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When I ask the millennials at the office if they know their way around Metro Manila… very few of them have made an effort to explore the metro.



As I was growing up, I’ve always wondered where certain streets ended. If I went down this way, where would I find myself at the end of a road?

As a child, I’ve always wondered where our street went. Our house is located at a corner, so there are two streets bordering us. Of course, if you were four or five, you never went out on your own. I think I only got to go out by myself when I was eight or nine.

I knew the street beside our house would take me to the nursery school at our parish church about 50 meters from our house. We entered through the back, rarely from the front, because that would mean walking around the block and a longer walk for me and my grandfather.

The plot of land behind the church was then still empty; when a house was constructed in its place, that was the time we made the effort to walk around the block, roughly an extra 100 meters or so, just to get to school. That was the farthest I’ve been at that point in my life.

There are a couple more meters till you reached that street’s end. I had no reason to wander that far, until later when I was already in college. On days when I didn’t feel like walking the 300 meters from the bus stop to our place, I would take a jeepney, and that was where I got off.

Later, when I could already commute on my own, I managed to memorize the lay of three streets that are on the way to school: A. Mabini Street, Taft Avenue and Roxas Boulevard.

My knowledge of these streets ended where I got off at Plaza Lawton. What lay beyond Plaza Lawton I would eventually discover years later when I had the chance to gallivant with friends. I would discover where the Divisoria jeepney ended because I went a couple of times to a friend’s house in Gagalangin, Tondo. From Quiapo, the end of Quezon Boulevard, I would later learn from those few bus rides to the province, took me to North Cemetery and A. Bonifacio Avenue and onwards to Balintawak.

The end of Rizal Avenue, as I would later discover, was at Monumento in Caloocan City. But I discovered this fact another way.

In college, I just had this nagging curiosity where EDSA ended. The farthest I had been then was Quezon Avenue, where I sometimes got off to get a jeepney ride to UP Diliman. But what lay at the of this long highway escaped me.

I had many options to get home from Diliman. I either took the bus that went through campus and, depending on the ride, found myself on Ayala Avenue or Quiapo, the jeepney at Philcoa which also took me to Quiapo, or the jeepney at Katipunan that took me to Cubao.

One day when I didn’t feel like going home yet, I took the bus at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue to Monumento.

I asked the bus conductor where they would stop. When she said “Monumento,” I paid the fare for that destination.

It was the first time I ventured farther than SM North, which opened in 1985. I just sat by the window, kept quiet and tried to be inconspicuous. I was wary of snatchers and pickpockets; in the few times I’ve been taking the bus then, I’ve seen so many people fall prey to petty criminals.

It was my first time to see Muñoz and wondered where Congressional Avenue would take me — that was another destination waiting to be discovered. Balintawak was up next, and it was a familiar sight for many northbound passengers.

That stretch from Balintawak to Monumento I would find out was a wasteland of unfamiliar places. This was virgin territory for me. Buildings, warehouses, alleys — they were all a blur until I reached Monumento.

The bus let off its passengers just a bit after MCU Hospital. At that moment, I had a mind to just cross EDSA and take the bus to Baclaran, which would mean a two-hour ride.

But I felt like I was on an expedition. I had to find out what was in Monumento, apart from the monument of Andres Bonifacio.

And then the a-ha moment. I saw the tail-end of LRT-1 sticking out right in front of Bonifacio’s face.

I was able to heave a sigh of relief because I realized then I didn’t get lost at all. That afternoon, I went in and out of the handful of department stores and a mall in Caloocan City, secure in the thought that Pasay was just an LRT ride away.

This might make tedious reading for some, even a senseless geography lesson. But now when I ask the millennials at the office if they know their way around Metro Manila, apart from the airport and the vicinity of Buendia Avenue, very few of them have made an effort to explore the metro. They all depend on Waze or Grab to get to wherever they are going.

It just makes me wonder: Where did the spirit of exploration and discovery go?