My wife, Josie, and I had a contractor build our house in 2006. The only things that were completely finished that year were the house and the riprap walls on two sides of the lot. So far, it has survived dozens of tropical storms, including multiple typhoons (tropical cyclones), and multiple earthquakes.
Over the course of 13 years, we’ve completed a few home improvements, replaced a few things and repaired a few things. Our house is in pretty good shape, all things considered.
As I mentioned when I wrote about Olongapo being my retirement home, we already owned the lot we built the house on. Originally, we bought the lot for one reason: To keep people from building anything between the creek and our other lot.
When we moved to the Philippines in 2006, we wanted to buy a house and lot somewhere else in Olongapo. We spent more than a month looking around, and we only found a few that we liked. Of those we liked, most were overpriced. The others were pawned by their owners to the people living in them. We could have rented a house, but we didn’t like the idea of not being in control of it.
The cost of construction was 2.4 million pesos, equal to about $48,000 USD back then. It’s a two-story home, with the second story almost level with the street. The driveway is connected to the front right corner at the second story level. Below the driveway (now a carport) is an area everyone calls a garage, but obviously isn’t.
We have a small area on the left, between the riprap wall and the house, which is big enough for parties. We have another small area on the right, which is the area between the two properties. Both sides are covered with cement flooring. We have a large backyard, and we’ve hosted birthday parties and wedding receptions in it.
We have custom-built wood kitchen cabinets and cupboards. The wardrobe cabinets in all three bedrooms are custom-built. We have a steel and wood stairwell banister. We have a cement kitchen bar with a granite counter top. The floor is covered with ceramic tiles throughout the house. We have three complete bathrooms, with the master bathroom inside the master bedroom.
A lot of the tiles in the master bedroom separated from the cement floor during an earthquake in July 2011. We replaced them before the end of the year.
The ceiling on both floors is made up of HardieFlex, about 1/4 inch thick. The partition between the dining room area and the living room area is a hollow gypsum board wall, five-feet tall.
We put aluminum window blinds on most of the windows in the house. That was a mistake. The two rear bedrooms have curtains on them, and we plan to replace the rest of the windows with curtains. The only blinds remaining will be plastic vertical blinds on the sliding doors (two sets on each).
In November 2009, we started work on an extension to the rear of the house which became two separate rooms. The laundry room is on the left and the dirty kitchen is on the right. One back door connects the dining room area with the laundry room and the other back door connects the kitchen to the dirty kitchen. We didn’t finish the rooms until March 2011.
The windows in both rooms were originally rebar and mosquito screens. The dirty kitchen now has jalousie windows. Each room has a spring-loaded screen door as a side door.
If you’re curious about the difference between an indoor kitchen and a dirty kitchen, I can’t explain it well. It’s mainly used to cook odoriferous food outside the regular kitchen. Things like fish. We have a gas stove and an electric oven in the kitchen and a gas stove in the dirty kitchen. A reverse L-shaped kitchen counter with cupboards graces two walls of the dirty kitchen. We have cabinets above the counter. All the cupboards and counters are made with aluminum and HardieFlex. We don’t have to worry about termites in that room.
Each room is about the size of my master bedroom, which I think is huge. We have plastic patio tables with matching chairs in both rooms.
While the house was being built, a riprap wall was being built to separate our lot from the creek and the back yard from the neighbors behind us. After the house was finished, we built a cement fence in front of the house, with a steel gate in front of the driveway.
The original paint on the house faded quickly. It took more than a week in January and February 2011 and the help of some of our relatives to paint the entire exterior. We need to repaint it again.
The color of the walls, the fence and the cement wall on the left side is medium brown. The trim on the windows is maroon and the gate is maroon. The eaves of the house are white and the roof is Spanish red.
Shortly after the house was completed, we put security bars on all the lower windows and the window facing the driveway. We plan to put more bars on the second story windows. Those bars are also painted maroon. We added the bars after someone tried to break in downstairs while we were sleeping upstairs.
In 2019, we spent several thousand dollars to replace roofing, ceilings and cabinets. The wood in the dirty kitchen was termite-ridden. We replaced that roofing with steel and aluminum, like the roofing of our carport. We replaced the wood for the ceiling on the first floor (used for fastening the ceiling tiles) with aluminum.
The wood cabinets in the inside kitchen have been replaced with aluminum cabinets. The counter tops, most of which were ordinary ceramic tiles, have been replaced with granite counters. Perhaps I’ll share some decent pictures when I’m in the country.
The photo accompanying this article was taken in 2011. The house looks pretty much the same but weather-beaten (and the driveway is now a carport). The car in the driveway was sold in 2014 to pay for my mother-in-law’s hospital bill. I bought a new one, with a car loan, in 2015. One of my in-laws parks his motorcycle next to it.
Originally published in August 2013 and updated in July 2017.