Monday, June 7, 2010

The Renovation of My Parents' House

Remodeling our ancestral house was a tough job. It kept me away from blogging for months. Since I am the only one among my 9 siblings who built my own house adjacent to the house  of my parents, my family was at the front line during the renovation. Sorry friends out there for my seeming writer's block attack during those hectic months from March to May, 2010.

After the deaths of our dear Tatay and Nanay in 1999 and 2001, respectively, the ancestral house totally became unoccupied. My siblings and their families pay occasional visits though.  Despite my attempts to manage its care, the house had looked older. The roof leaked on rainy days and storms leaving ugly stains on the fading white-painted ceiling.

The house serves pretty well as a summer house in May during our family get-together for the annual barangay fiesta. It is also a short-term vacation house in November when my siblings come home to pay homage to our parents on All Saints' Day. Heavy rains don't pour these months so the problem of the leaking roof was always put aside. During heavy rains, storms and floods, the old reliable house serves as evacuation center for our neighbors in need of safety and comfort.

It was before the 2009 barangay fiesta when I finally suggested to my Kuya Ben to help me finance the repair of the roof. It was as good as new when the d-day came,  newly-painted and with no more leaks. It was during that family occasion when Kuya told us that he would restore the water and light system of the house in preparation for the biggest event the Castro Clan would host- the Pangapisan Sur Fiesta 2010- he, being Hermano Mayor himself, together with 2 other siblings, Mario and Kuya Raphy. So plans for the anticipated family-hosted religious event of the barangay started rolling.

Two days after the fiesta 2009,  Kuya  had his angioplasty. It was to be a heart by-pass  operation but angioplasty was it, as decided upon by his heart doctor at the Philippine Heart Center in Manila. One year after, he would have had his kidney transplant in April 12, 2010. Every time we met since the day he conceived of the project, he would ask me and my daughter Pot, if we had already contacted a plumber. Of course the occasion was still months away so we procrastinated. And besides, he was spending a fortune for his medication and 3x- a-week dialysis.

By a sad twist of fate, my Kuya Ben died of complications of diabetes. He suffered massive pneumonia and heart attack February 10, 2010 at the Heart Center, three months before the red-letter day for the Castro Clan. Except for our brother Carlito living in Canada, who wasn't able to come home,  all 7 of us siblings, Atchi Edith, Kuya Cesar, Me, Mario, Nela,  Lina, and Edna attended the interment. We were so devastated but life was to go on.  After the burial, and since it would be difficult for us to convene again, we met in our ancestral house in Lingayen to plan for the fiesta in May. We were to do a little make-over for the house to make it presentable for the droves of visitors we anticipated to come. At the same time we started to compute and dispute over our priorities for the big event. All these went fast as our eldest sister Edith, the matriarch of the Clan, would be home back to California in a week's time.

The House Renovation : Was It a Balm To Our Grief?

While in the planning stage, out of the blue, my late Kuya's grieving wife Atchi Rose and their daughter Diana, came forward on a surprise visit. Having learned about our project, they offered to finance the house renovation, from cost of labor down to materials to be incurred.  Their magnanimous gesture was in my mind, borne out of their love for my Kuya who had insinuated renovation plans for the house for the coming fiesta before he died. In no time at all, a new water system was connected,  completely abandoning the old pipings for fear that the old system might raise problems later. The lighting system was rechecked for  necessary electrical remodeling, too.

Somehow, our sadness over our recent family loss, was tempered by this preoccupation- the house renovation. Everybody went busy pulling out of the house the old unnecessary furniture that were partly destroyed by floods in the past. They were offered to our relatives who were grateful to be the recipients. In fact, a little repair would make those serviceable again- like the big aparador, the china cabinet, the living room divider, old electric fans- anything old!

Four construction workers and two painters were sent in the house to be remodeled- all courtesy of our sister-in-law. They were pulled out from my in-laws' town Bautista and the nearby town of Bayambang. They would stay in our parents' house the whole duration of the make-over because of the distance of their residence.

New beautiful-looking tiles were attached to the flooring of the whole house from the basement room to the living room and kitchen. The old floor was  just smooth cement flooring our parents afforded when Tatay built the house with help from neighbors.  He planned to have it covered with linoleum when resources would permit it.  The second floor  is as it is- wood flooring. The house design was that of Tatay's, too. He was a good construction worker in his younger days before he landed a permanent government job as a deputy assessor.

The paint inside the house was still good  to me but our benefactors  decided to repaint the entire interior and believe it or not- all of the outside was given new paint as well.  As the change unraveled in our very eyes, other home additions popped out. The bathroom was small for the growing clan. So the storeroom was turned into an extended bathroom complete with bath fixtures like the shower, etc. The fixtures of the old small toilet-cum-bath, such as the toilet bowl was still serviceable, but the bathroom tiles were changed anew.

