When I moved out of our HR officer’s flat, I ended up renting at Kalayaan area it was basically the outskirts of Bonifacio Global City.
Just a couple of meters away from the posh bubble lies a cluster of houses clumped together. This is where the middle class and slum people mingle by day and stay at night.
My office located 300 meters away from this old rental house. I rented a bedspace located at the second floor. The room barely 15 square meters room contained three wooden bunk beds, an old wall fan on one top corner with a door leading to the balcony and stairs. The balcony used primarily to hang laundry for all renters.
Everyone shared common areas like the shower and toilet room and no kitchen.
Inside this little room stayed three other girls. They, like I, were also starting out their careers in Manila.
I considered us as predominantly provincial and naive girls. We also shared the similar hunger for success, the undeniable need to change the course of our lives.
A jovial 5’3 feet tall, long haired tanned Bulakenya with some pimples on her face occupied left end of the room. Jennifer, we simply called her “Jen”, a working student who worked for GIZ in the morning as an office assistant and went to study as a scholar at night in the evening high school of De La Salle.
Meanwhile across me, a short haired talkative Bicolana accountant student from Sorsogon who just started out as a bookkeeper in Ford. She moved to Manila to afford her degree and licensure examination to become a certified public accountant. She stayed shared the bunk bed together with her quiet, petite and short-haired cousin, Elvie, who also worked for a different company.
I, joined the room last. Although I already know how to live on my own since university, I never rented such small space with a group of strangers. During sunny days, the humidity in the room turned out to be uncomfortable because our fully enclosed room did not have any window.
Smaller than 15 square meters, the size of space that I occupied and stayed in from end of work til 8 in the morning. That time, comfort mattered little. I spent most of my time working hard to get a raise to move to bigger space. I also wanted to learn about living in the country’s capital and prove to my mother that I can succeed. I found ways to not feel the heat during day off, we often frequented Market Market to enjoy the air-conditioning. We just explored around and entertained ourselves because none of us had data or even smartphones.
I still felt claustrophobic despite already staying for almost a year.
Before that, I ended up living with our human resource manager after my talent manager deserted me in the apartment all alone in Quezon City, the day I decided to try my luck in Manila. I literally slept next to our HR manager in her small room that could not even fit a double sized mattress. She was the only person I knew after the only people I know left without telling me. They did not even give me the talent fee for the beauty competition. After finding this out, indeed, as a girl from a smaller city, I worried. I worried not only a little but a lot! I swore to my mother that it would be a great idea to learn business in the craziest city in the Philippines.
After adjusting to the idea of four people in such small room, I started talking more to Jenifer and Ma-Ann.
We did not earn much as newbies, we spent our nights buying a small serving of Hong Kong fried noodles.
I would get the one that comes with two dumplings for P25 and save the two dumplings to pair with a P5 rice the next day.
As a new employee, I got paid a small salary which was enough to pay for rent, food and other living expenses.
I remember those times with them, where we pretended to already be successful in our chosen careers.
In between the daydreaming and exploring, we jogged around Bonifacio Global City, a bubble like no other in the Philippine.
This place felt like Singapore for me every time. I started joining freelance groups that helped me land part-time jobs as an events and fashion model. I tried to do as much side gigs to supplement the little income I had to cover all the expenses. The other girls hustled the same, we washed our laundry and looked for the cheapest meals or best bargains.
Sometimes, we tried to imagine life after the struggle. We went to live for years together until Jen, Ma Ann and I moved out to get a bigger, more comfortable room. Countless moments shared from laughters to disappointments.
One of my fondest memory is when I got free tickets for a fashion show and put Jenifer and Maan in a mini makeover. I thought it would boost their confidence and courage if I let them wear some of my dresses and helped them wear make-up. Such a fun night it turned out to be. We felt like we were the leading ladies from Sex and The City. I figured Carrie Bradshaw was proud of me that night.
After all the bonding time and Ate Elvie left, we decided to rent a different place because we became fed up with the landlady. We all slept on the floor with mattresses that were too thin just like having a thin sheet of cloth over a wooden floor.
After a couple of months of living in one small room together, we parted ways. Ma Ann found a place with a relative, Jenifer continued her studies and me, after being robbed by a guy with a knife near the area, decided to move with other friends from Couchsurfing.
Fast forward to 2018, Ma Ann got married last 2017 to her long time boyfriend and is employed in a good company. I met Jenifer over coffee in Cebu, she is working for GIZ the German organisation who also got her to fly to Germany for some training. I on the other hand, ended back in Cebu running a coworking space.
I still get updates from them over FB, I haven’t seen Ma Ann since we partied ways while Jenifer have gone to Cebu a couple of times and we would play catch up on what’s new with her. It really is different when you live with people for quite sometime, they also become a part of your history and these two girls will always be part of my motivation and a daily reminder that ambition with passion can really get you far. It is always interesting to see people evolving and how persistence is paying off for those with dreams. We were just a bunch of naive girls who were brave enough to go after our dreams and rewrite our story from victims of scarcity to victors of opportunities.