8:00 AM MNL time.

Take a look outside your window. What do you see? Open it. Take a long, hard drag through your nose. What do you smell? Focus your energies and close your eyes. What do you hear? Yes, that my friends is the Manila today. If you are standing 5 foot 7 inches, you may get a quick glance of the fiery hustle that’s happening. Trains are packed, cars are jammed in the nearly immovable traffic of the city and people are technically sharing everyone’s scent of the people they bumped with along their way to work.

Back when I was in the corporate world, I usually joke around the traffic report. I would mimic them and say, “Due to rush hour, cars have been put to a halt because all of the people in Manila decided to go to work all at the same time! To save everyone’s time later this afternoon, traffic report’s going to be the same thing, except the people going the other way!” But that’s not the case. Traffic reports have an art in describing the same thing we see every day in multitude of ways which is amusing in a sense. Let’s tour on the real Pinas.

Commuting is a hassle. Every time a bus comes along your way, you see different faces of beautiful people pressed onto the glass window trying to squeeze in especially on a Monday that when they get to their stop, a smudge of translucent powder is left on the glass which would be another woman’s make up when they get on the same spot and press their face on the glass. You do not see newspapers held up in front of a man while waiting for a jeepney; instead, they hold on to their mobile phones to catch the news, while a common pick pocket lurks around to catch the most up to date mobile phone, open knapsack, or purse.

School zones have been a lot busier as well. Gone are the times of the semi-conservative types of people, we now see the full techy, full blown, full auto, full K-pop millennials.

Concrete roads have been replaced with dark asphalt that smells funny when the sun hits the road on a scorching afternoon. Is this the real Pinas?

The odd smell of smog serves as the default Filipino smell. Majority of Manila has been modernized from the ancient and corroding buildings (The ones you see that looks like a typical concrete structure) thus most of the sweet smell of dried leaves in the morning has been easily replaced with petrol scent. Given that you commute every day, you can even make an intelligent guess of what the normal Filipino is doing for a living just by smelling them. A guy with strong, musky, cowboy cologne with a hint of cigarette smell gives away that he is either a call center agent or sales man. A woman with a flowery scent, mixed with the loud spoor of the archetypal foundation and pressed powder suggests that she works behind a desk or a manager at a local restaurant. And when you take a whiff and recognize a pungent fruit scent of Durian from a guy behind you, it simply means that he is either having a bad day going to work or he came running late and skipped his morning get-ready routine (including a shower, I guess). We’re almost getting there… The Real Pinas.

Manila is a like a semi-circle that can go sideways but still meet at the one point. We remain the same people despite the drastic change of environment. We might be caught with a whole lot of different she-bangs of the everyday grind but we always find that one way to make ourselves laugh and others smile. (Sometimes at the expense of others, Haha!) We are known to be the most hospitable bunch compared to other races but I honestly think that it’s only because of our funny genetic structure that when a predicament comes our way, we always try to find a funny line to go along with the struggle. “Ganyan talaga buhay, parang life” (That’s life, it’s like life) or something along this line. Even with these life changing events, Filipinos always stay strong in the face of adversity. Manila is nothing without its people and the people are us. We might be a speck or a blip on the radar of the ever-busy Manila but you are not alone. We should stick together (like rice!).

This is the New Manila, your City.

Welcome to The Real Pinas.