Before I moved back to Bacolod, my hometown, I stayed in BGC. I just lived a few blocks away from our office building so I simply walked to and from work. On most days, I was just within the Taguig and Makati area. Looking back, I realized that everything about my life was moving at a pace I could barely keep up with. I was always preoccupied—always had someone to meet up with, somewhere to be, something to do, and something to worry about. At the same time, I was also just mindlessly navigating young adulthood and going with the flow.
On weekdays, I would get up an hour or 30 minutes before work, get ready, and head straight to the office without even having a proper breakfast. Since I work flexitime, I was usually one of the early birds so I could also leave work early and do other things. I almost always had plans after work—may it be running errands, meeting up with friends, or hanging out with my workmates. Even then, I still tried to sneak in a workout at least thrice a week. I'm a very active person, especially growing up, I love dancing and always having a physical activity. I tried all sorts of fitness programs that would fit my lifestyle like spinning classes, yoga, boxing, and eventually getting a personal trainer at a local gym. My Friday nights were always booked and I would always be where the party or everyone else my age was. I enjoyed hanging out or bumping into college friends, dancing, and drinking. On weekends, I would try to do something outside the Taguig and Makati area and hang out with other friends. Sometimes, we would also sneak in a beach trip or do something out of town just to escape.
My cost of living was outrageously high, but I also couldn't seem to let go of the pleasures and conveniences that kept me sane.
When it comes to food, I always just bought from the many restaurants and food parks in BGC because I felt like I barely had time to cook or prepare my meals. It was unhealthy and expensive. When it came to transportation, I was always just taking a Grab to and from wherever I wanted to go. I absolutely despised the Manila traffic. Safe to say, my cost of living was outrageously high, but I also couldn't seem to let go of the pleasures and conveniences that kept me sane.
My main reason for moving back was the first lockdown announcement in March 2020. I was trying to figure out a plan with my best friend, who also lived in Manila at that time but is from Cebu, and decided to fly back to our provinces for a month until the situation got better. We thought that being with our families would be most ideal then. Obviously, what we thought was just going to be a month eventually turned into almost two years. So much has happened since then. I honestly have a love-hate relationship with my hometown, but I couldn't imagine being anywhere else as I transition and navigate through life in the time of COVID-19.
It was a massive and gruelling adjustment for me at first, as it probably was with everyone else coming back home after years of living away from their families. I struggled to stick to a routine and find my groove back. Apart from that, I had to enter a new dynamic with my family, maintain my relationships with the people I left in Manila, and deal with a lot of personal issues after finally getting a chance to pause and take a step back. There were so many changes happening in my life that led me to recalibrate my lifestyle and make the most out of what was right in front of me—the sweet life in Bacolod and the family and friends I've long been separated from.
Right now, I'm working really hard to improve myself and to become healthier in all aspects. I also recently got a puppy and she has easily helped me stick to a routine. I now wake up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning to walk her for at least 30 minutes, journal and do my daily devotionals, have breakfast, and get straight to work or drive out to play early morning tennis. The sport undoubtedly became my saving grace ever since coming home, and I have been enjoying it way too much. It's a wonderful stress reliever and learning a new skill really helped me cope. I still spend most of my day working, but I try my best to have little moments of self-care in between work hours like pausing to eat and taking quick brain breaks—simple things that I personally struggled with in my fast-paced Manila lifestyle.
I honestly have a love-hate relationship with my hometown, but I couldn't imagine being anywhere else as I transition and navigate through life in the time of COVID-19.
These days, work ends at around 5:00 p.m. and I usually go for a run, bike around my subdivision, or walk my dog by that time. After work and on weekends, I read a lot of books, work on art/design projects, or indulge in K-dramas and BTS content—interests that also just surfaced in the pandemic and that I share with my closest friends. I've also been going to therapy every week as one of the ways to really take care of myself and improve my well-being. Sometimes, I also meet up with my close friends in small groups to have dinner or go on nature trips near the city. Since I now have easy access to beaches, mountains, and rivers, I also make the most out of that and try to squeeze something in for as long as it's safe.
Overall, I've been so much healthier and my mind has dramatically become more at peace. All the changes I was forced to deal with motivated me to do the work and really become a better version of myself. I may have lost a few parts of my life in Manila, but I traded those for a lot of other things that have led me to genuine happiness. It's been an incredible joy to be back in Bacolod and to reconnect with my roots because it also feels like I'm finally coming home to myself.
The biggest difference from my life in Manila versus the life I currently have in Bacolod is the pace. Everything was moving way too fast back then and it felt like I was always chasing after something. Being in the province encouraged me to slow down and bask in the beauty of life. Come to think of it, it's actually the mental recalibration that influenced the biggest change in my life after moving back. I'm so much more mindful now and have become a lot more in touch with myself. Gone are the days of mindlessly going with the flow for they've now been replaced by intentional day-to-day living.
Being in the province encouraged me to slow down and bask in the beauty of life.
On the physical side, I still try to exercise as much as I did back in Manila, but I have so much more time for it now. I no longer have to worry about missing my workouts to attend social events. I have replaced group classes and personal training in Manila to tennis and other individual workouts. I've also been eating a lot healthier here in the province. Bacolod is known for extremely delicious food so I've also been making the most out of that.
My social life really thrived back in Manila, but the pandemic unfortunately forced me to settle with Zoom catch-ups and Telegram conversations. I obviously can't see my friends anymore but I have been given a chance to reassess my connections and nurture the ones that truly matter. This also encouraged me to foster a stronger bond with my parents and to spend more time with them.
The most challenging part about moving back home is, funnily, figuring out what to do. This may actually be the case for everyone else in the pandemic regardless of city, but I found that the activities I considered fun in Manila can no longer be done here. It usually involved a specific place or setting that one can only find in the big city, so I initially struggled to find something similar here. This, however, encouraged me to be more creative, to appreciate the simple life, and to get in touch with nature—things I eventually found so much more personal and delightful. Sometimes, it's also difficult to no longer have easy access to stores, restaurants, and goods you can only get in Manila, but replacing that with authentic food, the beauty of nature, and the warmth of family and old friends is so worth it.
For those who are considering moving to a province that is completely new to them, it's always best to properly weigh the pros and cons and to talk to as many locals as you can about their lifestyles. Maybe go on a trip first and see if it's for you because every province has its own charm and feel, and it's best to know if the place matches your personality or not.
For those who haven't been to the province for quite some time and want to move back, know that things will not be the same from when you were last home. Be ready to transition back, to reintroduce the new person you've become after being away, and to enter new dynamics with the people you've left behind. You might have a bit of an identity crisis, but I hope you'll take that as an opportunity to get to know your truest and most authentic self.
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