiority” because I’m in the best place in the country (or so I thought). I didn’t realize that there was a much bigger “world” of Filipinos out there in the rest of the country.
My 3-year stay in Cebu somehow prepared me for what would be the biggest change in my life. Cebu-living is similar to that of Manila but less the stress, traffic and living expenses weren’t as pricey. I learned to be independent and managed living away from family and friends for long periods of time. I guess this was to prepare me for what was to come ahead.
Newlywed that I was, I moved to General Santos City in South Cotabato with my husband who just got assigned to work there. I ended nearly a decade long career in Training and Development and faced a life of domesticity. After a month or so, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and head back home to Manila --- gosh! Arriving in General Santos City during the summer proved to be the worst timing of all! I couldn’t stand the heat – imagine feeling slowly being roasted in your own fat while inside your home. March 2002 was also the time when a series of bombings occurred in Gen San. I haven’t even set foot in 2 of the 3 malls in the city when they were either blown up or set on fire, leaving only an old Gaisano Mall as place of leisure for the next 2 years. I have to admit, I couldn’t budge from where I was then because I didn’t have a choice, hubby’s work required him to be based in Gen San and I had to be there with him.
Would you believe that 1 year stretched to 5 years? Yes!!! We lived in General Santos City for a total of 5 years. I gave birth to two of my children there and this was where I learned to truly appreciate being a PROMDI (from the province). Traffic was totally unheard of – you could wake up at 7:30 am and still made it to the office before 8:00 am. We could manage to have the airconditioner turned on every night and maintain a monthly electric bill of below two thousand pesos (P2,000.00). Fresh tuna and seafood were available at ridiculously low prices all year round. When I gave birth via emergency CS the first time, the hospital bill was below sixty thousand pesos. It was almost the same four years later when I gave birth to my daughter in 2006. The 5 years in Gen San was a humbling experience, one that taught me to appreciate living simply so that I could really live. It was also an ideal place to raise children. My firstborn son didn’t crave or look for SM, The Fort or Ayala because there was none of that. He was happy with an occasional trip to the local mall to watch a movie or just to hang out in the Kid’s Play Room.
In March of 2007, we moved to Butuan City in Agusan del Norte again courtesy of hubby’s work. If General Santos City was considered to be provincial by Manila/Cebu standards, oh my, can I say that Butuan City can be described as “remote”? With narrower road networks and smaller land area, Butuan can be called “probinsiya”. The home we were able to secure is right smack next to a wide rice field. Imagine waking up to “cock-a-doodle-doo” every morning and facing hectares of green fields as you look over the window. Hubby’s workplace was less than 5 minutes drive from home and it didn’t take much time or effort to go anywhere in the city. The main means of public transportation would be the orange tricycles or coded multi-cabs. Taxis were only for long-haul trips to neighboring cities or out-of-reach towns. There was not a single mall in the city. And no, I don’t consider the lone Gaisano to be a mall, it’s just a local department store/supermarket with a handful of food and clothing concessionaires. If any of my HS or College classmates and former officemates would see where I live now, it would really puzzle them how I’m able to survive. You see, I surprise even myself…I don’t know how or why but I love where I am now and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. How can life not be wonderful when all I’ll ever need is here – my husband, my kids, life that is simple and uncomplicated. Living in the province has made me appreciate what’s truly essential in life. No, I’m not deprived just because I don’t get to see Serendra, Trinoma, Boni High Street and the like. I can always schedule a short vacation to Manila to see these places even just once. If I’m craving an SM or Ayala fix, nearby Cebu is so accessible via plane or boat.
The hustle and bustle, noise and music of Manila is not the end all and be all. Been there, done that…promdi living is the life for me and I can seriously raise my family here and know deep in my heart that we’ll be alright. Peso for peso value, where else can you find a place where P10,000 is enough for monthly living expenses of a family of 4 (electricity, water, cable, land line, food, relaxation and entertainment)? Here, I can send my children to a good school (which includes Chinese classes) for less than P20,000/year/child. And don’t get started on the issue that schools in Manila like Ateneo, Miriam, La Salle or Xavier are the best and my children deserve to be in those institutions…I’ve come to realize that it’s not about the school, it’s about the child or the person. It depends on how well you’ve raised and taught your children for them to succeed in life.
I’m a product of an exclusive school and I don’t see anything spectacular about my educational background and where I am now. I’ve met a lot of people in Gen San and here in Butuan who didn’t attend prestigious Manila schools and yet they’re quite successful in their chosen fields. If parents have more time to supervise their children, they can either do homeschool or work in partnership with their children’s school. Prestigious schools in Manila have such outrageous rates because of the quality of education they give and parents choose these schools because they closely approximate the abilities of the parents to educate their children had they been given the luxury of staying at home with them. Unfortunately, given the busy metro lifestyle and high living expense, most parents need to work fulltime to be able to afford living in Metro Manila. This is the stark difference with living in the province. Since we have such a simple lifestyle here in the province, I can afford to stay at home fulltime to take care of my family and give me more opportunity to interact with my children. The school I send them to may not be as high end as exclusive Manila schools but since I’m around, I can closely monitor how my son’s school operates and teaches him.
Provincial living is the ideal set up for my family and it is the kind of living that I’ve envisioned for my family. Even the business opportunities my husband and I have undertaken supports the simple living set up that we have. Since most of our businesses are online, it doesn’t matter where in the country we’re based, our businesses can run. We don’t need to be in Manila to be at the cutthroat of the industry. I’ve noticed that more men and women nowadays are looking for work or income opportunities that allow them to stay at home. More and more “work-at-home” jobs are being offered and people are actually grabbing them like hotcakes. Isn’t it a wonder that a lot of men now want to spend more time with their families and watch their children grow up? In the long run, good life isn’t really about the money but rather the quality of life you lead and the legacy you leave.