My apology to Manila

The author atop the Chocolate Hills of Bohol

By A. Mabini

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a horrible experience I had when I was Mugged in Manila. I wrote it to express my frustration with Manila’s tendency to be cruel to its people. Unintentional words of anger became counterproductive to my hopes that my peers abroad will consider taking their chances here and reverse the brain drain.

So here’s my apology to Manila, and I hope this one will give you justice.

On her way back to New York, my mother stopped by Manila from Davao City to take care of some business and to also spend time with her ‘bunso’ (youngest child). I told her about the incident where a group of pickpockets staged a very impressive play that rewarded them with my iPhone.

My beautiful mother has never been a fan of my decision to disregard the limitless possibilities in New York for the uncertainty in Manila. Needless to say, this incident became a rallying point for her second attempt to convince me to pack my bags and head back to New York. I sat quietly on the taxi ride to my condo as she was practically scolding me. For a moment I was reminded of the time I didn’t listen to her when I was about 8 years old which resulted in a couple of broken glasses and plates. As I sat there quietly, one of my mother’s questions echoed in the core of my soul. Why leave New York and her opportunities for Manila and her inconsistencies?

Then I thought about the sunrise I spent on top of the Chocolate Hill, the sunset in Boracay, the gloomy morning in Caramoan, the fistfight I had with an arrogant Korean in Cebu and the random moments I had reunited with my first love, Davao City. This is where I belong. This is where Pilipinos belong. Any Pilipino who says otherwise is fooling himself.

I remember sitting in a 10-hour bus ride from Davao City to Cagayan de Oro, and experienced one of the most peaceful moments of my life after I decided to take advantage of a misfortune. The bus broke down somewhere between Valencia and Malaybalay and immediately soon after it was pronounced dead by the conductor but all was right because right across the bus was a field that I have so often dreamed of living in the mean streets of the Bronx. On this field was a calm shadow of a lone tree, and I was drawn to it. My soul had a conversation with God as I sat there peacefully caressed by the softness of a Bukidnon summer breeze.

Strangely enough, as I sat under that tree and watched malnourished cows linger under an open bright sky, I thought of the moments when I sat on random benches in the New York subway just to watch people hurry off to their lives. I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

So as my mother painstakingly fought what I think she knew was a losing battle, I smiled, touched her hand and told her I’m going to be just fine. I have come to believe that Manila is just teaching me the difficult possibilities of life. I would like to think that the life lessons that Manila has taught me so far have made me a better person. In my interactions with the different types of people here in the Philippines, I have failed to highlight the kindness that strangers have shown me over the last couple of months. These kind-hearted individuals are the hope of these islands. Typical though, the good people are often overlooked here while the assholes are often highlighted by the media or idiots like myself who forget the goodness of Pilipinos.

This is home for me. Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga told me last year that I was meant to be a Pilipino. I believe him and this is why I’m here. I am sure that I will find myself in a pickle again perhaps more than once but I am at peace that no matter the difficulty I am still where God intended Pilipinos to be.

Live Free.

A. Mabini was born in Davao City and raised in the Bronx. He’s back in the Philippines to “live free.” For more of his writing, visit his blog Burning Dog or email him at


  1. A most moving piece. Am happy to come across compatriots like you who refuse to see just the ugly side of home and join the whiners and put down Manila. I love Manhattan but as Dorothy would say, and a cliche it may be, “Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.”

  2. A. Mabini wrote:

    Hey Mario. Thanks for your kind words and I definitely agree. There is certainly no place like home despite my intimate relationship with New York.


  3. Carissa V wrote:

    Hi A.M. To let you know, unfortunate incidents like that can happen anywhere – Manila, NY, Connecticut, anywhere. So do the fortunate accidents. But I like what you’re saying. I too, have gone back to Manila. And it is more relaxing there. (Currently in NY for vacation.) A little bit of both places, I think, is good for the eyes, the heart and the soul. – Carissa V.

  4. A. Mabini wrote:

    Hey Carissa. : )

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