Over the past couple of months, I’ve read many comments about having a place to live in The Philippines. Some folks see the wisdom in renting an apartment, condo or house as their residence. Others’ wisdom leans toward either buying or building their abode. Baket ko (Asawa ko) [my Wife] Emy and I are among the latter – we built.
In addition to the comments, readers (and family members, friends, etc.) have requested pictures of our house and a little write-up. Guess I have no reason to put it off any longer – I’ve stretched “Filipino Time” for about as long as I can.
Please don’t consider this article as “bragging”; I’m actually a little embarrassed living in a house like this located in an agricultural barangay. Our neighbors enjoy its presence though, and they are proud that it is in our barangay (it’s achieved “landmark status,” being used when giving directions and serving as an unofficial bus and jeepney stop). Also, please remember that, like any other house in The Philippines, it is still a “work in progress” – no house is ever “really finished” here.
Brgy #24 – Nagsanga, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte
To start things off, here’s a little background as to where we built our house. The Municipality of Pasuquin is located north of Laoag City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte. The province is in the extreme northwest of the island of Luzon. It typifies the definition of “provincial” – life is bearable for most of the provincial residents: it’s not hectic, but neither is it easy.
Just north of the town proper on the National Highway is the barangay of Nagsanga (Brgy #24). It is an agricultural barangay with crops of rice, garlic, onions, corn, sugar cane, melons, gourds and tobacco raised throughout the year (each with its own particular season for growing). Farmers raise livestock such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and turkeys here as well. It’s really and truly agricultural.
Construction – The Start of Something Big
In January 2008, we began building. Emy owns the lot on which the “family house” sets and there was room enough for her “dream house.” All we needed to do was remove a ~50-year old mango tree, and clear the land of other vegetation and smaller trees.
The first load of lumber to arrive wasn’t for the house. Workers crafted this lumber into jigs, carrier boxes, sand sifters, low-level scaffolding and other contraptions that they would use to construct the house. The house is a steel bar reinforced concrete block affair, with additional concrete and steel employed to insure durability in bad weather (did I mention that this area is prone to typhoons?).
Some of the first steps taken, after making “construction accessories” involved steel and concrete. Workers bent, tied off and, in some cases, welded the steel rebar in preparation to provide support for concrete columns that hold and support the walls.
Construction continued through November 2008, with our house blessing held on December 8, 2008.
Here are pictures of the work in progress:
The house starts taking a familiar shape:
Add a roof and a fence and it really takes shape:
Add some paint and ready the yards for landscaping:
Today – Our House and Surroundings
Outside of our house being built and blessed, not much has changed in our neighborhood for years. The “family house” is still next door. The view of the National Highway looking north is still the same tree-lined thoroughfare. The view south is still the elementary school on the corner of the National Highway and Bulosan Street. From time to time, the clock has a habit of stopping here in the province and change comes to a complete standstill.
While Emy and our engineer/contractor had 99½% of the input on design, construction and final touches, my ½% was a bit sentimental and, I think, fitting. Emy inherited the property and everything it holds from our late Auntie Ma. Dolores Dancel Laguatan Bagasol – the Auntie, who with her late first husband, adopted Emy at birth.
A very industrious and capable (not to mention fun loving) woman, Auntie Dolores obtained the land and moved her house onto it. That house, after a little remodeling, we refer to as the “family house.” During my time in the Navy, Auntie would come and live with us in different locations around the world. She’d help with cleaning (a very spic & span woman), babysitting, and all the other things a Lola would do. We were heartbroken when she passed away. A few of her last words to us was to take care of the property and not give it up to anyone. Emy and I find ourselves taking on challenges from siblings, etc. but we’ve prevailed in fulfilling Aunties wishes.
That ½% I mentioned is naming our house for her. While back in the States, I had a sign made that we will attach to one of the columns supporting the front pedestrian gate, just under the doorbell. We live in “Villa Dolores.” I think it fitting to attach her name to the house – without her, its existence would not be possible. After all, every “landmark” should have a name!
So Here They Are – The Pictures
I finally took my digital camera and made a sweep of our house. Please excuse the “lived-in” look, and know that we intend to landscape and add several niceties in the back yard later in the year.
Outside – The front of the house from different angles:
Outside – The front lawn, driveway and gates from different angles:
Outside – The east side of the house from front and rear, and the southeast corner:
Outside – The back of the house, the rear fence and the back gate:
Outside – Some vegetation (bananas, calamansi and “Dama de Noche” (Night-blooming Jasmine):
Outside/Inside – The kitchens, both “dirty” (outside) and “formal, American-style”:
Inside – The formal dining room and the sala (living area) from different angles:
Inside – The stairs to bedrooms, the master bedroom, bath and walk-in closet:
That pretty much covers things, both outside and in. I didn’t take any pictures of the other two bedrooms and baths. See one, you’ve seen them all though these other rooms are not as ornate as the master suite. I also didn’t take any pictures of the west side of the house – that is where the “dirty” kitchen attaches to the house. It also serves as a general cleaning area, and today was laundry day. It’s best to stay away from clothes being washed and dried.
As I’ve said, it’s still a work in progress and there will be more items added within the next couple of years. Among them in the backyard will be a nice bahay cubo, a couple of mango trees and other vegetation and, of course, more grass. We’ll add whatever else we can think of that would look nice (and not hurt our budget too badly) as well. Until then, one of my dogs (Barto, the Australian Shepherd) is on watch looking after the property.
A person can make life pretty sweet out in the provinces if he or she puts his/her mind to it. All of the sweetness, as I mentioned before, came from Emy’s mind. It’s her dream house. I just rent a room!