Thursday, 9 January 2014

Life in the 'burbs: Republic of Better Living

We call it, "probinsya", the 'burbs,  as in suburbs, and sometimes, in exasperation, "bundok". As in, "wala, kasi nyan sa bundok namin!" It's not the most happening place to live in, but it is this provincial feel to living in Better Living that has made me love it here.

Our 'burb is largely composed of middle class homes.  And because Better Living is huge, it is broken down in clusters of gated villages with independent homeowners' associations, most of  which are with security guards. The safety factor, while not foolproof, is somewhat higher than, say, Manila. Not to say that there are no crimes in the 'burbs, because there certainly are, but compared to Manila, it's relatively less rowdy.  Our particular townhouse complex is smaller compared to other villages in Better Living,  with only one entrance and one exit, which should deter anyone from thinking up any crazy stunt in the complex.  And unlike in the city, errrr, I mean in bigger municipalities (Taguig, Manila, Makati), neighbors do still know each other.  In our area, neighbors still give each other food gifts during the holidays. There is still also a sense of damayan, a sense of camaraderie among the home owners. One thing I learned about living in the 'Burbs is to be nice to the guards, because they are your best source of news and, ehem, neighborhood gossips haha, and if you're nice to them, they will be very accomodating to your last-minute requests, including radioing a nearby taxi to pick you up.

You see, there are no jeepneys plying the streets of our 'burbs.  Instead, we have tricycles.  The main tricycle terminal is at SM Bicutan. And from there, the tricycles traverse their routes towards the different villages.  In Better Living, if you don't want to ride taxis and tricycles everyday,  a car comes in handy.  I'd like to add that up until a couple few years ago, the traffic in our main avenue, Dona Soledad, was not so heavy and there was no color coding scheme being implemented. But now, traffic during peak hours is horrendous.  What changed? Is there suddenly a big influx of people with cars in our 'burbs?  If you ask me,  I blame the C5 extension opening for the now horrendous traffic in the 'burb, as now, vehicles from Sucat and Las Pinas use Dona Soledad as their shortcut route to the rest of Metro Manila.

Our part of the 'burbs only have a small wet market we call Dampa.  We also have only one mall, SM City Bicutan and it's not even that big.  It's more of a neighborhood mall. Somewhere we can watch movies, shop the basic necessities and do grocery shopping. Nothing flashy at all.  But Alabang is only a ten minute drive away, Bonifacio Global City is close by, and one can be in Makati's Ayala Center complex in twenty minutes on good, traffic-free days. On the flipside, Sta. Rosa and Tagaytay are a mere hour's drive away.  The province of Rizal are minutes' away through the C6 road.   And most importantly, the airport is less than an hour away.  I love the fact that though BL feels provincial and small town-ish, our proximity to the big cities allows us to shop and play in their flashier malls and developments, that and the good fact that going on spur of the moment out-of-town trips to Taytay, Tagaytay or Laguna is easy.

The eateries we have in Better Living are down home, comfort food restaurants.  These are not the flashy types that will make it to a self-professed gourmet's list of top restaurants.  But we do enjoy them. We go to Aling Idang's or Little Quiapo or Eton's for pansit and lutong pinoy food.  If one wants the best barbeque, one  goes to Mang Ambo's Barbeque early, say before 4 PM, or text them to reserve, because they run out of barbeques early on.  There are also small bake shops, most notable among them is Cake Planet whose cakes have earned raves from food critics and newspaper columnists.  We have good Pinoy breakfast places, Goodah, Sinangag Express and Dapog's to satisfy silog or goto cravings at reasonable prices. There is also Sieg's Diner, the more international of the older restaurants in our locality, offering food ranging from tempura, sirloin steak, to samosas and lasagnas.  While food are not gourmet-quality, they are decent and not expensive.  We have a host of tea shops and small coffee shops. There are also small drinking tambayans for the younger crowd.  And not to be too provincial, there is Jollibee, McDonalds, Army Navy, Pizza Hut, Red Ribbon, or Yellow Cab to satisfy fast food cravings.

I recently met up with a close friend  from high school who also lives  in the 'burb for some  after dinner tete a tete.  In our shorts and flipflops, we walked the twenty minute walk to Cake Planet. As we were walking we took notice of the proliferation of new establishments these past few years: an open air drinking spot called Sawsawan, a new spate of  small eateries, a Puregold, a Family Mart. We didn't have any of these five years ago.  As we traversed the subdivision's main thoroughfare, Dona Soledad, our conversation went like this:

Me: Wow may bago nang Japanese Restaurant ah (pointing to Bono Tei)
T: Yeah! Sayang nga, di pa tapos yung Starbucks (referring to a Starbucks branch under construction in BL)  eh para sosyal na ang kapihan!
Me: Oo nga, Kahit medyo  matanda na tayo para sa pagtambay tambay sa Starbucks, improving na ang bulubundukin ng Better Living ha!
T: Oo, bumi-BF republic na ang peg! (BF being  nearby BF Homes Paranaque, where restaurants, cake shops and commercial establishments abound) 

Slowly, BL is changing.  Its peripheries, the roads along SLEX, are now turning into condominium towns, what with all those condominiums sprouting.  And that's not bad at all.  I think of it this way,  a few of my friends have invested in buying condo units in more "happening" places--- Makati and Bonifacio Global City but me, I still want to stay close to the 'burbs.  I like it here. But properties in BL are not exactly inexpensive.  You'd be lucky to find even a  small townhouse unit selling for just 2M here.  So maybe, for those like me, who are contemplating on getting a property still close to home, these condos on the edges of the 'burbs might be a good consideration. Still, Even after all these condos are developed, my hope is for the laidback, relatively peaceful vibe in our republic of Better Living to be maintained.  Because despite the lack of flashy attractions in our locality, we stay put because it is our republic of Better Living's lack of pretensions and toxic day to day hassles that we like.  I like that BL has turned into our version of small town living in the city.

***Better Living is in Paranaque City

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