coffeehan

Everybody has a story of home; here’s mine

I was born and raised in Sampaloc, Manila, a district dubbed as the “university belt” due to a number of universities in this area. My father was originally from Mangaldan, Pangasinan but transferred to Manila with his family in his teens. They took residence in Gen. Geronimo Street, 900-meter south of España Blvd and a mere 10-minute walk from Lacson Ave. A large breadth of this street is filled with informal settlers who have been there for such a long time, even the government could no longer send them away. This is where I originally came from.

Image taken from Google Maps

My first home

It’s a two-story house, the upper level has two rooms where my father’s two sisters, both married, lived with their respective families. Our family occupied the room below. Because my father lived close with his sisters, my siblings and I grew up with our cousins for our playmates.

I vaguely remember this room, it was small, no bedroom, no kitchen area, not even a bathroom. We slept and dined on the floor. We used to do a number 2 on used newspaper, wrapped them up in a plastic bag, then threw them over a nearby river. To take a bath, my mother would take my two sisters and me out on the street, to the house of our neighbor with an artesian well. Wearing nothing but our panties and flip flops, Mama would bathe us one by one. When the rain gets bad in the wet season, our room would get flooded. My parents would then carry me and my sisters on the second floor and sleep temporarily with our cousins.

In 1991, Papa saved enough money to build our own residence on an empty lot in front of the old house. It started as an elevated house with straight wooden stairs. A few years after, the ground floor was built. I still remember feeling very excited about it because it meant we would have our own toilet.

Even when Papa made an effort to make our place habitable, I still grew up with the desire to leave our neighborhood and have my own place. The community is chaotic, men would get drunk and break into a fight often, women would gossip and also break into a fight. Several times in a month, we would look out the window to watch the commotion. Even in our families, there is disunion. My mother, for reasons I never really knew, had a long-standing feud with one of my aunts. I lost count of the times they went bickering at each other for some trivial stuff. I grew up in a place rife with conflicts where most people are quick to anger, easily offended by the littlest of things.

The main streets and narrow alleys are always littered with garbage, stray animals, and children. The grounds are always wet and muddy either due to busted pipes or people who do their laundry outside their houses. I never got used to it even when I grew up in this area. I envied my friends and classmates who have better homes or neighborhoods. I was sad that we were a family of eight and didn’t have our own bedrooms. There was no privacy in this area, not in our house, not in our community. Everyone is on everybody’s business; everyone seems to know about each other more than I would have liked. Thus, I have always wanted to go.

The first bid to independence

In 2012, I turned my wish into reality. I left our house and moved to a small dorm room in San Antonio Village, Makati. The dorm was newly built back then and I was the first tenant. Suddenly, I had to learn to fend for myself; buy my own food, do my own or pay for laundry. I had no one to care for me when I was sick. Back home I ask my younger siblings to do my bidding; in the dorm, I had to do it all on my own. Even when I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about our environment in Sampaloc, having a family around meant I had people to care for my needs, but I had to give this up when I decided to live by myself.

The dorm is at a prime location, just one ride away from Makati’s business district, Ayala. Thus, it didn’t take long before all four rooms have been occupied by renters. I got one room on my own for P4,500 per month inclusive of electricity and water. There are shared toilets and bathrooms and the common area has an old TV, microwave oven, and fridge. Soon, I started seeing problems that usually plague inhabited places, such as house pests, (rodents, mosquitoes, roaches), busted shower head, dirty hallways, among others. I also had to deal with the hassle of living with strangers, such as opening the fridge and realizing that somebody stole my food, waiting in the morning for my turn to use the shower, and enduring the noises that the other girls were making especially when they have visitors.

Perhaps the worst thing that I hated in that dorm is the lack of ventilation. My room gets incredibly hot in the summer that it was kinda like being in a sauna. Thus, my expenses double in the dry season as I always went out to escape the heat. I did get the privacy that I was looking for, but for a price.

Friends and temporary places

In 2015, I resigned from a company without the security of a new job. Back then I wanted to try my hand at freelancing, taking inspiration from my traveler friends. While I’m on job-hunting, I took the offer my friend, Lara, to live temporarily at her condo in McKinley. I crashed at her place for two months. My freelancing attempts failed, but I was able to snag myself a new job, albeit on a night shift in BGC.

Related: Why I’m Going Back to the Corporate Despite My Love for Traveling

I transferred to the apartment of my friend Alchris in Makati and lived there for a short time. When I’ve saved enough money, I went to find another place to rent.

