I haven’t talked much about my personal life on this blog, but just for the sake of making this more understandable, I recently moved to the Philippines and am staying at my in-law’s house until my wife and I find work in Manila. At some time or another, most of the members of her family have lived in this house, so there are of course leftovers. I don’t mean food leftovers. I mean the things that get left behind, things that they say they’ll come back for later, but sort of never do. We’ve been sorting through things and temporarily appropriating what’s usable. One of the things we were able to find was a curtain which happened to have a big Doraemon scene on it.
I’m not a Doraemon fan. I’ve never even seen the show. I’m pretty sure this curtain belong’s to my brother-in-law who has two small kids, but it does sort of suit my interests. I figured, why not hang it on our bedroom window so that when I see it I’ll be inspired to study Japanese?
Also, on a side note, my wife is interested in anime almost as much as I am. Right now she’s hooked on watching Jigoku Shoujo with me. Cool, right? So, she was more excited than I was to put it on the curtain rod and “liven up” the room a bit.
Everything has to be done in small steps, in increments. When I got here to the Philippines I was throwing myself into the house renovations while trying to buy furniture, stock groceries and household items, find a job and figure out my visa all at once. It’s great to be motivated, but it’s burning us out too. We haven’t taken any time for ourselves recently, unless you count laying on the bed, exhausted, with our laptops in front of us. Hopefully we can work in some time for that, because we’re about to put the brakes on this headlong rush, hopefully by the end of this week.
The housework is coming along nicely. We’re getting the place cleaned up, we’re selling the scrap metal and we’re taking out the useless junk to my burn pit, which is actually more of a burn mound now. I need to find time to scoop all of that up and put it on the curb. It’s becoming very unsightly. There’s a lot of things I’d like to get done around here, but I’ve moderated my plans to fit time and budget constraints, for now. Gotta be realistic about this.
The biggest issues now are my visa and finding work. Thankfully, we just found a lucky break while downtown at the Bureau of Immigration. There’s an old law that says that I’m entitled to a one year free stay in the country by virtue of returning to the Philippines with my wife, who is a citizen. That will give me plenty of time to apply for the resident visa, which takes a load of stress off our shoulders. I’ll have to post about that process later, if it works out the way it should. Finding work shouldn’t be difficult. The laws here on hiring foreigners are nowhere near as strict as in Singapore, and with that one year pass and later a resident visa, the whole thing about my being a foreigner should become a non-issue.
Here are a few things that have been keeping me occupied for the last week or so.
We stopped to check out this huge hole in the ground. The construction is congesting traffic and giving the local shopkeepers a headache since some of them had to close down to make way for the work. Eventually this is going to be a multilevel car park that should free up a lot of road space in Antipolo’s town area.
When possible, we’ve been browsing the markets. You can find a lot of interesting (and weird) stuff in them. Occasionally you even come across a great deal on something that you’d pay double or triple for elsewhere. The stall in the picture above sells mostly religious stuff like creepy dolls and statues and tons of rosaries. Ya. Creepy. I know they’re supposed to be religious and inspirational, but most of them look like something that would scare the crap out of me if I caught sight of them in a darkened room.
Don’t ask me why, but there was a random steel bolt sticking out of the wall in our bedroom. I got a hacksaw and put in a lot of work to cut that thing short. Later, I’ll cover it over and then repaint the wall.
We also spent some time in the hospital with my father in law, who is now thankfully doing a lot better than he was when we rushed him up there. That was a stressful experience and I’m glad he’s home again.
One of the things that I like about living out here in Antipolo is the look and feel of the neighborhood we’re living in. It’s full of people all day long. I don’t know how, because you’d think everyone would go to work, but at any time of the day you can look outside and see kids and adults walking around or sitting down and talking. At night it’s so quiet you can hear the second-hand on a wall-clock ticking. That makes for some good sleep.
Here are some photos:
The neighborhood is down in a valley. The view as you’re going in or out is pretty nice.
Anyhow, day after tomorrow we’ll be heading to downtown Manila to Intramuros, the old Spanish administrative area from the colonial era. The main Bureau of Immigration office is there and we need to pay them a visit. Afterwards we’ll hopefully get to see the Manila Cathedral and some other landmarks in the vicinity.
Also, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m posting other, less personal, stuff about the Philippines on EverythingButBalot.com. Check it out if you have time.
We had that litterbox for two years. I’m sad to see it go because it’s really nice looking and you can’t find litterboxes like that in the Philippines. Or at least, we couldn’t find one.
Our last day in Singapore was a pretty exciting one. We went downtown, saw menstrual blood splattered all over a train seat, met the guy that runs the @Trattoriasg Twitter account (who is a part-owner of Trattoria in Somerset), did a little shopping, transferred money from our Singapore accounts to the Philippines, celebrated a birthday, and then went home late to finish clearing out our place and packing our bags for the flight. We finally got out the door around 2 AM.
