Of Flats, Filipinos & Friends

Date posted on June 1, 2008
It’s been a month since I moved to London, and thankfully, things are just fine. As with any uprooting, foremost on my agenda was to find a dwelling place. I was fortunate to have a place I could call my own waiting for me when I arrived in London. Thanks to Nep, my close friend and orgmate from college, I didn’t have to bunk in with friends or friends of friends and spend my first few days going around town looking for a place to rent. Two days before my scheduled arrival, Nep secured for me this small flat that came with a bed, a telly (TV if I were writing this back in Manila), a closet, a desk, a bedside table, and a personal sink. Despite the cramped size, I loved my new flat, and for a fair number of reasons.

For starters, the rent is cheap. See, the whole city of London is divided into six different zones. The higher the zone is in ordinal number, the more expensive the real estate and rental prices. Imagine the whole Metro Manila being one city, and Makati being Zone 1. Mandaluyong & QC would then be Zone 2. Manila & San Juan Zone 3, Taguig & Pasay Zone 4, etc… They even distinguish travel from one Zone to the other, such that travel within Zone 1 is more expensive than travel within and between the other Zones. My house, which is number 86 in Bravington Road, is in Zone 2. It’s right smack at the point where Shirland Road meets Bravington Road to form a ‘T’. Even if that puts me in a considerably posh location, I only pay £85 for rent. (By the way, that’s £85 a week!). That’s expensive in Manila standards, yes, but here in London, that’s almost a steal.

Since I live in Zone 2, my house is not that far away from my school. From my house, there is a bus stop about four blocks away from which I can take the number 6. It would take me all the way to Strand St at Westminster, and from where I get off, it’s just a 10-minute walk to my school. LFS is located in the corner of Shelton and Langley in Covent Garden, right at the heart of Zone 1. The forty-five minute bus ride would make it seem far, but it’s really the traffic and number of bus stops that makes it so. And considering that it’s just one bus ride, I’d say that’s still pretty convenient.

Another great thing about my house’s location is that it’s also just one bus ride away from Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington – which I like comparing to Timog and Morato in QC. When I’m in the mood for fast food, a movie, or just lazing around, I walk three blocks from my house and take the number 28 bus to go to either place.

Just like New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and other highly urbanized cities, most Londoners commute around town using the train system. Here, they call it the Tube (MRT at LRT sa aten). At times when I’m running late for class, I swap number 6 for 28 and alight at Notting Hill so I can take the tube. It’s a more complicated way of getting to school, but it’s faster since there are frequent trips and the Covent Garden tube station is just one street corner away from LFS.

I already said that my room is small, and I’m not being modest. It’s probably less than 10 square meters. Like I also said, the bed’s provided already (dapat lang!). There’s also a small desk by the foot of the bed, but because the space is so cramped, I can’t really put the chair there and use the damn table as intended. I use it for charging my laptop and keeping all the other school stuff, since there are shelves above it rin naman. I also used that small spot for my shoes.

There’s a small window by the bed, right above the bedside table, which has a decent enough view of the outside. Good thing there’s a tree outside so there’s some foliage and color adding to the view. I think my neighbor’s a pre-school or children’s center of sorts, but I haven’t seen any kids since I arrived. There’s also a small sink inside, so I can do minor dish washing and hygiene rituals without having to go out of my room.

Nevertheless, I consider myself lucky to afford a room all to myself. I am able to enjoy enough privacy, even if I have to go out of my room to use the communal kitchen (with its communal fridge and freezer) and share the shower and toilet with some of the other tenants. But I don’t mind that – especially since the shower and toilet is just outside my door. So it’s like I own it, nakikigamit lang yung iba, hehe. The only thing I can really complain about is not having enough closet space for my clothes and shoes.

The best part about the house is that some Filipinos are renting the other rooms. In fact, the house’s caretaker/landlady, Tita Josie, is also Pinoy. I didn’t think this would matter in choosing where I would live, but now I can’t imagine living in a place where I didn’t have any Kabayan. It’s refreshing and uplifting to run into someone and greet them with words that roll of my tongue more organically. Quite a number of times, I’ve even benefited received free meals from them, even though they know nothing about me other than I’m also Pinoy. Just this afternoon nga, Tita Josie took me to this birthday party she was invited to. Nakakatouch, though essentially nag-gate crash ako. I enjoyed it immensely even if I was the only non-Ilocano there (which meant I understood nothing of their conversations).

Actually, maraming Pinoy sa London. Sobrang dami, but I still haven’t found me friends like the ones I have back home.