Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Building a house

Posted on June 22, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 22, 2014 – 12:00am

It must have started sometime when Ondoy happened. The trauma of having my recording studio and office at the back of our home inundated with water was, to say the least, traumatic. The mold that stuck to the acoustic walls could not be fully taken out. A lot of the equipment, even if it did not get wet, had to be hurriedly disassembled and piled together. It definitely wasn’t the same creative playground I had enjoyed for many years.

Since the typhoon, we had largely left it abandoned and forlorn. The months and years soon passed by and the mold and mildew settled in permanently, making it unusable and unfit for human activity.

Prior to the typhoon, we had also been thinking of renovating our home, which had not had a makeover in decades. I told Lydia however that I did not wish to live in a house with workers pounding hammers everywhere.

It was Lydia who suggested we tear down the studio and build a new activity place for my workshops and other creative pursuits. Once built, we could use it as our temporary shelter while the main house was being remodeled. That was the plan.

It also happened that five years ago, we bought a huge 99-year-old house that was being torn down in Tiaong. We bid for all the wood, which was either going to be sold or thrown away. After purchase, we set it aside in the hope that someday we would build a small house on a small piece of land we bought on a mountain. But since that someday was not anywhere near the horizon, we decided to use all that wood instead and build the new structure where the studio and office were located.

Once we had decided, Lydia wasted no time. Soon enough, Lydia was talking to Edwin and Divina Mallari, our architect-contractors, and soon enough they were already drawing up plans and blueprints for a structure to replace the studio. The idea was to build an activity area for my workshops and creative pursuits.

But somewhere along the way, the planned activity area had become a full two-bedroom house and was suddenly going to become our new main home. Don’t ask me how that happened but that’s how the flow went.

We were excited. We had lived in other homes in the past that we had remodeled. It was the first house we were building from the ground up.

It is very challenging to build a house. It can get stressful. In our case, we zealously followed the rules in getting barangay and city permits, but the QC government was way too slow in granting them. It took close to four months to finally get the go-signal to build.

The workers who did the carpentry work were in awe at the quality of the wood. Yakal, narra, bulaong, mulawin and other rare, high-quality lumber were the materials they were going to work with. While the old, used wood was something to get excited about, we soon realized that there was a lot of effort needed in cutting the wood to the specifications for the new house we were building. Unlike when you order lumber pre-cut to size, these pieces had to be re-cut, resized and sanded. Since the house plans were to use wood, glass and steel with hardly any cement work except the foundation, it was a lot of work for the carpenters.

They were slicing, cutting, sawing, carving the wooden planks from scratch to fit into the design of a new house. Former windowsills became stairs, floors became walls, long ceiling beams were cut to fit whatever the plans called for. Whatever we had saved on wood went to labor costs.

Lydia and I watched in amazement as all that old wood that used to be part of an old house were being transformed into something that had not existed before. It was being made into an entirely new home.

When you are building a house, you rejoice when every stage of the construction gets done. We cheered when the foundation was put into place. The execution of the design had to be revised a few times because things depended on what kind of wood was available. There were always adjustments.

We felt good that we had hardly cut any lumber or new trees to build the house. We were recycling an old house into a new one. We felt creative and in line with our environmental views and convictions.

We also used the old windows grills from my former studio. We got carved decorative wood that used to belong to Lydia’s parents’ old home. Lastly, we built a huge dining table for 20 which was fashioned from two 16-foot-long planks which we connected using other pieces of wood that were there. It is a table so heavy, but the solidness and the design of old wood made it really beautiful. It is the centerpiece of our sala/dining area.

The house construction took long to finish — months overdue — but we are happy with the outcome.

A few nights back, Lydia and I moved in our bed cushion to the master’s bedroom and spent the night there. I hardly got any sleep as I stared into the ceiling and tried to feel at home in our new bedroom. I listened to all the new sounds, the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and the creaking of wood adjusting to the temperature. It was hard to get any sleep because I felt rather overwhelmed that all the effort, money we spent had paid off beautifully.

It’s a dream come true especially for Lydia who took charge of the whole project. I pretty much told her that she could do whatever she wanted so long as it fit the budget I had set aside. I have always been easy when it came to things like this. I hardly complain about anything. I believe that the person who spends more time in the house should have greater say about how it should look like.

This is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Houses carry certain vibes and dynamics. Right now, I already am noticing some of the characteristics of the new house. The old wood makes it seem comfortably lived-in. It does not have the stiffness and formality some new houses have. Rather it carries with it the statement of the people who made it. It has our eclecticism, creativity. It also has remnants of Lydia’s parents’ house. And all over, it has Lydia’s sense of style and elegance.

Slowly, our presence is making the house more animated and alive. What was once an empty space at the back of the house became a studio and office, and is now a new house. Very soon, it will be a real home with the character imprint of all its inhabitants.

We first dreamed about it, then conceptualized and planned it and then built it. Yet, despite our intimate involvement since inception, it still feels like a fresh discovery as I walk through the rooms of the house. It is like the word made flesh. It is imagination brought to fruition, inspiration made into a work of art!

May new happy memories be created here and inhabit our new abode!

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