Look Back, Move Forward

I just learned that one of our long-time neighbor in the province moved to another barangay. I could not believe it at first so I sent a private message to the matriarch. She confirmed about their transfer last summer and told me that it was probably just right timing when one of the big-time developers bought the large idle land at the back of the family’s ancestral home. The land was unintentionally enclosed by the houses stretching two barangays thus leaving it idle for almost 4 decades.

Our barangay has always been affected by flood during the rainy seasons. I grew up walking through makeshift wooden bridges because of the floodwater inside the compound. Street children loved to play inside the compound because it looked like a big fishpond with milkfish and small fishes.

I stopped appreciating the flood in our area as soon as I hit puberty. It was just uncool to be walking along flooded streets and then crossing through an old makeshift bridge just to get home. I dreamed of college and getting a job after graduation. I dream of buying a new house elsewhere where typhoons and storm surges would never be able to intimidate me. That start of my life journey started in 1994 and since then, I became distant to my own place.

“Actually, another neighbor will transfer soon, too. They have sold their house to the developer” our neighbor’s mother added.

What?! Why are they leaving? How much was the deal for them to just give up decades of living in our beautiful barangay? Hey, those houses are the landmarks of my childhood!

Wait! I stopped thinking to start feeling how I really think of the situation. I was sad for their exodus not because I would miss them because it has been ages since I settled in another place. I was sad for their exodus not because I was jealous of their new home but because I wanted to see their old homes just as they have always been. Then I realized, it was all about me. The sadness was all about missing my childhood. The pain came from the realization that the place would never be the same again on my next visit.

“Mare, it is better to leave the house. It’s old, anyway, ” PM’d my friend.

Yes, it is better to leave the house. It is not practical to live in an old house with flooded streets when your parents are old and vulnerable. The sadness was all about me, my feelings, my memories, my childhood.



Our Tiny Home

Our house hunting journey started in 2009, just a month after I gave birth to our elder son. I wanted a second-hand house and lot with a lot of space because I’ve always dreamed of having bermuda grass and roses in the garden. Our efforts were futile and it took us another five years to finally decide on where to buy a house.

The reason why we chose to buy a house in a gated community was because of security reasons. The downside of this decision was, the cost of the houses were much higher and we felt that it was impractical to be paying a high amortization for an overpriced house so we decided to get a townhouse first and then upgraded to a duplex later on.

Home improvement started in December 2016 and then ended in April 2017. We moved in on the 4th week of April and so far, everything’s fine. Moving in was a piece of cake because our apartment was almost the same size as our house but we decided to let go of 50% of our things to make a fresh start in our new house.

Being a minimalist, we regularly give away clothes, shoes and bags to make a room for the new ones. Old textbooks go straight to the garbage pick up area for junk and scrap collection. We don’t have any figurines or displays at home; we adorn a portion of our wall with our pictures. Being avid fans of red floors, we selected red tiles for our living room so that there would be no need for red waxing—if you’re familiar with old Filipino living room with red floor, then that’s it.  I realize that sofa is prone to dirt and foul smell so we bought a hard wooden sofa without the cushion. To date, we have not yet installed curtains at the living room area to make use of the natural light in the morning and afternoon. I am looking for a nice window decal instead.

Maybe, in the coming months, my favorite spot of the house would be the mini-garden that my husband is working on. My request two months ago was to plant ivy plants on the fence because having a green fence is not only cool to the eyes but also unique in this age of wall tiles and decorative stones. He got the ivy plant from his “suking-talyer” when he dropped by for vulcanizing. He also made concrete pots for growing calamansi, papaya, chili and tomato. My next request would be to have a yellow rose garden and bermuda grass for our tiny garden.

I used to say that living in a 50sqm house is not possible. Now that we are in it, I can say that a tiny house is much cheaper and more manageable.   🙂

Positive Energy In The House

Go away, negative energy!

Go away, negative energy!

When I was still working in Olongapo, I rented a room in one of the buildings in Magsaysay Avenue. The room had its own restroom and a wooden bed (with Uratex foam) that was good for two people. The jalousie window was my only concern because of limited privacy. I stayed on the second floor and the occupants of the next building could see my whole area if I would open the windows. Anyway, I put on some green plastic sheet on the jalousies for the purpose of blocking off some light.

It was not the perfect place because we were not allowed to cook but since I took out food either from the company canteen or from the fastfood, it was a non-issue. The water supply was good except for some repairs and maintenance once in a while that left us with no water for five hours.