My friend, Maggie, informed me of a vacancy in the 5-story apartment building where she resides. It’s a studio unit on the ground floor, recently vacated by a tenant. It has its own bathroom, a sink, and a closet. The monthly rental fee is P10,500 excluding water and electricity. The best thing about it is the location. It sits in a neighborhood filled with apartments with bed-space and food establishments. A 5-minute walk would take you to a public market, 15 minutes to my place of work. It was all so convenient that I immediately reserved the unit.

I made no effort in furnishing the apartment, it’s not mine anyway. I slept on a mattress, didn’t cook, and survived on take-out or food deliveries. I took my clothes to the laundry, left my gallon of water by the hallway leaving 30 pesos on top of the lid. A day later, I would open the door and see the gallon of water outside my door.

Just like in the dorm, I kept to myself and didn’t bother building a relationship with my fellow tenants. Even when we were living in the same building, I hardly saw Maggie. I got along well with the caretaker and his wife, but I never made myself available for deep human interactions in the two years that I was there.

Maggie and I met for lunch recently and unlike me, she is “woke” (as the millennials put it) to the goings-on in that building. I sat fascinated as she recounted stories of our neighbors, like the man she calls, “Vape Boy” who likes to smoke in the hallway, the man who often beat the hell out of his daughter and his old mother who once swept dead cockroaches from their room out into the hallway, and the lesbian lovers who broke up and left the bed frame in the unit they once shared along the memories that came with it. I had been living in my own little world, I realized.

The hunt to find my own place

On October 22, 2017, a mere 2 weeks after I started working in my present company, I went on a house hunting trip with two real-estate agents, a friend, and my sister. This is among the things that I did under the leap of faith category. You see, I was then on a probationary status in my new work; where I got the confidence to find a house is also a mystery to me. My friend, Mechelle, earns extra by recommending prospective homeowners to the two real-estate agents that she knows. One day, I just told her to find me a house.

We checked out three properties during the house-hunting, two townhouses in Cavite and one condo unit in Pasig. The townhouses are bigger in size but I wasn’t sold on the idea of living in Cavite. I now work in Eastwood, I didn’t want to waste hours in a day for commuting. Cavite is not that far from Metro Manila, but the Philippine traffic is called one of the worst in the world for a reason.

Our last stop is a low-rise condominium community in Pasig where I felt something the way I did the moment I stepped foot on my alma mater, Lyceum of the Philippines. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just knew that I belong there. When I get that feeling, I do not overthink and just follow my intuition. I decided right then and there that it’s going to be my new home.

I advised the agents to do the necessary paperwork, commencing the painstaking process of buying a house. I paid the reservation, arranged the monthly installment scheme for the deposit, signed hundreds of documents, and took many phone calls from the developers, agents, and bank. To say that it was stressful would be an understatement.

The bloody process

One of the requirements for a housing loan is a bank clearance of a previous loan. The thing is, years ago, when I was neck-deep in credit card debts, I ran away from the responsibility of paying a loan. Yes, I do have my own share of harassment stories through phone calls and emails by the bank and the collection company. To finally settle this delinquent account, I called the bank to request for amnesty. They gave me a choice between a monthly installment arrangement that includes accumulated interests and a one-time payment of a certain amount free from interests; I chose the latter. In return, the bank sent me a clearance proving that I am debt free.

I have lost count of the times I ranted to my friends about how hard it is to deal with the developers.
For example, they bugged me for weeks to pass the requirements for the housing loan, but as soon as the loan got approved, they stopped communicating with me. When I asked when would I be able to move, they said that the building is still undergoing construction. I was like, why did they hurry me into getting a loan when the building is not even ready for turnover?

There were also some things that didn’t dawn on me until I have already signed the contract. I didn’t anticipate just how hard the daily commute would be. I don’t own a car and have no plans of getting one in the next few years so that’s out of my options. Don’t even get me started with all the expenses, there’s the reservation, deposit, bank charges, and move-in fee in the amount that I wouldn’t joke about. There was a point that I questioned myself for even considering this. I was burdened with thoughts of not being financially prepared. It’s like jumping in the open sea forgetting that I don’t know how to swim. I felt overwhelmed and pressured that I didn’t know what else to do.

Adding to my worries was the Europe trip. I already had a Schengen visa and the trip was fast approaching. I realized I was in over my head that all I ever did was cry to my friends about how difficult things are.