This seat was really reserved, by menstrual blood.
Changi was a lot quieter than I expected. The place is usually bustling with people, but I guess even an international airport can empty out in the early morning. Did you know that between 2:30 AM and 5 AM the Skytrain doesn’t even run? You have to take a free shuttle instead, which we wound up using because we went to another terminal to find a place to eat at.
Our check-in was incident free, but the flight was probably the most uncomfortable I’ve had. It was through no fault of the airline though. I expected to have a quiet, stress free flight this time, because we didn’t have our cats with us. Unfortunately, three Filipina prostitutes were in the row behind us.
Let me ask you guys something? Could you sit in a plane and speak loudly about how many guys you’d fucked over the past two weeks? How about for 3 and a half hours straight?
Well, these hookers could. They kept ordering alcohol too which just made them even more obnoxious. By the time we landed in Manila, everyone for three rows in every direction around them was pissed off and giving them disgusted looks.
They didn’t care. They were ugly though, so maybe that was the only way they could get attention?
After getting out of the airport we went directly to the taxi. As usual, the fare wasn’t right. Even though it was a metered taxi, he suddenly wasn’t willing to use his meter for the area I wanted to go to. He said it was too far away. He wanted 1,180 PHP to go to Antipolo. That’s 380 PHP more than what we paid when we used the same taxi service on the 6th of last month. So, instead we told the guy to keep his meter on and just drop us off at a place called Junction. The meter was at 470 PHP. We jumped into an FX (another form of privately owned public transportation like a van) and paid 40 PHP to get to Antipolo and then paid 70 PHP to ride a tricycle to my wife’s neighborhood. So, 580 instead of 1,180. If we’d taken the taxi to the nearest mall and then taken an FX from there, the total bill would have likely only been around 260 PHP.
Anyhow, flight and travel drama aside, the real battle for the house begins now. Our earlier visit was like a scouting mission with minor skirmishes. Now I have an idea of what needs to be done and, after getting the furniture tomorrow that we didn’t get today, I can pick up where I left off and get this place into tip-top shape. Well, as good as it’s going to get anyway. I’m not going to sink our entire savings into fixing up this place. It’s just not practical.
Yesterday we rested. I was up for 25 hours straight and my wife only got about an hour’s worth of restless sleep on the plane. Today we snored until 1 PM, had lunch and then went to the town to drop off laundry we’d left here for washing and then we hit the grocery store. I don’t know where the time went but by the time we got home it was 10:30 PM. Then, we spent about an hour and a half cleaning the kitchen and giving the fridge a thorough scrubbing / defrosting before putting anything in it.
I’m tempted to just hire a dozen domestic helpers and handymen for a few days, but I haven’t given up yet.
The process of cleaning this house and doing repairs is going to take longer than expected. The biggest time killer has been going into town and finding the best deals on materials like paints, cement, brushes, and other necessary items. My in-law’s house is in a rural neighborhood in a valley between two mountains, outside of Antipolo. It takes about 30 minutes to get into the town by tricycle and then walking around from small shop to small shop can eat up a whole day before you know it. Next thing you know you’re dizzy from the heat, haven’t found a damn thing and the sun is going down. Then you have to get something to eat and get back to the house before the crazies start coming out.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of progress to report since the door was put in. Nothing major anyway. The cement is done on the door and it needs to be painted. Also, I rearranged the second floor landing (which is as big as a bedroom) but I’m holding off on photos until I finish putting everything back in place. Just getting the furniture moved was a lot of hassle because everything was covered in boxes of junk that I had to either carry up to the attic or down to the curb, depending on its potential usefulness.
What I’m planning on doing with the 2nd floor landing is turning it into a small library. This house may be packed with useless crap, but it’s also packed with TONS of books, most of which are still worth reading or have a lot of practical value, like history books, encyclopedias and stuff like that. There are also manila envelopes full of college notes, papers and projects that belong to my wife and her brothers. I want to arrange it all by category and make the area useable. There’s even a couch, but you can’t get to it now because it’s buried under photo albums, Reader’s Digests, and Cosmo magazines.
The first floor is gradually improving since we’ve stocked up on cleaning supplies. We can’t take all the credit for that though. A cleaning woman came by and she broke her back getting the floor and counters cleaned. We’ll just have to maintain and improve on that.
After the initial rush of effort we burned out. I even got sick. Hell, the handyman that put in the door for us and did a few other odd jobs got sick too. I blame it on a combination of the heat and bacteria laden dust that was all over the place. I’ve never burned through a bottle of Lysol so fast in my life as I have here.
I’m recovering now. We’ve been putting in a lot more ‘do-nothing’ time this week. We spent some time in Manila too, soaking up the sights and the air conditioning. It feels good to just relax for a while after putting in so much effort cleaning and organizing a house.