One Necessity Came to Fore After Another

As we watched the charity-oriented project go, one necessity came to fore after another. The backyard  was a low-lying area prone to flood waters during rainy season. And so filling it up was necessary to give protection to the house. Another thing was that our house and lot were exposed to human elements of  vandalism as well as undiscovered disappearance of our chicken,  coconuts, bananas, and other produce from our orchard when I was away to work and even more rampant when I was away home on vacation to my daughters' place in the city.. There was then this consensus among us 8 siblings to offer our counterpart project- the concrete  house fence.

Filling The Backyard

But the fence couldn't be built unless the backyard  is filled with more soil. A total of 20 truckloads of soil was dumped into the low-lying backyard. Some trees were sacrificed, cut down to give  the area a new look and  arrangement. Brother Mario, a Civil Engineer, was at the front line overseeing the over-all massive construction and leveling. Atchi Edith and Kuya Cesar were too amazed at how work started without much ado.

Putting Up The Concrete Fence

This project conceived years ago never took off for many reasons each one of us understood. As we have families of our own, and living apart from one another, the ancestral house was left alone. Now was the time for us to remodel it  by  putting more teeth on our resolve to make our counterpart project come true. We started on scratch. But there was a will, and so there was a way. The construction of the concrete fence took off. Atchi Edith and Kuya Raphy, Tisoy and Helen, Edna and Pol, Kit, Pot and I, Lina and Ging,  Neneng and Eden, Mario and Abring started the funds pouring in.

Constructing A Bahay-Kubo ( A Typical Filipino Nipa Hut)

It was like mad, but Mario, Pot and I, decided to put up this nipa hut  in an strategic corner of the  the very wide  and uncluttered backyard. We  had enough coco lumber from two coconut trees we cut down from the backyard which was likely to be wasted if left there to decay.  And  the native bamboo, nipa shingles, and thatches abound in the barangay. The home addition made us delirious, it was supposed to be a surprise.  It took off smoothly,  too.

And For the Smashing Record- We Have Among Us Landscape Enthusiasts

In front of the house were few of my mother's ornamental plants which I maintained in memory of her. These  were uprooted and transferred at the backyard where the bahay-kubo now stately stands. In place of the old garden is a new landscape courtesy of Edna and Pol, Mario and Abring, and of course, Pot and I. We didn't hire our designers, we did all the work. I now recall with smile the funny experiences of Edna and Abring. who are only itinerants,  looking for a plant garden in town insisting on a name that was non-existent. The town police they inquired  from was  puzzled but politely led them to one next town. They were resourceful, though and landed on a garden in the next town, Binmaley, where they bought blue grass. Wasn't I proud that my own ornamental plants  suited their tastes, and found their rightful places in the beautiful landscape- they worked on even until night time. They were to go back to their homes the following early dawn!

The Younger Castros of the Clan

Indeed  we needed money- lots of it! There was the fiesta,  and then those intervening projects like the fence, the land filling, the nipa hut, and the front lawn landscaping. With the suggestion and guidance of our mom-entrepreneur,  sister Nela, who was soon assigned as our clan money-ger, the younger Castros and our nephews Mark Anthony and David, put up our psfiesta 2010 yahoo group. All volunteered to register, no age limit, as long as one knows how to  operate a computer. Most of our young in the Castro clan  are laptop owners and Facebook users. The yahoo serves us primarily to know updates about the clan's fiesta preparations and secondarily to chip in any amount affordable by them for the on-going projects back home here in the Philippines. Kudos to David and Mark Anthony and their Aunt Nela for this job well-done!

The siblings Ericka and Ralph of Jovy and Richard from The United States started it all, sending via mail $50 each out of their summer job proceeds. JM from Manila and his 4 months old  cousin MJ from Abu Dhabie sent through Lola Rose a wholesome amount of ph15k , too. Little  Rayne who is now receiving aid  as young resident from Canada was not to be left out, because parents Mau and Reggie,  threw in the towel, too. Camille Hannah and Aron  Hanno of Nela from Manila were not to be out-smarted. They chipped in cash prizes for the beauty contest on the eve of the fiesta. If it happens that I miss anyone here, I'll be in frenzy with my siblings!  But I'm sure that all income-earning Castro sons and daughters here and abroad chipped in for the success of our  eventful occasion. Sorry for my insufficient knowledge of the complete list of clan donors, ha?

Pot, my eldest daughter, single-handedly  drafted the psfiesta 2010 souvenir program, between her asthma attacks and job interviews in Manila. She shuttled to Manila and went back home  to  her self-appointed role for the fiesta preparation. Her sacrifices paid off. She got the job one week before the fiesta as soon as the draft was completed and  hand-carried to Manila  by her Aunties Edna and Lina who purposely went home to Lingayen for it.. Our Patron Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Anthony of Padua,  gave her the break she long wanted to come. Wasn't that a blessing?

