Manila Is No Longer the City of My Dreams. So How Do I Say Good-Bye? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

ask poppy leaving manila preen

Welcome to Ask Poppy! I’m Poppy, your go-to girl for all of life’s woes. And when I say ALL, I MEAN IT. I’m not an expert on anything except maybe for being me, which makes me totally qualified to do this.

Dear Poppy,

I read your column last week about that girl who has a boyfriend who wants her to move to a different country with him. While I’m kind of on the same boat as she is, the only difference is I’m not moving abroad for love; I’m going to study and work. I’m lucky enough to carry a blue passport and have parents who are capable of bankrolling my desire for higher education, and after nearly three decades in this country, I’ve finally decided to take full advantage of the spoils of my privilege.

And yet.

I know that Manila is not the most livable (or lovable, as my autocorrect suggests) city and that the Philippines as a country is far from ideal. Yes, there is a good chance that everything will be shot to shit if Duterte or Binay wins the presidential election, and with the exception of other third-world countries who are on the same boat as we are, basically living anywhere but here would be preferable.

Who doesn’t want to live somewhere where a social safety net exists, where people care about recycling, and the public transportation system actually functions?

But for all its flaws, Manila is home. Manila is what shaped you and I to be the persons we are today, it’s where we found the people we love, and it’s the stomping ground of our youth, our coming-of-age, and with any luck, our eventual retirement. (Dollars go a long way here, baby.) Yes, there’s nothing for us here (I mean, have you checked Tinder lately? Wala talaga), but at the same time, I have to admit: everything that’s everything to me is here.

So I guess what I’m asking is, how do you say good-bye?



Dear Cheryl,

I know I sounded hella un-nationalistic last week, but while I was re-reading what I wrote last week, I still stand by my outward disgust for everything here. Have you read that viral news bit that said that if we are unable to find a solution to this onslaught of traffic, Manila will be unlivable? I can totally see it.

The only thing that I’m hoping for is that I don’t jinx my chances of leaving this dump by continuously talking shit about it. I mean, I’m still here and I don’t see myself leaving for another—oh, maybe 10 years. My child is probably going to live in an unlivable place.

BUT YOU, my friend! You have a chance to GET THE HELL out, which is great. When are you leaving? Please say it’s tomorrow. How do you say good-bye? You don’t. Just pack your bags and fuck everything else.

I’m kidding.

You’re right that Manila is home. Growing up here was really great, but through years and years of neglect and corruption, it really does not feel like home anymore. Especially for me since my family isn’t even fucking here; I’m the only one here. And that really, really sucks.

There are only a few things that I am going to miss if ever I get the chance to leave Manila. I’ll miss my earthly possessions because I know I won’t be able to bring every goddamn book and collectible that I have in my home. I’m really going to miss the cheap drugs because that was fun. I’m going to miss my cat.

It’s now taking me about 15 minutes just to think of another thing that I’ll miss…I’m drawing blanks here because I’m not really going to miss much from Manila.

Again, I’m kidding. Of course I’m going to miss my stupid-ass friends. I’m not going to miss the place, but I am definitely going to miss the people I’m about to leave behind. If you’re really leaving for good, the only way to say good-bye is by throwing a massive despedida party.

Over the past five years, I think I’ve been to 10 different despedidas. Each and every one was a riot. Waste away your pesos before you start earning all those Benjamins by giving your friends one night that they will not forget. You can allow yourself the joy of seeing all these people you love cooped up in one place, just celebrating the fact that you will never be in their lives ever again, except maybe on their Facebook feeds.

I love how despedidas are never sad. Sure, you might end up crying the drunker you get, but it always gives me the feeling of such elated happiness, even though I know that I’m probably not going to see this dude ever again.

When my friend left for her brand new life in the US earlier this year, she just had a simple dinner with her closest pals (not me) and then went on to see people by choosing the right events to go to. One night, she was at an art show. The day before that, she was at a show to watch her favorite band play live for the last time. For her, it was simply experiencing bits and pieces of those things that she loves in Manila. It’s as if she took one last look just to make sure that the memory is embedded in her head. It’s always the final glance that makes everything real. It’s also what makes it painful.

Right now, I’m trying my best to at least leave something good here in Manila. Something that people can remember me by. Being able to write this column is one of those things. You probably don’t know me, but at least to the people who do know me, they know that I once wrote this crappy life advice column for Preen.

Cheryl, what’s your lasting legacy in Manila? Kuya Germs has his Walk of Fame in Eastwood. Our current President is leaving us a ton of shit to deal with when he vacates the seat this year, so yeah, that’s his legacy. Try and think of something cooler to leave behind.

In college, I would superglue a five-peso coin in every apartment I stayed at. I would glue them in the weirdest places, hidden from prying eyes. Two weeks ago, I was visiting an old apartment (now being rented by a friend) and he caught me squeezing my hands in the small gap between his oven and kitchen wall. To him, it was a weird sight, but I was merely trying to feel the coin I glued to the wall.


Cheryl, I know it’s always hard to say good-bye. It’s why the concept of “ghosting” exists because some people just don’t have the capacity to grow some cojones and say good-bye properly. They just ignore and let things be. No matter how shitty and crappy Manila can be, don’t pull a ghosting on her. Don’t just disappear.

You’re pushing 30, but you’re still on your way to do great things outside of this country. You’re still on your bildungsroman, man. You’ve said it yourself: There’s really nothing here. So why bother living in a place that doesn’t even offer you anything remotely new?

Harry Potter would not be the same without the cupboard under the stairs. Rey hated the sands of Jakku; she really couldn’t wait there forever for nothing. The world that Potter and Rey inhabited before they kicked off their respective journeys are just zero-percent of the universes that they live in. Manila is your cupboard under the stairs. It’s your Jakku. Ordinary is no place to be. There’s still a galaxy far, far away from all this. Don’t you want to see it all?

Think about it: Cheryl strayed off to another country and slayed it. Stray lang, don’t stay.

Now go slay, Cheryl.



Got a question for Poppy? From love and relationships to weird questions you dare not ask even your psychologist, Poppy is ready to answer them all. Send in your questions to [email protected] or post your question over Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #AskPoppy, and you just might get the answer you are looking for.


Art by Dorothy Guya

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