Monthly Archives: October 2007

Thank G** for Little Mercies

 From the moment I open my eyes each day, I give thanks for the little mercies I will find along the way. Today, I received an email of my touched-up place. It was painted when the contractor finished with it, but there were other new ideas that would  come up every now and then. I thought it was 90% finished 2 years ago; however, every summer that we visit the Philippines there were always some costly light-bulb moments. It seems 90% is a magic number for years to come.  


With all anticipation and excitement, I thought July 2007 will be a magic summer. Our new place will be ready to welcome renters…not to mention our first summer to really live in what we will call our retirement home, my husband claims ‘temporarily’- but anyway our home for now. When we got there, I thought it was time to advertise. Then, I will be meeting our renters personally while I finish my kitchen and very own bathroom downstairs. Not too fast!

Things don’t work that easily here…remember? This is the Philippines…not California. You don’t just hop in your car, go to work, and do errands in 4 different places before you go home. Besides, this is vacation time! Time you spend with family.




We left the Philippines with our building still 90% finished…again. The first floor is designed to be our own hide-away space, still no master’s bathroom and kitchen—again relegated to next summer. My sister will continue to work on the rooftop, until I really run out of money. And it’s coming very fast. More reason I should learn the ways of the internet.


Old Balara vs. Balara Resort

 As they say…necessity is the mother of…I did not really invent anything. However, staring face-to-face at the same theme popped my air bubble. That was all the kick I needed. I was kind of satisfied with the scene that came with the template just to avoid dealing with the theme stuff yet. Amazingly, it was ssooo simple…if that one click was really all it takes to make the change. That works for me now!


The picture was just something I quickly snapped along the way—a place marker of Matandang Balara (Old Balara) with some election ad campaign hanging below it. Old Balara is one of the places in Quezon City where extreme poverty abounds. There’s also Balara Resort (never been there) that’s somewhat popular. When I meet some Filipinos here in California, they give me a startled look as if seeing Balara in person. I always tell them…accent on the 2nd syllable, and my husband didn’t get that name from the Philippines. I’ll probably have the history lesson some other time.

Next Stop Is Bedroom

That’s what I thought!… I’ve finally posted a few links that might be of help to Kirsty as a starting point in her info search about the Philippines, not just generic knowledge, but closer to personal accounts of people who were actually there. However, when I checked my tag (the novelty of finally making it work and somehow understanding its function raises my spirit a notch), I found another blog about Malaysia. I excitedly clicked it only to find that it has exactly my theme (Cutline). I thought I was still in my blog site…or maybe, my Malaysian friend finally wrote one about Malaysia, nah, but I’ll have the link anyway if it would be of interest to my SEA traveler: Understanding Malaysia . Next stop is really my bed, and no detour!

Theme change will have to wait…if I can figure out. I might not even be ready with the appropriate picture. Sighhh!

Range of Trust

When we venture into unknown territories, we could only be grateful of some strangers’ random acts of kindness. How much could we rely on our instincts? Between 1 and 10, 10 as the highest range of trust in your scale, what would it be for you in the Philippines? Would it vary from city to city, island to island…or what about from country to country? Would Father Time be a factor? In this day and age…proceed with extreme (?) caution.

Four years ago—before I decided to buy our place in Luzon as temporary stopover before ‘real’ retirement—I just typed “travel to Philippines” and “Philippine Real Estate” in the hope that I could get my own perspective of things and places that were ones familiar. Two decades was a huge gap in time (plus I have my husband who would be seeing the Philippines in living colors for the first time) even if I have my family as my fall-back position. I came across the websites of two foreigners married to Filipinas. There were several others but the fact that they were the ones involved in the things that interested me, I remembered them again when their websites came up in my recent searches.

Bill and Lorna in Boracay:  where you can get your perspective on budget stay in the Philippines or where they have a specific down-to-earth instruction on how to get to their place from the airport which I believe will be the same to most places of your destination. It just fascinates me to see them in the same light that I could be in one day, but I don’t have the guts to do everything that they’re doing…I have just started with the structure now and how to grow is still a question…maybe more on education slant/distance learning, but I can’t see myself doing all the fun stuff of adventure. Perhaps, I could try on a smaller scale one day when everything is in place.

Another interesting guy that would probably be knowledgeable if you’re going further down south is Bob Martin. Before, I’ve seen his –not in my realm, but fascinating entrepreneurial spirit, maybe…a small boutique in one nook of my building to keep my renters self-sufficient is all I’m capable of doing. Recently, I came across his site that any adventurous nature lovers should check out. Davao is a favorite tourist spot and his site is a good link to many places in the Philippines, esp. the wifi hotspots.

Backtracking for Backpackers

Bedspacers…or backpackers? I guess this is a reaalllly new concept for my sister, and I can hear her arguing to the max against the idea. She’d rather stick to having (student) bedspacers. Maybe when I’m permanently based in the Philippines, I can look further into this. I don’t even know about tax classifications or any repercussions in diverting from original plans of straight yearly leases. This is the up-and-coming headache that I’m dreading to face.