Brother Mario, with help from paid  neighbors, searched for advertisers for the program, especially where Pot couldn't do the  tiresome legwork.  She was our ever efficient  data resourcer in the barangay and  online medium,  as far as posting the draft to her cousins Ginalyn and David  of Ging and Lina was concerned.  The sister-brother tandem (do I hear Jon grumble there?) literally turned down hell and came out groggy with those beautifully crafted souvenir programs- in  just 5 days! And yet, I was so afraid that we might not be able to distribute said programs on time for the fiesta in May 1 and 2. Then there was a lull in  the hectic activities of barely two weeks where Glo, a reliable cousin, came home from Bulacan,  to help me do some last minute cleaning and  arrangements in my house and the ancestral house. With Pot on the job in Manila, I was left to feign on my own. Glo was a God-sent ally!

The Castro Siblings Were Not To Be Left Out 

Of course, we were the star  players, each one having assignment we couldn't turn our backs away from- because it was posted in our yahoo group bulletin! Nela, Lina, and Edna burned the lines practically begging around for street decors, posting at yahoo  financial updates, urging pledges of donations,  when funds  turned low and chipping in personally additional cash out of their pockets where none seemed to  come. Our late Kuya Ben, through his family, had his promise materialized with fame and glory! A newly-renovated house complete with beautiful curtains, restored water system. The lighting system proved costly which is why we, siblings, had it completed. Everything was possible because we were united.

I laugh today whenever I  recall the incident when our construction workers couldn't move on because we ran out of cement, sand, and gravel for the front yard and the bahay kubo,  on the very last day of the  contract.  Kit, my youngest,  arrived home  in time and saved  us from our dilemma.  But my allowance for medicine had to go. She sent me another when she returned to Manila. Atchi Edith instructed us to hold in abeyance the construction of the steel gate and the iron grills of the fence to give way to the most important event- the sourcing of more funds for the fiesta.

Nela, Lina, and Edna  formed the triad who purchased necessities for the fiesta.  They thought  that Nanay's refrigerator was old for the remodeled house, so they bought a new one. A new  two-burner gas stove replaced the old one, too. Subsequently, they  would come home for last minute plans for the big event. Pol, Edna's husband,  who had an angioplasty for almost a year then,  drove the triad on their long trek home on several week-ends. How they all enjoyed  their volunteerism work! Pol turned down his ornamental garden  at  home in Cainta  and brought his bromilliads to hang in the driftwoods (remnants saved by Edna from our orchard) around the bahay-kubo. Mario and Abring came home for the  novena and  helped Pot  and I  plan our menus.  Everybody was hands-on. Carlito from Canada was not to be left out. He sent more funds than we expected to defray pre and post expenses.

Atchi Edith and Kuya Raphy, didn't make it with us in person like Carlito but they  suffered so much than the rest of us. They were at the receiving end of our need to replenish our  funds whenever they ran low. Mon and  Atchi Rose, accordingly,  became  veritable stand-bys as fund-raisers in the most crucial of times. I wonder if by this time, they are given reimbursements as agreed upon by them?

This was indeed a smart idea!  The internet burned all the way to Abu Dhabi California, Canada, Australia, and all over the Philippines where clan members live. It was amazing! It was exciting.! Indeed this was a milestone endeavor in the history of the Castro Clan.What happened left an indelible mark of the interplay of the good and the bad in us, depending on how we played our roles. It was also an acid test on who we are now that we are grown-ups.

The Party Is Over

The fiesta was over, but at this moment, the story is to be held indefinitely, until when again, I don't know. What I know is, God gave us reason to be closer as a clan. It is now our turn to ponder on His message. In God's name,  how did we  really fare- individually and as a whole?  Was everybody satisfied after those brow-beating planning and hardwork? Are we happy in the aftermath? Did we really achieve unity? Did we make our parents happy? our Kuya Ben and the rest of our beloved dead- my husband Ruben, brother-in-law William and nephews Benjun and Wilbert,  proud of us? I know that  we are all accountable to no one but God, through our intercessors and  patron saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Anthony of Padua, the rest of our lives.

We still have unfinished project , the putting up of iron grills over half of the concrete fence  and the steel gate in front, to complete the numerous projects we started  from scratch. Meanwhile, as we browse through our yahoo group videos and pictures of the recently concluded event in the history of the Castro Clan, I  believe that only a small part of our mission was accomplished. I now realize that we have much to mend, not only on earthly possessions but most importantly  our own ways of life as well, that pose irreparable dangers to our  own families' relationships and clan interrelationships.  We have just started, and history will account for the rest that we will do, no  longer  for us, siblings, but for the next generation to come, who will be there to either make perfect our imperfections or correct them for everybody's good.

And the ancestral  house stands alone now as it was then. From the events that happened, is our  beautifully renovated parents' house happy? or forlorn?


Related Posts with Thumbnails