Our House and Lot in Olongapo City, Philippines

Cunningham house 2011 My wife and I had a contractor build our house in 2006. The only thing that was completely finished that year was the house itself. So far, it has survived dozens of tropical storms, including multiple typhoons (tropical cyclones), and at least two major earthquakes.

Over the course of 10 years, we’ve completed a few improvements, replaced a few things and repaired a few things. Our house is in pretty good shape, all things considered.

Building the House

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 only: To prevent anyone building anything between the creek and our other lot.

When we moved to the Philippines in 2006, we intended to buy a house and lot somewhere in Olongapo City with the money we made from selling our house in Arizona. We spent more than a month looking around and we only found a few that we liked.

The problem we faced was that out of all the houses we liked, most were overpriced and the rest were pawned by their owners to renters. We could have rented a house somewhere but we didn’t like the idea of not being in control of what we could do at our home.

The cost of construction was 2.4 million pesos, equal to about $48,000 US dollars. 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 is an area everyone calls a garage, but it obviously isn’t a garage since nothing can be parked in it.

We have a small area on the left, between a block wall and the house, which is big enough for parties when the weather’s nice. 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 back yard and we’ve hosted birthday parties and wedding receptions in it. It still needs to be filled in with dirt, to be level with the rock walls, but it’s not on my list of priorities.

The house took longer to build than anyone anticipated because it was being built before, during and after two typhoons and a tropical storm. Construction halted when it was raining and it rained a lot in 2006.

Inside the House

We have custom-built wood kitchen cabinets and cupboards, custom-built wood wardrobe closets in all three bedrooms and a custom-built 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 of 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 made of gypsum board (with a hollow area between two walls for outlets).

We put plastic 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 as well. The only blinds remaining will be vertical blinds on the sliding doors, in the downstairs living room and in the upstairs master bedroom.

The Laundry Room and Dirty Kitchen

In November of 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 of 2011.

The windows in both rooms are made up of metal reinforcement bars and mosquito screens. 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 odorous food outside the house – things like fish. We have an electric range in the kitchen and a propane stove in the dirty kitchen. We have a reverse L-shaped kitchen counter top on two walls in the dirty kitchen.

Each room is bigger than the entire living area of some people’s houses.

Outside the House

While the house was being built, a rock wall was being built to separate our lot from the creek and the back yard from the neighbor 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 of 2011 and the help of some of our relatives to paint the entire exterior. We need to repaint parts of it again – the parts where the paint has peeled after being pummeled by torrential rain.

The color of the walls, the fence and the cement wall on the left side is medium brown. The trim on the windows is either maroon or Spanish red and the gate is maroon. The eaves of the house are white and the roof is some shade of 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.


The photo accompanying this article was taken in 2011. The house looks pretty much the same but weather-beaten. The car in the driveway was sold in 2014 to pay my mother-in-law’s hospital bill. I’ll eventually get some better photos of the house and lot but not until we’ve repainted.

Originally published on August 28, 2013 – Certain information has been updated or corrected.

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