I’ve been staying at my mom’s house in Batangas for the holidays. The other night, I was having a drink with neighbors on their porch when they commented how things had changed around here. The main road in our village is now flanked with 2-story concrete houses.

We spent most of our childhood within flimsy walls. The house across ours was built from sawali (interwoven bamboo splits). The one beside it used to be made of nipa leaves. Our house was made of sawdust.


You know when you mix sawdust with resin and they harden, they become these thin boards? The house I grew up in was a bungalow made of these sawdust boards.

There were parts that were made of plywood, but much of the walls were these boards. It’s amazing how we weren’t really directly hit by strong typhoons growing up. The only thing I clearly remember is Rosing, but it was the flood that we worried about, not the winds.

Our house then had a living area with bamboo furniture, a kitchen where I found 2 snakes while cleaning, and two small bedrooms. Bedroom 1 was where my dad slept. He was sick and he wanted to be alone all the time so he had that room to himself.

Bedroom 2 was where the rest of the family stayed. The room was cozy (sugarcoating!!!). It was as long as the bed. Three of the sides of the bed touched the walls (there were no gaps in between)! One side had little space. My mom, my brother, my sister and I slept on that bed. All four of us! Our feet dangled from one edge because our bodies were longer than the bed.

This is also the reason that even up to now, even when our house is much bigger, with four rooms, one for each of us, WE STILL SLEEP IN THE SAME ROOM. Out of habit. Out of comfort. We grew up that way.

Yep, still in the same room. (Except my brother coz he has his own family now.)

I don’t even know why I’m sharing this. But I’m writing this in the living room of our house and remembered the howling winds that I woke up to this morning. Another typhoon has passed. I’m safe and dry, with a cup of tea in between my palms, a roof above me, and walls that aren’t made of sawdust. And I thought, if this happened 20 years ago, it would be a very different story.

Life has been kind to us. Happy Holidays!


  1. I imagine that even if they just used sawdust boards, that your house was nevertheless well-built. I grew up in houses that used good materials but suffered from poor carpentry.

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