In all my years of stay in that room from 2001 to 2006, I was always sick and emotionally-drained. There was this sort of negative energy all over my room but I just could not pinpoint what exactly it was. Ghost? No, I would feel one if there was one. Maybe I could even see one, but there was none. The list of illness went from bronchitis to edema to clinical depression and so on. There were times when I felt like I was afraid of something but I could not determine what and why.

Before the place was temporarily closed for renovation in January 2006, I got the chance to have a small talk with the flower shop assistant at the ground floor of the building. I asked her about the history of the building and who the original owners were. She told me that their flower shop used to be a bar at the height of the “American era” in Olongapo and the upper part of the building used to be an inn.

Back in my room, I recalled my first impression of the room and I remembered the great sadness that I felt when I entered the room five years ago. The room was full of negative energies of perhaps lust, greed, dishonesty and anger. The negative energies haunted the room for years and the occupants felt it one way or another.

I don’t need the negative emotional baggage of the past so I am trying to create happy and meaningful memories in my current place to replace all the negative energies that the previous occupants left on us. Prayer is a powerful tool to drive away any negative energies of the past. My children’s laughter replaced whatever tears (from the former occupants) fell on our current place. More than a physically clean house, we need a house that’s full of positive energy of love and optimism. We can do that by getting rid of heated arguments, gossips, feelings of hopelessness, jealousy and dishonesty.

My House Hunting Journey

Bahay kubo kahit  munti

Bahay kubo kahit munti

A house is not an investment as per Robert Kiyosaki and Fitz Villafuerte. It will only become an investment if it will generate income. Yeah, right. But I still want to own a house! A house is my nest and if owning a car is every men’s dream, then owning a house is every women’s desire.

Contrary to popular perception, owning a house through PAGIBIG is not a cheap scheme unless we’re talking of a rowhouse with a floor area of 35 sqm. Developers charge differently depending on the location of the housing project and materials used (BOM). A 100 sqm house and lot in a less accessible area can cost PhP800,000 whereas a 50 sqm rowhouse near the commercial district can cost the same. This is low-cost housing or rather, standard housing project.

My husband and I have just started house hunting and tripping last month and I realize that it can be stressful at times. The cost of paying a 20% downpayment can be stressful specially if I really like the unit but I need to “give it up” to scout for more affordable ones. The most affordable unit is a rowhouse which looks good in the inside but looks like an ordinary apartment on the outside. Rowhouses range from PhP600K-800K with 20% downpayment payable in 12 to 18 months. Owners can put up a fence to secure the front yard and the small backyard but if living with a neighbor with close proximity is an issue, then rowhouse is not the right house for you. Personally, I have no issue with buying a rowhouse except the size factor. Ordinary rowhouses range from 35-40 sqm only and for a family of 5 + 1 maid, this is not ideal for me.

Townhouse is the better version of a rowhouse. The size of an average townhouse ranges from 45-70 sqm with 2-3 bedrooms. The materials used could be the same with the rowhouse but the finishing touches are definitely better. I’m okay with the 3 bedroom townhouse but the total contract price by the developer is around PhP1.7M. That price can afford me to buy a second-hand house here in the countryside.

Second hand or housing project?
The only hassle that I see in buying a second-hand house is the whole process of applying for a PAGIBIG loan. In housing projects, the developer take care of the PAGIBIG requirements and it’s a big relief for busy individuals like me. Old houses that has no or little market value and need repair should cost lesser than that of the ready for occupancy second-hand houses.

To construct or to buy?
The cost of constructing a house in the Philippines is roughly computed at PhP17K to PhP25K per sqm. Average cost of lot in the countryside ranges from PhP1500 to PhP7000 per sqm depending on the location. The good thing in constructing your own home is it’s customized according to the owner’s preference and taste. The bad thing is the construction takes time (from 4-12 months depending on the budget) and the owner has to visit the construction site if he wants to check if the the project is being carried out in time.

We are still on the early phases of house-hunting and these are our guidelines:
1. Location- close to medium proximity to school since we have two young kids
2. Price- Affordable housing that will not strip us of our goal to save for retirement and the rainy days
3. Saleability-The property’s saleability in case we decide to move or retire in our province in the future
4. Neighborhood- I would prefer a neighborhood with familiar faces like churchmates and officemates around.