In Defense of Leaving: A Photo Essay

Photos by Chio Gonzalez

Here’s something I never thought I’d say with conviction as early as a year ago: I’m leaving Manila.

I was born to a family of four. For most of my life, we’ve been living in the local equivalent of a suburb a quiet and secluded subdivision in the Katipunan area. I always imagined making a name for myself here.

When I was in high school, my family applied for the opportunity to migrate to Vancouver, a west coast city in Canada. Years passed, nothing came to fruition, and we were under the impression that it was a lost cause — until a random day last year, when we received news that our application had been accepted.

In that the timespan between our application and our acceptance, I graduated high school, started working as a freelance photographer, and was over halfway through my Multimedia Arts course in college. I absolutely hated the idea of abandoning everything I had invested in Manila. But my parents convinced me to give it a chance, and I begrudgingly complied.

Living for so long in a society that perpetuates the idea of participating in the grander scheme of things, it was a relief to experience things from a micro perspective.

Since then, I’ve been to Vancouver thrice. And you know what? Somewhere along the way, my reluctance and apprehension about this foreign place transformed into an unquenchable curiosity and deep admiration. Living for so long in a society that perpetuates the idea of participating in the grander scheme of things, it was a relief to experience things from a micro perspective. 

Things felt simpler on the other side — less pressure, less stress, and more emphasis on things that mattered most to me. I don’t know if it’s bad that I felt more at home in the two total months I spent on the other side of the world than the last two decades living in Manila, but I truly did.

I’m doing this for me, my mental health, and my well-being. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love Manila, and it will always be a special place to me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve become so jaded about the Philippines’ current atmosphere. I’ve gotten so tired of tolerating the many negatives that shape Metro Manila: the corruption, the traffic, the high-pressure lifestyle, the unhealthy competition, and the overall toxic culture that rears its ugly head a lot these days. Or maybe it’s me. I’ve never been the most nationalistic person, I’m not wired to look after my country’s interests before my own, and the longer I’m in Manila, the more my mental health deteriorates.

Maybe that’s why it has become so easy for me to leave. And maybe that’s selfish. But maybe that’s okay, because I’ve never been more at peace with a decision. I’m doing this for me, my mental health, and my well-being. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love Manila, and it will always be a special place to me.

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