Related: A Guide to Schengen Visa Application Philippines

December 7, we had the home inspection. A staff member led me to my condo, a one-bedroom, 33-square meter unit with a small living room, bathroom with toilet, kitchen, balcony, and a laundry area. The man informed me that the building has no utilities yet, no water, electricity, and Internet. His guesttimate is that the building would be ready for occupancy in January or February.

I informed him that the bank has already released the check for the loan and that my monthly amortization will begin on December 15th. It would be too much for me to pay the monthly amortization of the house while paying the monthly rent for the apartment at the same time. Given my situation, I should be able to move in soon. He nodded in understanding and assured me that he would raise the matter to his boss.

Finally, I am home

23rd of December; it was a rainy Sunday, the admin employees of the condo are on a day-off. I had no more time to spare, my flight to Europe was on two days, thus I went on with my move-in plans. The driver and his assistance helped me transfer my stuff into their small truck then we traveled from Makati to Pasig.

In the admin office, I practically begged the facilities staff to open the unit so I can put in my things. They were helpful, one of which made some calls to the admin to describe my situation. After half an hour, I got the keys to my house including two sets of duplicates.

Just as they told me the building is not yet complete. They expedited the works on my unit upon my request a few weeks before. This means I am the first resident of the building. Other facility personnel assisted in getting my belongings from the truck to my unit. However, I didn’t live in the house just yet and went back to the apartment until the 25th. Makati is closer to the airport than Pasig, I didn’t want to have a hard time getting to NAIA for my flight.

Jan 8th, the plane touched down Manila at around 12:00 noon. For the first time, I went home to the house I can call mine.

Updates

As I write this, I have been living in this house for a month now. I have a few neighbors, my electricity and water are on submeter, and the Internet line is not yet installed. Nevertheless, I love every second that I spend in this house and every day, I look forward to going home.

Regarding my daily commute, I have found a Wunderpool driver who could get me to work every morning. Going home is a different story. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I usually take habal-habal or Grab after my French class. On MWFs, it’s either I use Wunderpool or I take public commute.

As of now, I still have no furniture but I am planning to get a bed soon. I have purchased a few things, mainly kitchen stuff and have been perfecting my omelet-cooking skill of late. So far, the only home improvements that I’ve had done is the installation of a bidet and a bath towel rod in my bathroom, curtain rod for my bedroom window, and a shade for the balcony door. Admittedly, the progress is slow with considerations to budget, but I am not in a hurry. I just enjoy every bit of the process.

Every day, I hear the sound of planes as they passed over the area and every time I bid them, “Happy safe travel.” I like looking out into the balcony with a cup of coffee, enjoying the quiet as much as I can. Pretty soon, the area will be filled with other residents, I can only hope they won’t completely destroy the peace.

Right now, I am just happy that I am living in a place I can call my own.



Thanks for reading!

?

7 Comments

  • Reply
    Rob Torres
    February 21, 2019 at 5:39 PM

    Hey Pretty Majorie,
    Lets’ Collaborate!.
    I am a New York Metropolitan area based; former American Police Officer, orphan. Digital Marketer, Filmmaker/Photographer with heavy ties to Philippines. Maybe on my next trip to Quezon City and Makati we could potentially discuss the possibility of getting your brand really discovered. No Charge.
    We are too much alike .. actually it is daunting.
    Yes, I too have had my writings published and of course;
    I have a harrowing tale to tell.
    Yes, I volunteer, and enjoy reading, writing, traveling, Duh, etc :).
    Additionally, I have several high impact websites with very high traffic and very very respectable rankings.
    Sorry Po, I’m not at all arrogant, it’s that i only have a few seconds to engage your interest,
    regrettably it has to be on his open forum.
    I’ m just being honest.

    BTW… They Call Me Mr. POGi.
    It started with a a Pinay named Kris and a reporter named Mariz (story for another time);
    now all the Pinays call me that.
    Hehe Talaga!

    May the Universe always guide you directly to the footsteps of your wonderful dreams!
    In my thoughts.. You deserve the opportunity of being properly marketed.
    Maybe I’m Buong-Buong or Loko-Loko, like my dear Lola used to say .. but you deserve to get your content realized by many more people than you are currently reaching,
    Please Check my rankings In Alexa, po.

    In either case, I think you represent the spirit of the Pinay .. and in doing so, you are the embodiment of hope to countless young women who; because of you, will decide to take action to realize their illusive dreams, and so I thank you, po.

