Photo: Jerald Guillermo
1. You use Facebook to keep up with Manila’s gangs.
There’s the budol-budol gang where they hypnotize or sweet-talk their victims into giving them their valuables.
There’s the dugo-dugo gang who target rich households and trick their maids into giving them money or jewelry under false pretenses that the maid’s boss got into an accident and needs cash immediately.
There’s the ipit taxi gang, where two-to-three men, usually in cahoots with the driver, suddenly board a taxi to rob its passenger.
Women take photos of their taxi’s plate number and driver, and then send it to their friends just in case they become a victim of “taxi sprays,” an unknown chemical substance sprayed by shady taxi drivers into the air-conditioner to immobilize female victims.
In other parts of the world, people use Facebook to look at cat gifs and trending gossip. You use it to stay up to date on how to arrive home with all your cash (unless you spent it at the mall, which is likely). You read up what gangs are where, new tricks and schemes, what parts of the city to avoid tonight. While others call Manila unsafe, you know it just takes a particular brand of street smarts, social media included.
2. Traffic is your go-to excuse for tardiness.
Manileños put up with the notoriously heavy traffic every day — except on holidays and when Manny Pacquiao has a boxing match, which ensures that the whole city will be off the roads.
Traffic is such a huge part of your life that you learn to work it into your schedule. When payday and a monsoon fall on a Friday, you leave the office an hour or two early, work overtime ‘til 9pm, or kill time at the nearest mall (see below) before heading home. You’re still physically and emotionally scarred from that time you held your pee on the EDSA freeway for four straight hours.
Then when you’re vacationing in a first-world country, you shake your head in disbelief when locals complain about their version of heavy traffic — which is nothing compared to Manila’s regular Carmageddon.
3. The mall is your second home.
SM is your second home. You frequent the mall for your dates, weekly grocery, afternoon strolls, family day, or to simply get free air-conditioning while waiting for the power to return after a blackout.
You cross the street like a game of Patintero.
It’s like grown up patintero from our childhoods – a mix of hopscotch and tag. If you didn’t grow up playing that, then you could say it’s like Frogger. Whatever way you describe it, it feels a bit like life and death every time.
4. You have a love-hate relationship with the MMDA.
When you encounter heavy traffic, corrupt policemen, and unresolved road mishaps, you blame the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. At the same time, you’ve downloaded their app and follow them on Twitter for the latest traffic reports and flood guides. You’ve retweeted some of the MMDA’s humorous posts, but you don’t hesitate to let them know about your grievances.
Your commute is affected whenever they implement experimental rules that try (and fail) to curb traffic. Thanks to their number-coding scheme (better known as color-coding), your car is prohibited from the main roads one day a week. You’ve been pulled over by the cops at least once in your life, thanks to ever-changing road regulations. You look forward to their announcement of lifted rules during holidays and typhoons. At the same time, you know there would be only chaos if the MMDA didn’t exist.
5. You have emergency rain gear everywhere.
In your car, under your office desk, in your motorcycle compartment, and by the front door of your house, and not just during Typhoon Season. You know that heavy rain can happen any time, even in the peak of summer. You have a stash of umbrellas, raincoats, flood boots, and jackets within reach just in case you need to brace another thunderstorm tonight.
6. You know exactly where to go for the cheapest finds.
For designer knock-offs and cellphone repair, it’s Greenhills. For Christmas supplies and just about anything under the sun, it’s Divisoria. For Chinatown goods and market finds, it’s Quiapo. You even have a go-to pirated DVD supplier.
7. You’re tired of security guards “poking” your bag.
Thanks to bomb threats and mall crimes that happen periodically, it’s become standard procedure for security guards to check customers’ bags for explosives and weapons before they allow them to enter any establishment.
But a true Manileño knows that when the line at the mall becomes as congested as EDSA traffic, Mr. Security Guard will simply poke your bag to make it look like he’s doing his job. Worse, you feel discriminated when the lady holding an expensive-looking leather bag was allowed to breeze through, while you have to go through a five-minute inspection of your ratty backpack.
8. Nightlife happens every night.
Why wait for Friday or the weekend to party? There’s always a bustling bar and club from Timog to Malate. Parties in Manila peak at midnight and can go up to the wee hours of the morning. As for spots in Taguig that have a 3am curfew, you simply hop to another bar in the next town.
SO WHAT if it’s a Tuesday night? You can still drag yourself to work or school the next day.
9. You are resilient.
Despite political issues and regular calamities that strike the country, Manileños will always be a resilient, happy bunch. Your friends will upload Facebook photos of chest-deep floods along EDSA during the latest typhoon, but as soon as the rain and floods subside, Manila residents will clean up and be back to work in no time, and many will even find time to help out their less fortunate kababayans (countrymen) whose homes were ravaged.
Whenever there’s a travel advisory put on the Philippines or media reports state Manila is a dangerous place to live, you simply laugh it off because you know better. You tell tourists that all they need is to be street smart to deal with Manila life, and you’ll be more than happy to give them advice — after which you’ll dare them to try their first balut.