For many years since I started working, my wife, Susana, and I have dreamt of having a house of our own. We have been moving from one rented dwelling to another. Our dream seemed impossible to realize given the meager wage I earn at only Php 4.80 a day. In fact, my dear wife had a hard time making ends meet most of the time
A break came into our lives when my supervisor, Crispiniano (Cris) Palo, being a sub-agent of a real estate agent, Conrado Garcia, of the Villa Victoria Homesite owned by Mr. & Mrs. Conrado Guanzon, offered me one of the cheapest lots thereat at only Php 7.00 per square meter. I grabbed the opportunity though I was not sure where I will get the down payment for it. While at the office Cris, who knew my mastery of surveying and drainage design (which was my favorite subject in college) mentioned to Mr. Guanzon that I am an expert surveyor and that he could avail of my services (as a sideline) at a reasonable cost much cheaper than what licensed surveyors will charge who may have no knowledge of preparing drainage plans at all. Upon hearing Cris’s comments about my penchant for addressing surveying problems with precision and neatness, Mr. Guanzon right there and there proposed a verbal contract with me in the presence of him (Cris) and Conrado (Garcia) that he shall compensate me fairly well if I would prepare the drainage system plan of the Villa Victoria Homesite. He will give me a helper in my surveying work.
Using the government-issued level (surveying instrument) in my custody, I performed topographical survey of the entire homesite with the help of his servant, Kiko. The work took us 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) to finish. Despite my tiredness from work in the Department of Public Highways, I still worked in earnest from dusk till midnight of every night designing the drainage system plan. This effort took me a whole week to finish. Upon presenting the plan to Mr. Guanzon and told him how much my work costs, he bluntly told me, “ You don’t dictate your payment. I will pay what I deem is fair“. I can’t recall how much he paid me which was less than half of what I expected. He would have paid almost 2 times as much had he contracted the work with licensed designers. Despite my disappointment, I agreed to accept the payment to be credited as down payment for our lot.
Then, when he called me to design the grades of the curb-canals for all the streets, I set my price. I told him he will not be able to find anybody in San Fernando or even in the neighboring towns who will do the same job at less than 1.5 times of what I am asking for. You may take or leave my offer, I said. Having already known my ability by then and believing my word, he agreed to pay me per lineal meter of grade I provide to the contractor for his guide in casting the curb-canals.
Immediately after our verbal agreement, I , with Kiko aiding me, started the traverse surveying using this time the government-issued transit also in my custody. We worked even at night. (This is no boasting, but night traverse surveying was not taught to us in college. The only night survey class we had was to determine the bearing of the star Polaris in relation to an established baseline.) I placed a Coleman lamp behind a piece of wood which I partially sawed so that I would see the slit of light set over my target points. Even when it was drizzling, we did not stop. I wear an empty rice sack over my head to protect me and covered the transit with a piece of cardboard to shield it against the rain as well. When Mr. Guanzon learned from Kiko that we were doing night survey work, he had a hard time believing it! He had to personally asked me for confirmation … When I replied, “Yes, I’m able to do it even as precisely as daylight surveying” he was wide-eyed in amazement and disbelief!
It took us 4 consecutive nights to finish the night surveying. Without resting, I started the design of the most economical and feasible grade possible for all the streets. After finishing it, I advised the contractor to get from me the succeeding grades, lines and radii of the curb-canals each time he had finished the one I had given him. Every end of the week I submitted to the office the number of meters completed. When the curb-canal work was all finished, Mr. Guanzon wound up paying me more after deducting the cost of our lot. At long last, my perseverance and toil was rewarded with a title to our lot and some cash to boot for buying the basic materials to start the building of our dream house.
But we had to wait until we were ready. An interesting incident propelled us to start the construction: The architect of Mr. Guanzon rejected the 4” concrete hollow blocks proposed for use in the construction of his house. He wanted 8’ for the exterior walls and 6” for the interior ones. So, Mr. Guanzon told me, “I will give you a truckload of my 4” CHBs so that you can start building your house. I thanked him profusely for his generosity. (The CHBs were extra hard because the masons had to use chisel and hammer to cut them!)
