Finally Making Some Progress Fixing Up My In-Law’s Place

So, in the last post I was talking about finally making some progress and that progress was seeing the first load of refuse being hauled away.  Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law have been collecting things, mostly junk for lack of a better word, for quite a few decades.  I’m talking rusty, broken knives, bits of wiring, broken figurines, worn out brooms, and other things that no longer work that they didn’t want to get rid of because some day they might figure out a use for it again.  The result is that the house was so packed with crap that there wasn’t even enough room to actually live in it.

My wife and I are making our best effort to solve that problem.  I wound up getting a lot of exercise, a lot irritated and I also got in a lot of yelling before the garbage went on its merry way.

Thank God.

Anyhow, with that stuff gone I can start putting things that are worth keeping in the attic, or clean them up and leave them on display, rearrange the furniture, get the electrical wiring installed correctly, fix the plumbing and the roof and then do some repainting.  The place is in a state of disrepair that’s ridiculous, and I can’t see letting them continue on living this way, even though we’ll only be living here temporarily.  In a few months we’ll be moving again to Manila proper for work and school and we’ll be renting an apartment.  I want to improve their standard of living before that happens and then maintain it by visiting weekly.

Besides the accumulated junk, the problems I see in this house really blow my mind because they’re things that I took for granted in the US (and to some extent in Singapore) without even realizing it.  Among other things, there’s a water shortage.  We have to get up at 5 AM to fill drums of water to use throughout the day because by 6 AM the taps run dry.  It’s an interesting experience, and I suppose it’s not very depressing for me because it’s just temporary, but I can’t imagine facing the realization that life would be that way every day, forever.

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As for our own sleeping arrangements, we walked into a bare bedroom.  It didn’t even have a bulb in the light fixture and for the first 7 days we couldn’t find one to fit it.  We were using a lamp but our cats knocked it over and broke the bulb so we spent the last few nights with an LED flashlight hanging from the fixture.  We finally found a hardware store with the bulb today while shopping for concrete and when we plugged it in, I was excited, because it was like crawling back out of the stone age into modernity again.

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We also had to get a dresser for all of our things.  We found one we liked and had it delivered.  I was afraid of the amount of time I’d have to put into assembling it but the delivery guy set it up himself.  He did it in about an hour… without a manual.  That’s impressive to me.  See the pictures below to get an idea of how many parts the thing has.

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The latest thing going on for us is having a real door set up to partition my wife’s bedroom, hallway, and bathroom off from the rest of the house.  There are various reasons for this, but mostly it boils down to privacy and security.  You can see in the photos of the dresser that we got one with locks on it.  The windows also have bars on them.  In these small villages crime is rare because everyone knows each other, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and it’s more prevalent if you make your house inviting to potential robbers.

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Anyway, the guy is about halfway done with the door installation.  He was redoing the concrete around the door frame right before he quit for the night.  This should finally get done tomorrow and then we’ll stop renovations until June, when we want to redo the electrical and repaint.

Other than that we’ve been trying to get familiar with the layout of the town again.  We’ve been spending time finding cleaning supplies, buying some pots and pans and other necessary items for daily living.  We’ve also been meeting up with family and eating out in Antipolo to try to relax a bit.  Like enjoying this big halo-halo at Chow King for instance:

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I have a feeling that the next few weeks are going to be filled with quite a bit of work, but in the end I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when the house is clean, orderly, and comfortable for living in again.

Cleaning, Cleaning, and more Cleaning

After arriving here on Wednesday we’ve spent the last 5 days cleaning for about 5 hours a day and the end is nowhere in sight.  I’m something of a clean freak to start with, but just getting things to a level of basic sanitation and orderliness is my current goal.

For the first few months of my stay in the Philippines I’ll be living out of my in-law’s house, which is a bit north of Manila in a surrounding town.  The house has been mostly derelict for about six months, with only an occasional visit to make sure it’s still standing.  My in-laws were both living out of other houses in other provinces until just recently.  So, the place is a disaster area.  Besides the accumulation of junk from decades of things being left here as a store-and-forget drop off spot, there’s dust, cobwebs and the buildup of grime to deal with.  So, there’s quite a bit of work to be done to get this place into a condition that’s suitable for living in.

I wish I could just throw money at the problem and make it go away, and for some parts I can, but most of it is just going to require hard work.  I have to haul stuff out of the house to the curb and do quite a bit of scrubbing, wiping, dusting, and brushing.

I didn’t realize just how much work it would be.  We spent 7 hours on just one room today.  It was the worst room, though.  It had been unoccupied the longest, so it was full of bags of junk, sometimes literally.

I suppose when you have more than one house, you can’t quite keep up with what all you’ve left where, so arranging it, sorting out what needs to be saved and what can go, and then doing basic cleaning can be a long, long process.

The goal that I keep in mind is that once it’s all done, I’ll be able to relax and enjoy life here.  Hopefully with another week of work we’ll have everything wrapped up and ready to go.

Voting Day in the Philippines for 2010 Elections

Today was voting day for the 2010 elections.  We got here just in time to witness the madness.  In the US, campaigning can get pretty wild and out of hand, especially when the target audience is a bunch of radicals or ultra-rightwing conservatives, but in the Philippines they step it up a notch.

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First off, the campaigning is in-your-face.  You really can’t miss the fact that there are elections going on because almost every available inch of wall, post, and overhang is used to display posters of the candidates.  Some campaigning parties will even run strings across roadways (as seen in the image above) and have hundreds of the same poster hung up.  It gives the whole thing a sort of festive feel.  I also saw a lot of private vehicles and transportation vehicles (like taxis and tricycles) covered in campaign posters (pictured below).  Every last one has a profile photo of the candidate, presumably at their best.

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The other interesting thing about campaigning in the Philippines is that trucks will drive around, or position themselves, with music blaring to draw attention to a particular candidate.  They’ll use the music (minus the vocals) of a popular song and overlay it with a slogan or a song about the candidate.  For example, we heard one playing the music from Lady GaGa’s Poker Face.

Today was the actual day for voting.  We hadn’t intended to leave the house, for safety reasons, but wound up going to a restaurant called Max’s with my father-in-law, brother-in-law and brother-in-law’s wife.  It was a delicious meal!  The only sign we saw of the voting process was a long line of tricycles and a crowd of people gathered at one point along the road, outside an elementary school where the voting was being done.  Other than that it was traffic and business as usual.  I suppose the real drama might come when the results are announced, if they haven’t been already.

I believe this year was the first year that the Philippines used an electronic voting system, rather than manually counted ballots.  The idea is that it’s supposed to inspire confidence in the citizens and allay fears of corruption and cheating.  It may work in some areas.  Some parts of the Philippines are so poor that a shiny computer screen is almost like magic, but most educated voters will probably realize that computer results can easily be manipulated, the same way that manual votes can easily be forged or disposed of.

If you’re not familiar with the government in the Philippines, it’s so consumed with corruption that it’s surprising it hasn’t fallen apart yet.  The current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is recognized as one of the most corrupt leaders to ever hold office anywhere.

I doubt that the election will be any more fair this year than it’s ever been, but hopefully whoever gains office will be more fair than the outgoing president.