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Why a midlifer like me decided to move to Baguio to fulfill a childhood dream

By Gabe Mercado Published Jan 28, 2022 12:06 pm

"So, what are your KPIs like?"  she asked.

"Like for your life?"

It was the second date. And it was going well before I was hit by the question. She, a lovely high-flying corporate multinational company type of girl with the world at her well-pedicured feet. Me, a multi-hyphen-slash performance artist who could act/sing/teach/host/write/anything-really-to-make-ends-meet-for-me-and-my-son.

KPIs. Key Performance Indicators. Quantifiable measures to help you keep track of how you're doing in the pursuit of strategic goals. You can measure things like customer acquisition cost, revenue per customer, debt to equity ratio, net promoter score. There's a metric for practically everything in a corporate person's life. But what was mine for my life?

I decided to move to Baguio over five years ago, fulfilling a childhood dream.

I was so into television work at that time. And the metrics were fickle and movable. Get a regular television sitcom. Check. Appear in movies with big name stars. Check. Get a talk show. Check. Get a public affairs show. Check. Get a cable show. Check. Get a show on a different network. Check. Appear on the Christmas network ID spot. Check. And somehow it was never enough.

Television isn't quite as structured or predictable as a corporate ladder where you can keep going higher and higher as long as you hit your metrics right. It's really more like a merry-go-round—sometimes you're up and then you're down and you feel like you're getting somewhere riding your pretty pony only to find yourself back where it all started after all the music and the colors have stopped. I couldn't really articulate my KPIs back then. Now I might have the beginnings of an answer as I look at my pandemic life.

What are my life KPIs like nowadays?

I decided to move to Baguio over five years ago, fulfilling a childhood dream. It was only in the last two years though that I went all in, completely saying goodbye to Manila-bound work opportunities and lifestyle. It was coincidental to the pandemic and many things moving online.  The childhood dream was to walk to Burnham park everyday picking up sticks along the way and to spend the morning biking in circles in the sanctuary of little bicycles and tricycles around the lake. 

The author's folding bike

I putter around on a folding bike in larger circles around the city center now. I only use a car when I need to do the laundry or the groceries.  No more television and movie and music work for me. There are no more events to host.  Corporate workshops are at a barest minimum and only online.  Online improv theater continues to give me great joy through spontaneity and connections. So, time and enough balance and strength to regularly get on a bike must be a KPI now.

I measure quality of life in terms of cost of living and time spent with my son and proximity to good hospitals. Not quite the childhood dream it once was but still pretty good metrics for a mid-lifer. Like a friend said, Baguio has added years to my life and life to my years.



I pay more attention to my health now. I've got Baguio-based doctors. I was vaccinated here. I'm registered to vote here. I am on a first-name basis with the lady in the post office and the dispatcher of cargo items in Victory Liner. Baguio cathedral bells and the Angelus loudly mark my waking and rest hours. Crows feed on scraps I leave out for them on the balcony.

The author with his folding bike

I get everything I need to get done just within the city.  There's a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency mall that you can go to that's reasonably complete (with an Ace Hardware and a Uniqlo!). The rare few things I need to get done that aren't possible in Baguio, I get done in Dagupan (mostly automobile things), that's the nearest urban center to us.  A quick getaway means driving down to La Union. There are parts of Baguio you can go to and get a clear view of the West Philippine Sea at sunset while chatting with a Jesuit.  Eating inihaw na liempo for breakfast is normal here and quinoa, chia and kale aren't exactly popular. 

Sinanglaw and Inihaw na Liempo for Breakfast at Original Chef

Sinanglaw and Inihaw na Liempo for Breakfast at Original Chef

Sinanglaw and Inihaw na Liempo for Breakfast at Original Chef

Sinanglaw and Inihaw na Liempo for Breakfast at Original Chef

CLOSE

Another KPI is the net filial disturbability index which measures the tolerance I have for my son interrupting whatever I have going on at whatever time to talk about anything at all he needs to get off his chest. Do I have space, the time, the patience to talk and does he feel I provide the environment for him to approach me about any concern he might have? The teleserye writer in my mind imagines the scenario of him breaking down as he admits to hacking the central bank or setting a home for the aged on fire. What it actually looks like—being shaken awake at 3 am this morning and being asked where the cap of the olive oil bottle might be. Sleeping and resting time isn't such a rare commodity anymore in a city that doesn't snarl you up in too much traffic.

I run a center for creative kids curious about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). I write for this local newspaper. I measure quality of life in terms of cost of living and time spent with my son and proximity to good hospitals. Not quite the childhood dream it once was but still pretty good metrics for a mid-lifer. Like a friend said, Baguio has added years to my life and life to my years.

Do what your heart aches for.

As we get older and see the pandemic taking more and more beloved names and faces, going back to the life before all this might just be an illusion.



Make new paths. Kick the tires again on your old dreams. It won't take you down the same imagined roads anymore.

But the clock is ticking and it's time to bet on yourself.

Oh and find yourself new KPIs while you're at it.

The author's living room