So we decided to start. But, even with the cost of Portland cement then at only Php 4.00 per bag, we can only buy 4 to 5 bags at a time. We had to use only bamboo for reinforcement to economize. I had to pay my co-worker driver and his crew Php 10.00 for a truckload of sand. Then, when these basic material were ready, I asked my DPH construction crew for volunteers to help me prepare the foundation of our house which I set on a Sunday when they were free. I spent the previous Saturday laying out the lines and grades for excavation. Sunday work was a combination of excavating and pouring of a portion of the wall footing. The “bayanihan” still cost us some for food and refreshment. If we didn’t provide such, we might not be able to get their help anymore. So, the pouring of the wall footings and laying of CHBs were done piecemeal, weekly. When the 3rd layer of CHBs have been laid out outlining the whole floor plan after several weeks, I decided that, henceforth, work will be confined to laying of CHBs for the master bedroom.
Work was suspended for a long time till we have save enough to buy lumber for floor and roof framing, T&G for flooring and corrugated metal roofing sheets. With the help of my carpenter crew, we were able to resume work and constructed a partial roof over our bedroom.
Though the T&G flooring are placed loose (not nailed down) over the framing, only hollow blocks to use as stairs to the bedroom, a piece of corrugated metal sheet to use as a door and only empty rice sacks to cover the frameless windows, we moved in on that particular, significant day which we would easily remember --- April 2, 1962 (my 31st birthday).
Since the roof was partially complete we could see the stars as we lay down to sleep. When it rains, we had to crowd farthest from the roof gap. If the wind blows hard with the heavy rain we get soaked. But, we just take the inconvenience in stride, even laughed it off.
We were determined to complete the construction even piece by piece. But, the task was not easy. My take home pay was meager. To complement my earnings, my wife had to sell smoke fish (tinapa) on foot, with our 6-year old daughter, Myra, in tow within the adjoining homesite, Dolores Subdivision. As I got gradually promoted my earnings gradually grew as well. The “bayanihan” was discontinued. Hired labor was used to complete the CHB walls. Since the floor is yet unpaved, and the roofing is not yet complete, my wife’s laundry, which are hanged to dry in the sala-dining area, usually gets soiled by dust which is stirred up by whirlwinds. Our toilet needs are met by burying our feces in our backyard. The various plants we raised there grew well and bear fine fruits.
As time went by, the entire roofing was completed. Wooden jalousies were installed in the window frames. A 2” concrete slab was poured in the sala-dining and kitchen areas and finished with green-colored cement. The bedroom floorings were nailed down. We replaced our pitcher water pump with a manual jetmatic pump so that we can pump water up the tower tank. By the end of 1963 the house was basically complete but for plastering and painting of the walls.
Then, in June 1964, disaster struck! Typhoon “Dading” ripped our roof off almost killing my wife who clung to the rope attached to the roof frame in a futile effort to hold the roof down. Were it not for the presence of mind of my brother-in-law, Miguel, who grabbed her tightly thus forcing release of her grip on the rope, I might have been a widower since that time. Except for a small part, our entire roof landed in the yard of our neighbors across the street.
Out of the money I borrowed from the GSIS, I bought a passenger jeepney to augment our income. The balance of the loan was used for the reconstruction of our more securely anchored roof. But, before it could be completed, another misfortune befell us! Our jeepney got involved in an accident at the junction of the McArthur Highway and the Diversion Road (in front of the Fernandino Restaurant). Damage to the jeepney was extensive and most of the passengers were wounded and bruised. Thankfully, none was killed. But, I could not do anything but to visit them in the hospital. I just ignored their suits because I cannot possibly pay their inflated demands. Work on the roof went on unhindered till completed. With this reconstruction, plastering of the walls was also done.
By the end of 1965 our bungalow was complete but for its painting. It remained like this till my return from my employment with the Pacific Architects and Engineers, Inc. in South Vietnam from Sept. 1968 to March 1973. When I asked my wife what she would prefer: buy us a car or convert our bungalow into a 1 ½ storey house? She chose the second option. So, we went for it. I did the structural and simple architectural design and drew the plans. I closely supervised materials quality control and construction procedure.
We spent almost all our savings from my overseas work on this extensive renovation project. But, it was well worth it. Our home, which our eldest son, Edwin, fondly calls the Villa Sanchez, is a sturdily-built structure. It is designed and built to withstand the most powerful typhoons that will ever visit the country. Likewise, it can withstand earthquakes of 7+ magnitude. It is designed and built this way to withstand, through many generations, with proper care, maintenance and repair, the adverse effects of weather and climate change.
FRANCISCO (Franz) A. SANCHEZ October 26, 2011