After arranging all of the books in the ‘library’, I’m thinking my next project will be painting. I’m going to start off with a fresh coat of white just to get everything looking clean and attractive. Then, for our bedroom, we’re going to get creative. These are our walls, so why not? Maybe a house there, a tree over there… a field with a river. I may even get a guy to come in and do some anime graffiti on two walls if he doesn’t charge too much.
Anyway, I’ll be heading back to Singapore for about a week starting on Sunday. I have some more stuff there that I have to collect up and have shipped over. It should be fun to just hang out there for a while. Living in Singapore made the place feel like an onerous burden, but when you’re just going somewhere temporarily, you savor the experience more. I’m looking forward to having more chicken rice and jogging at Bedok Reservoir and Pasir Ris Park.
Oh, and here are some photos of cats, to liven this post up a bit:
This is Gibor, a cat that lives at my wife’s house in Antipolo. He’s the male version of Thumper and you could almost confuse the two, except Gibor doesn’t walk funny and he has a huge pair of balls that we need to get whacked off.
The Siamese in this photo is named Pepper. She snuck into our bedroom to see if she could beg for an extra serving of cat food. Notice the bootleg litter box under the desk. Thankfully we got that replaced with a real litter box and now that we have a real door installed it’s in the bathroom.
p align=”center”>Dapper, Thumper and Marble are investigating a rush mat I bought. It’s a local woven mat called a ‘banig’ that you roll out on the floor to sit or lay on when you want to relax, but haven’t showered yet.
So, in the last post I was talking about finally making some progress and that progress was seeing the first load of refuse being hauled away. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law have been collecting things, mostly junk for lack of a better word, for quite a few decades. I’m talking rusty, broken knives, bits of wiring, broken figurines, worn out brooms, and other things that no longer work that they didn’t want to get rid of because some day they might figure out a use for it again. The result is that the house was so packed with crap that there wasn’t even enough room to actually live in it.
My wife and I are making our best effort to solve that problem. I wound up getting a lot of exercise, a lot irritated and I also got in a lot of yelling before the garbage went on its merry way.
Anyhow, with that stuff gone I can start putting things that are worth keeping in the attic, or clean them up and leave them on display, rearrange the furniture, get the electrical wiring installed correctly, fix the plumbing and the roof and then do some repainting. The place is in a state of disrepair that’s ridiculous, and I can’t see letting them continue on living this way, even though we’ll only be living here temporarily. In a few months we’ll be moving again to Manila proper for work and school and we’ll be renting an apartment. I want to improve their standard of living before that happens and then maintain it by visiting weekly.
Besides the accumulated junk, the problems I see in this house really blow my mind because they’re things that I took for granted in the US (and to some extent in Singapore) without even realizing it. Among other things, there’s a water shortage. We have to get up at 5 AM to fill drums of water to use throughout the day because by 6 AM the taps run dry. It’s an interesting experience, and I suppose it’s not very depressing for me because it’s just temporary, but I can’t imagine facing the realization that life would be that way every day, forever.
As for our own sleeping arrangements, we walked into a bare bedroom. It didn’t even have a bulb in the light fixture and for the first 7 days we couldn’t find one to fit it. We were using a lamp but our cats knocked it over and broke the bulb so we spent the last few nights with an LED flashlight hanging from the fixture. We finally found a hardware store with the bulb today while shopping for concrete and when we plugged it in, I was excited, because it was like crawling back out of the stone age into modernity again.
We also had to get a dresser for all of our things. We found one we liked and had it delivered. I was afraid of the amount of time I’d have to put into assembling it but the delivery guy set it up himself. He did it in about an hour… without a manual. That’s impressive to me. See the pictures below to get an idea of how many parts the thing has.
The latest thing going on for us is having a real door set up to partition my wife’s bedroom, hallway, and bathroom off from the rest of the house. There are various reasons for this, but mostly it boils down to privacy and security. You can see in the photos of the dresser that we got one with locks on it. The windows also have bars on them. In these small villages crime is rare because everyone knows each other, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and it’s more prevalent if you make your house inviting to potential robbers.
Anyway, the guy is about halfway done with the door installation. He was redoing the concrete around the door frame right before he quit for the night. This should finally get done tomorrow and then we’ll stop renovations until June, when we want to redo the electrical and repaint.
Other than that we’ve been trying to get familiar with the layout of the town again. We’ve been spending time finding cleaning supplies, buying some pots and pans and other necessary items for daily living. We’ve also been meeting up with family and eating out in Antipolo to try to relax a bit. Like enjoying this big halo-halo at Chow King for instance:
I have a feeling that the next few weeks are going to be filled with quite a bit of work, but in the end I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when the house is clean, orderly, and comfortable for living in again.