On a rainy day like this, the view outside my window can be beautiful. There’s a big Balete tree that hides all the unsightly, galvanized iron roofs of our neighbors, the air seems fresher, the plants are more alive and I can make believe that I’m in a nice, quiet community.
Then the sound of vehicles passing by brings me back to reality.
I have lived with my parents since I was born and we’ve been living here in the same house since I was 5 years old. I’m now 38.
When I was in my twenties, I thought I like it here. I thought I like this place, the proximity to relatives, the friends that our family have made among our neighbors. I thought being by the side of the road is good because I can go home late at night and not have to worry about walking alone in a dark alley or a dangerous empty street because the jeepney stops right in front of our house.
I didn’t mind the noise of the busy road then. I got used to it. I didn’t mind that there were occasional brawls and fights, that our next-door neighbor was prone to shouting and swearing at each other. I didn’t mind that some of our neighbors have total disregard for others and have no sense of urbanity.
I was in my twenties and was out of the house most of the time – in school, and after I graduated – at work, or during weekends – at the mall. So I was often only home at night to sleep. I didn’t experience the nuisances of the place where we live to the full extent. Maybe that’s why it was easy for me to ignore them.
When I got married, I still chose to live with my parents but dreamed of having our own place (we are currently paying for a lot in a gated community where we plan to build our house). By that time, I was already working at home and staying home all the time. Slowly, the condition of where we live reared its ugly head.
After my daughter was born, it was the only time when I was sure that I wanted to move out, to leave this place I’ve stayed in for almost 4 decades. I can no longer stand the issues that I was willing to turn a blind eye to before. But unfortunately, with the nature of my work and caring for a toddler, I am not as financially able to take risks and relocate, let alone afford a better place to move into.
Living with my parents, who shoulder most of the household expenses, I am certainly at an advantage. We also have the convenience of a household help who can double as my daughter’s nanny for a few hours in a day, and will allow me to work. In a culture where living with your parents even after you have your own family is tolerated, it makes sense for us to stay here.
But if there’s one thing that I badly want to change in my life, it’s moving out of my parents’ house. Aside from the obvious reason that I need to become a responsible adult and get out of my comfort zone, I also want my daughter to grow up in a safer, more child-friendly environment. Currently, my parents’ house has no yard. The small outdoor space that we have was converted into a car port when they bought a car. It’s been a challenge to find a place where my daughter can play outside. There’s no park nearby – park is a luxury where we live and usually can be found only in exclusive subdivisions.
But apart from the lack of outdoor space, my bigger issue is the kind of life we have here. Living close to known drug users and peddlers where it’s impossible to feel safe; living by the side of the road where the noise is non-stop and you will be jolted awake in the wee hours of the morning by motorcycles whizzing by at top speeds, or someone shouting or fighting; living in an area where you resigned to accept everything you complain about as part of the territory, and that you cannot do anything about them.
I am aware that there are people living in far worse conditions and far more dangerous places than we are. And it goes without saying that I’m grateful that we at least have a decent place to live in. But I also don’t think it’s wrong to aspire for a better quality of life, which includes a nicer community to live in. And the only way I can achieve that is by moving out.
So my goal is not just to move out for the sake of moving out, but to improve our lives. Hopefully the steps I’m taking bring us in that direction.