The Daily: Frustrations and Middleclass Aspirations

Yesterday was a good start to the week. I’ve been struggling with my sleeping patterns for over a month now. I usually can’t fall asleep until 6 am and so I wake up around 2 in the afternoon.

For a time I was heavily stressing about this because I felt it wasn’t normal and that I was wasting the day away. It wasn’t like I lacked sleep, I just had off hours. So I started jogging/walking almost every night. At first I’d do it every other day, but recently I’ve been clocking in at least 5 km everyday. I’m not going fitness crazy yet but I’m so happy about my small start. At least I’ve learned to keep it consistent. 


On Sunday morning I woke up at 2 am thinking it was already 6 am. I was so excited to go jogging! I kept awake until morning and did a 5-minute meditation and yoga. After that I went on another 5-km walk around the university campus. Had taho at the sunken garden and breakfast at Rodic’s.

made of silken tofu, sweetener, and tapioca pearls

I thought about how this was what young lovers in the university often do. I never got the chance to have that kind of campus romance but I’ve done as much and many crazier things in campus with friends (like climb and crawl the gates, get drunk on free gin from the USC council, dance on wooden chairs and kiss girls, lie on the road, scream names outside people’s dorms or chase Piolo Pascual around the oval.)

In the afternoon, I made my way to Pasay City to watch a basketball game. It probably took me an hour and a half to reach the venue. While I was in the frontseat of a rickety multicab, stuck in traffic I thought about how my friends back in Canada would fare if they ever tried commuting in Manila. Everyday living here was a risk you took. I was inside such a small vehicle with no air conditioning, the sun was in its noontime high while various cars, SUVs and zipping buses were switching on all five lanes, it was chaotic. While I was barely surviving , I patted myself on the back for being such a cowgirl- I had learned another commute route and saved money instead of defaulting to Uber. I used to be quite a hustler in my early years of university, it’s made me wonder how I survived living in Manila then. I must have felt so invincible, Vancouver has definitely softened me.

a packed train on a late saturday ngiht

After last week’s cancelled game due to the typhoon, Dex and I finally caught up and were able to watch University of the Philippine’s game against UST. Of course it hurt to see your team lose after a promising start. After the game-

Dex: Gutom nako, unsa ato kaonon? Pwede dili atong pride? Sakit na man gud kaayo. (I’m hungry. What should we eat? Can it not be our pride? It really hurts.)

Between the two of us, I think I was noisier during the game but he was more affected with the loss. Oh well, it was still fun to actually root for the same team and cheer together for your university. #goschoolspirit!

before getting our hearts broken. #UPFight!

After dinner I decided to suck it up and take the bus instead of getting an Uber. Dex was asking me why I always wanted to take the train. Well here’s how my logic goes:

I don’t like riding buses or FXs because there’s a higher chance of being held-up at gunpoint. Wasn’t he the one who told me about how he got held up in an FX once, and oh he also got into an accident in the bus and had this plaster on his nose for 2 weeks. I also know at least 4 people who got held up in an FX, and two who got into bus accidents. So statistically speaking, if I take the train or the jeep, the probability of me getting into those situations will be less likely.

hundreds of buses ply the EDSA route

But that night, I took the bus anyway and sat beside a same sex couple (W2W is still quite taboo in the Philippines). We watched Jessica Soho on TV talking about the phenomenal “Aldub” craze and Maine Mendoza while the bus slowly made its way through EDSA, stopping at every chance it got to take on passengers.

I moved to the empty seats and after awhile a scruffy man sat beside me. Usually alarm bells would go off, but how could I judge someone for what he wore? He was most likely a laborer on his way home. Sometimes I’d hear him ‘tsk’ and react on the sad plight of Chef Hasset Go (it was till Jessica Soho on TV.)

I kept looking out the windows and observing the sunday commuters. I thought about how the social structure was so evident in our country, and how poverty was so rampant that we are all so desensitized by it. It’s so ordinary we don’t even take a second look. Almost everyday, kids in barefoot would ask me change. Beggars fill the side of the road, gaunt and dusty. Everytime I see them I’d be filled by this consuming guilt. What do I do? Do I give alms? Am I helping by doing that? How can I help change this?

One time, I was walking home and this woman started to approach me, she said something inaudibly and as my survival reflex, I held my hand up and mumbled a sorry. She stopped speaking midway, and just smiled and heaved a sigh.

I was so jarred by that encounter. How could I silence someone by just a wave of a hand? How oppressive was our society that I could resign someone to silence by a mere gesture? I went inside the gate and talked to my dog wondering what I should have done. After a while I scrambled to get some cash from my room, and tried to look for the woman outside but she was gone.

Was I taught to be wary of strangers so much that I could not look someone in the eye? Sometimes I think our struggle for survival makes us lose our humanity.

That scene has been haunting me and it’s still what I see when I look out from where I’m enclosed in glass and airconditioned vehicles.

Still looking out- I kept stressing about where I would live. I keep being torn. After graduation should I go back to Canada and live a life where I can avoid these realities? Should I stay here and help my country? And if I do, how? I also felt guilty for wanting to live a life of comfort while millions of my own people lived in destitution. I know I don’t need to be miserable to help others but there’s been this overwhelming sense of guilt everytime I go out of my university bubble.

Sometimes I also feel frustrated with myself and my contemporaries here in the Philippines. Our instagram feed are filled with posh cafes and restaurants, expensive organic food, our plants and pedigree pets, our travel destinations – a very aesthetic lifestyle when really right outside our doors and probably the majority of Metro Manila, is widespread poverty.

How can the middle class ridicule the “masa” for wanting to forget their struggles with Aldub and other soap operas? The middle class has its own version of Aldub, it’s the aesthetic lifestyle. The middle class’ version of Aldub is their aspiration to live the lifestyle of the rich, and it is so evident on social media – or the malls. What makes me feel worse is that I’m part of this. I want a pretty feed, I don’t want to post photos of the kitsch, the ugly. I don’t want photos of the reality in the Philippines- I’d like to keep it ideal.

Anyhoo, this hasn’t really been a nice and cute update on my day. It’s starting to look like my papers in Sociology or Society and Mass Media with wikipedia as my source LOL. I still don’t have a solution for all my questions and I’ll probably be asking the same questions until I run for President (that was a joke.)

Today I’m feeling optimistic. Won’t change the world but it’s a start. Ommm.

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