3 Things I Learned in the Streets of Manila

Newcomers in Manila have been told to exercise caution especially when roaming the streets or going to crowded places. In this busy city, people are discouraged to walk alone in the dark, wear expensive jewelry or display valuables such as iPhones, pockets full of money or fancy gadgets in public. I have heard and read tales of how people lost their belongings to robbers, thieves, carnappers, and the like. Some stories may have been exaggerated but what these people were trying to say is for you to be careful so that it will not happen to you.

Manila is not that scary actually. You just have to be careful. People would have told you to be cautious if you were in another unfamiliar place as well. Yet, there will be some things about Manila that you would have to find out for yourself. The following are the three things I have learned in the kalyes and cantos of Manila:

1) You can be called “ate” or “kuya” by someone who physically appears to be older than you.

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When a stranger in Manila talks to you by uttering ate or kuya as the first word, don’t be offended. Oftentimes, it does not mean that you look old. It’s a matter of respect since they don’t know your name. It’s better to be called “ate” or “kuya” instead of “hoy”, right?

2) “Pwedeng lakarin” means the walking distance is about one and a half to about five kilometers (or more!)

One hot December noon, my office mates and I were trying to find the building that housed the studios and sets of some local TV shows. We were already in the street where that building is located but it was nowhere in sight. So, we asked a middle-aged woman who seemed to be a local in that area on where that building is and was kind enough to tell us the directions. Even though she said “Pwedeng lakarin”, we were so exhausted that time that we eventually decided to ride a tricycle we found nearby. Imagine our shock when five to seven minutes later, we were still riding that tricycle. Have we decided to walk, it would have felt like a Death March. Que Horror!

But before you judge, let me put this thing into context first. I come from a province where a distance of more than a kilometer could be reached through a pedicab or a motorcycle. So when I came to Manila, I thought this phrase means one or two blocks away from where I stood. It took numerous situations similar to the one I described earlier before I finally learned my lesson. Now, every time someone says, “Pwedeng Lakarin” in Manila, I’d be like:


3) “Putang Ina” could be just an expression.

I was really taken aback when I first heard a teenager uttering this “expression” repeatedly to her friends.  But according to my friend who has lived in Manila since he was born, I shouldn’t make it a big deal when I hear someone saying this expletive.  “It’s just an expression”. When you repeat something over and over, it loses its meaning. This is what happened to this famous phrase.


Still, I think it’s quite alarming that this has been used by teenagers as “just an expression”. “Putang Ina pare, nanalo kami sa Beer Pong kagabi”, “Ang galing ni *insert name here*, Putang Ina”, “Napanood mo ba ang laro kahapon? Putang Ina.”

Well, I hope these kids know that they shouldn’t be using this expression ALL. THE. TIME.


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