Daily Archives: October 27, 2007

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!

 

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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!