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By : Anna Cayco

7 min read

For most of my life, I was surrounded by perpetual greenery. The all-girls Catholic school I went to for 12 years prided itself in its evergreen walkways, perfumed by white temple flowers. These walkways, along with the open fields, served as playgrounds and third spaces for my life-long friends and me.

Most if not all my friends from home started out as my classmates. I was more outgoing as a child and I would ask the person sitting next to me if they wanted to be friends right away. Our circles grew, either drawing in the people seated around us or connecting with friends of friends.

From first grade to senior year, we sat under the flowering trees and listened to the same music, shared packed lunches, secretly talked about our crushes, and fantasized about our futures. We learned how to be creative together, writing prose and poetry and painting portraits and landscapes. Our first attempts at photography had each other posing silly on the grassy fields and looking aloof in the mini-forest. Many of us even went to the same university next door, so our friend groups endured.

It’s common to have life-long friends in Manila. My dad’s high school best friend still comes to our house for brunch and my mom has regular dinners with her high school girlfriends. With the number of jobs and opportunities in the capital, people from Manila or Manileños rarely move out of the city, unless they move abroad.

So, when I moved to Boston, I faced a problem some Manileños don’t often experience — how to make friends from scratch. While I appreciated the ability to call my friends from home or to watch movies together, the 12-hour time difference wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t regularly wake up at 8 AM to watch a television show and head straight to class or work afterward.

I tapped into my younger, more outgoing self and went on apps to look for friends. Often I encountered people of different backgrounds who were committed to pursuing their degrees, careers, or crafts in Boston. Although I have gained inspiration from them to reignite my passion for writing, it has been difficult to establish or integrate into a community when everyone is driven by different things.

Many of my friends during grad school have finished their program and moved elsewhere. So far, to make more friends, I’ve become more strategic about finding people I could make lasting friendships with, considering their availability, taste in food, and weekend activities. It’s a strange balance that I still have not mastered quite yet.

Outside my apartment window, the tree branches are bare and dry. Loneliness during the winter has made me question if the degree, the job, and the opportunities abroad are worth leaving the people who keep me grounded. Sporadic phone calls from home have helped me to get by.

In a few months, tree branches will be covered in green once again, some even with flowers. Still, two years in, I know there are still more spaces to explore in Boston - and I hope friends and a community will follow.

Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #154 February 202


Check out all the art and columns of February's Boston Compass at



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