    Sige, Na, Pretty Determined Baby Girl.
    I wish there were more women like you in the States who truly grasp the definition of focus and the impact of determination, po!
    God Speed..
    -R

  • Reply
    Christofferson
    February 19, 2019 at 9:00 AM

    Hi Ms. Marge, i started reading your blog around the time when i moved out of the house where our long-deceased parents raised us. That was in 2014 (correct me if I’m wrong, maybe your blog had not existed then but I’m sure your friend Alchris’ had. It was from his blog that i discovered yours). That house had for many years been inhabited only by myself and my brother, the youngest ones in a family of eight. Now I’m still here in the house in Marikina i moved into and i feel blessed to be situated in this kind of environment.

    I had my fair share of growing up in a neighborhood i didn’t particularly like but it wasn’t as bad as the one you described here. Just last night my aunt and sisters visited me and they were talking about how when they were little they would go to work in my grandfather’s farm early in the morning bringing with them a dipper and some kind of digging tool. They said it was because there was no toilet in the fields and they had to dig a hole for each #2 they take. Today I’m once again informed of another fascinating #2 methodology I’ve never heard of, thanks to you 🙂

    Poop aside, I’m also fascinated by how you don’t shy away from sharing these kinds of stories seeing how you’re in a different state of affairs now, socially speaking. These from my point of view are your most interesting posts. I appreciate your sharing them

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      March 4, 2019 at 5:56 AM

      Hello Christofferson,

      First, thank you for reading, I’m amazed that you actually knew my blog since 2014. Actually, my blog started in 2010, it’s just that it used to be in Blogger; in 2014 I moved it to WordPress. I think your aunt and sisters, despite not having toilets, exercised the proper disposal of poop haha… Unlike us, the people in our neighborhood, used the dead river in our area as a dumpster.

      As with sharing my story, even the not-so-good parts of it, it’s all because I have finally reached that level of maturity when I already accept where I come from. Not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, but it doesn’t mean that those of us who came from nothing should be ashamed of our humble beginnings. I truly believe that we owe the strength of our characters from the hardships that we went through in life.

  • Reply
    Arni
    February 19, 2019 at 6:29 AM

    Firstly, congratulations on your new home! Such a wonderful feeling to come home to your very own apartment. You have a come long way. Chapeau! You made it all happen and your intuition has guided you through it. Secondly, you are such a great storyteller. Reading your post made me realize that you might just be many blocks away, but then we have a huge age gap hehe. My grandparents lived in the university belt too and I spent some of my childhood summers and weekends there. Some of my fondest memories were playing in the busy streets, and my playmates living in the same neighborhood have all transformed and became amazing people doing what they are good at both here in the country and abroad. Our past really shape and impact us in a way that we appreciate things while most people who have not been through these experiences would take for granted. Great post and I look forward to reading your next ones.

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      February 19, 2019 at 6:34 AM

      Hello Arni, thank you for reading. We might have seen each other when we were young, we just don’t know each other then. Such an interesting thought. I agree, I used to be ashamed of my humble beginnings that I lied a lot when I was younger, just to make myself look better in the eyes of my classmates and friends. But now, I am grateful that I didn’t get what I wanted when I was a kid because it makes me strive hard to get what I want and helps me appreciate every blessing that I receive.

  • Reply
    Mata
    February 18, 2019 at 11:21 AM

    Sometimes it is in wanting more, something else, something better, and seeing the ugly in things that we get to elevate in life. You are a living proof for this. From the difficult situation you had in Sampaloc to your new condo home that’s your own, you acknowledged your dislike for your neighborhood, the discomfort brought to you by the sauna-like room you rented, and whatnot. By wanting more, you persevered to be a finer situation. To live a better life. I’ve known you in the past years, seven or eight, but you living in a place where you had to wrap your, you know, in paper has remained a gray area. Until now. I’m happy for you and the decisions you made by intuition. Our inner compass.

    What could be next? Maybe you will get tired of the daily commute, which will make you realize you want a job closer to home. Or maybe when the new neighbors arrive and they don’t maintain the peace, you will want a home closer to work, and you’ll figure out what to do best with your condo unit. These things, they are yet to come. Or they may not. But when they do, I’m certain you’ll figure out what you “want” to do. Never stop wanting. Good things might have not made their way to you early in life, but they already are. Now. And you’re doing great at handling them.

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      February 18, 2019 at 12:06 PM

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I am pretty sure I will find a new home again in the future. But for now, I am enjoying my time here. Thank you for being one of my good friends who supported and helped me in all those years that I struggled.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php