If you grew up anywhere in Metro Manila, chances are you had the idea of how the Northern Metro area was very different from the South – and we’re not just talking about geography. Somehow, there was a basic difference in how people were between the North and South of Metro Manila.
The Line, it is drawn
Now the definition of who was from the North, and who was from the South, seems rather hazy at best. For one, all the cities northward and clustered around Quezon City were classifiable, of course, as the Northern side. However, when it comes to the Southern, it was all about Makati, Parañaque, Alabang, and, for some people, even Cainta and Cavite!
So where did that leave places like Pasig and Manila itself? Strangely enough, not many people think about that: it’s as if those places serve as some sort of neutral ground, or undefined area for the concepts of Northern and Southern traits.
The ”Civil” North
Most of the people in the Northern part of the city consider themselves as somewhat laid back, more creative, and yet not as “extreme” as the people in the South. It’s an interesting mix of identification as both creative and yet at the same time conservative.
Music and Menus
For one thing, the Northern side of Metro Manila is well-known for being a center for music and culinary arts. Many legendary music venues can be found northward, from Club Dredd to Freedom Bar, from 70’s Bistro to the old Kafe in Katipunan. These were the places where many Filipino artists got their mainstay gigs – and in the case of 70’s Bistro, where many of them keep on playing regularly.
In terms of food, all you would have to do would be to compare price and quality. As a person who used to live in Quezon City and now lives in Makati, I can honestly say that Quezon City had more variety when it came to food. You could get interesting stuff anywhere, from the fishballs in UP, to the various restos in Morato. In short, one thing that Northerners could say, it was that they aren’t spoiled for choice.
But therein also lies the weakness of the North: while it had many choices, it didn’t really have a central theme – unless your central theme is that you offer quite a lot. It was like an appetizer dish, where you could have a taste of everything.
Much like how Northerners view Fairview as “Farview” due to the distance, the Northern concept of “south” is based on a centric idea (even though, if we think about it, Manila should be the center). Makati, and the southern cities and suburbs were a distinct subculture in that while it didn’t have the variety of experience as the North did (or, let’s be honest, Quezon City in majority), What it did have was pin point accuracy if you knew what you wanted, and were willing to look for it.
Refined and In-your-face
When I first moved to Makati, my very first gripe was that I would have to pay for more expensive food. What I found out was a two-fold truth: First, that food choices in Makati was rather limited, but that the quality of the food was very much worth the addition to the price tag.
When it came to music, there was also a slight shift. Whereas music places in the North tended to be hangouts where bands would go and create miniature scenes, in the South, there was the added point that you had to be very much worth the entrance fee. Even popular places like Saguijo and the Collective (B-Side) were a part of this culture.
So, was this idea of a premium for presentation and actual quality a good thing? I would say that as an older person, I don’t mind wanting to make sure that I get my money’s worth. However, I do admit that for the younger crowd, this sort of value proposition wouldn’t mean the same thing.
Skewing here and there
Here are some points to consider when comparing the North and the South Metro areas:
1) The Northern part of Metro Manila was (and still is) the traditional suburbia. If you feel that QC and the neighboring cities feel somewhat laid-back, it’s because many of the areas in these cities are suburban sectors. It’s no surprise, when you think about it, that entertainment and food choices are quite varied.
2) The Southern part of Metro Manila is, as expected, more urban in mannerisms and culture. Don’t believe the Northern bias that Southerners are rough around the edges – Southerners may be less laid back, but that’s because they hustle more, they’re really living in the city, particularly those who work in the Makati CBD and Manila business areas.
3) Entertainment and art are relative values. While the Northern Metro may have more choices for art and food, do remember that when it comes to old-world charm, you still have Manila (not necessarily Southern by the cultural compass, but Southern enough by the real one).
The truth about North versus South
When you really come down to it, the North versus South rule is really a lot about cultural and historical biases, based on the old suburban vs. urban argument. From a realistic perspective, however, one shouldn’t be surprised that the North offers more variety – after all, rent and other costs for businesses will usually be much cheaper if you’re looking at it from the point of view of economics. With all the businesses and large companies making their home in Makati and other Southern Metro areas, only establishments and businesses with serious capital and quality for the price point will be able to survive.
You should also be aware that the farther South you go, then you really will end up being even more suburban and provincial than the North – after all, that’s going towards the outskirts of the city already!
Where would you live?
If you’re the sort who prefers a more relaxed, almost provincial lifestyle, then it may be a good idea to stay in the North, given that even if you are already in the city, the attitude of the area still feels like you aren’t in the middle of a city (Cubao and other major commercial and transport points being the exception, of course). However, if you like your nightlife, and you prefer a smaller, easier-to-manage place that is near a job in Makati, Manila, or even the Makati-leaning side of Alabang and other farther places, then it’s best to stay in the South.
And remember: It’s just one metropolis – North and South notwithstanding.
Photos by Richard Ramos