Times gone by

Another happy thoughts post! 

As I’ve mentioned before, I love old houses. So I was ecstatic to find that Bohol had a huge concentration of them, still standing in varying degrees of dis/repair. 

They were everywhere — lining along both sides of the main avenida of Tagbilaran City and dotting narrow village paths winding among lush green fields. The true grand dames stand their ground in their places of pride across town plazas, staring centuries-old coral churches squarely in their stained-glass eyes. 

The more practical ones have welcomed bakeries, sari-sari stores and beauty parlors into their bosoms, quietly bearing the inconguous indignity of loud plastic signs and misspelled tarpaulin banners stretched across their midsections with as much grace as they can muster. “We were here before you,” they seem to remind their petulant young tenants with a patient sigh, “and we will be here long after you are gone.” 

Thick black tangles of electrical and telephone wiring stretch across their wooden or capiz shutters, like fetters keeping these proud houses from rising up in revolt. (Pia, pet peeve alert!)  

Many other smaller ones continue to serve their purposes as family homes, with most seeming to prefer a ramshackle half-existence over the rude invasion of glass-paned windows or painted concrete reinforcements. These houses lean at absurd angles, their thin wooden planks like matchsticks just barely held together by some supernatural force. 

If you’ve ever wanted to see faith in action, you have only to see the alarming angles at which some houses lining the bridge from the Bohol mainland to Panglao manage to stay upright. Glimpsing a Santo Nino through a perpetually open window, I imagine it is only the residents’ piety and prayers that keep the sea breeze from blowing the houses over entirely.

Some are for sale, and I wonder if they will be lost forever to practicality and “progress”, with quotation marks. Will these beauties be bought by a pragmatic or a romantic? All that stands between a beautiful heritage museum, like the one-of-a-kind Clarin ancestral house in Loay, and a concrete pharmacy/mall/apartment building like thousands of others, is a sense of romance and duty. 

While it is my foolish fantasy to come back to Bohol and scour the countryside for beautiful old callado panels and residents hard up enough to part with them for a few thousand pesos (both of which seem like a dime a dozen in these parts), it feels like an infringement upon the houses’ integrity to rip those delicately carved ventanillas away to leave gaping holes. After all, why should the beauty of one family’s home be sacrificed for mine? I don’t know if I will ever actually do it, but just thinking about it, I feel conflicted already. 

Seeing at these houses alongside Americanized, spanking new concrete houses, I wonder what it is that made us give up this style of dwelling for another. They’re breezy and suited to our tropical climate. Why don’t we live in these types of houses anymore? What changed? 

If I built one in a fit of romantic madness (assuming it had basic modern comforts like indoor plumbing and… er, Wi-fi) would I regret it in three, four, five years? 

Is there a way to bring what I love about old houses and marry them with all the good things about modern houses… and not make the result look theme-y or fake?

I guess we’ll only know when Marlon and I build our own home in a couple of years. Till then, I can only look… and dream.
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