My place needs a specific clientele with a maximum capacity of 4, preferably just 2. It’s somewhat strategic since I have malls, schools, hospitals, etc. within a 5-mile (or kilometer) radius. By Philippine standard, most that can afford the unfurnished 1-bedroom unit for $200-$250/month (depending on the exchange rate) are the dual-income family earners that are somewhat established, which usually come with 2 children (if I’m lucky). What comes with the package? Somebody has to take care of the household, the 5th wheel which could possibly be a maid, an aunt, a mother, or a grandmother. For a wonderful family, I am prepared to stretch the maximum to 5. Another hurdle, the unfurnished units are in the 3rd floor…tough for Grandma. I even lost a few pounds just going up and down the stairs when I was there for 6 weeks. Rent-wise, steep for starter couples either.

Summer of July 2007 that we vacationed in the Philippine (not that we have gone anywhere other than our house and my brother’s house, another family hub), I decided to furnish the 3 one-bedroom units on the 2nd floor. I knew I cannot compete with hotels since we’re right in the middle of the crowded city life–with regular folks. The cities in Metro Manila barely sleeps…life goes on: people working different odd hours, tricycles milling in every streets and alleys of the subdivision, and before you know it you’ll be waking up to the sound of the peddlers (that is if you’re not sensitive to the noise and you had a good night sleep). Oh, did I mention the neighbors? Listening to the on-going activities can be both ways though. This is real living in the Philippines, and not many foreigners could get used to the hustle and bustle of ordinary life here. The provinces could be different. My best friend from one of the Visayan islands swears that his province has a lot better air.

Let me backtrack 4 years ago when my husband and I decided that we will be retiring in the Philippines. We had only two weeks then to find a place to retire. Even if I had instructed my family there to have ready ‘lots for sale’ to inspect, I still scouted the internet for real estate information since I had been gone away for almost 2 decades without ones going back. I had come across a few interesting sites before that I still found lately when I got busy learning the ropes of blogging–much improved and with more elaborate information. I’m pretty sure they could be more helpful to backpackers.

What makes the bloggers tick?

I must admit it’s a very tedious learning process to understand this blogosphere. There were times when I feel like grabbing a dictionary even if I know I wouldn’t find the answer there. Maybe one day, Merriam-Webster will develop a special dictionary, or I’ll just make-believe for now that I am smart enough to do contextual reading. Still, I got some information quite a bit, not to mention some entertaining moments.

Stalking these blog places for almost 3 months further paid off in a way. After 2 decades of living hard, I was amazed to find a few of my students just a click away. It’s heart-warming to discover how they’re carving their own niche in life. There’s more…just like reconnecting to my past. I also found Araimiri…Papua New Guinea is another lifetime away.

 I know it’s difficult to focus, but I must.

Neither a Hostel nor a Hotel!

As I mentioned earlier, my place is unique. It’s not a regular house, not even like most of the townhouses around the village. It’s not an apartment building, either; some might have mistakenly thought of it as an apartelle. Still, others wondered if it’s a school since it resembles the school a block away. Not a bad idea. Although the original plan was to have an apartment, I could always convert it to a school of some sort. Just like me…always wanting the best of both worlds.


Goodness gracious! It’s a retirement place…OK, temporarily. Soon, we will be old, and I particularly wouldn’t want to navigate narrow flights of stairs that would be hard on my knees. One unit for us wouldn’t work. My husband wants his gym and music room, and the rest is mine to worry. That’s when I realized I’d better come up with a creative plan.


Creative, indeed! I have the first floor for my husband’s needs; after all, I have the rest of the floors at my own discretion. I thought of five 2-bedroom units that will rise on the 2nd and 3rd floors above us. The building had to be self-sufficient, with enough income to cover maintenance and sustenance of a senile couple – with huge extended Filipino family. Simple! Wrong, again!



From the outside, it looks like a commercial building, not a residential apartment. Problem #1—permits would be different, and fees a lot higher. Problem #2—neighbors complained: our 3-storey building dwarfed their allowed 3-storey homes/townhomes. And this is only the beginning. After three years of slow construction, even with the unexpected changes and challenges, I am grateful for the opportunity of having a place I could call home. Life is good despite all trials and tribulations as most wise men (esp. women) would say.


Having furnished the 2nd floor 1-bedroom units, I now have choices of 3 dorm rooms, 3 unfurnished units, and 3 furnished ones. Why sink in more money to have furnished units? In my moment of madness, I figured I can have long-term or short-term leases. My sister has reservations having foreigners on weekly basis. It’s a lot of responsibility for her – trail-blazing unknown territories…something new, though I suspect it would give her more headaches to polish her English than to keep the stairs polished.


I have to market my idea…fast; the internet seems to be the logical place to start. So, I thought. I could be wrong again. But it’s the one within my reach at this point. I’ve heard ‘let’s blog’ before; never struck a chord in me. Now, I must have been really desperate to start stalking bloggers. Somehow…my initial concept of ‘blog’ was very negative. I had visions of teen-agers wiling their time away and finding uncanny personalities to say the least. When I heard the blog site WordPress as a possible place to create some sort of a website, I decided to have a fresh look at blogging. What have I got to lose? I need to post pictures and information about our place. We need to work towards early retirement…enough motivation, I suppose. I’ve finally mustered some courage to get this in print!