HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - May 1, 2018 - 12:00am

The last time I went house-hunting was 19 years ago.  We had lived in a  spacious duplex on Katipunan Road for 11 years when our landlord came to announce that he had sold the property to a developer who would build another high-rise on that once-lovely tree-lined avenue.  With Katipunan  starting to lose its charm as a university town, it was really time to move.

We found a house in San Juan that had everything we needed and we packed our stuff for the big move. Old files dating back to my college years, faded and new clothes that no longer fit, broken-down furniture, including a bed that had sprung its springs, went to the trash  or to Caritas, along with memories of my daughters, their cousins, friends and classmates who occasionally sought refuge in our home during floods and high-traffic days.

One memorable rainy afternoon when Katipunan was flooded and the traffic was at a standstill, the kids came on foot, as if guided by a radar, all wet and hungry.  We made them change into old T-shirts and I sent the cook to the corner store to buy instant noodles, lots of it, to feed the refugees until their worried parents could pick them up. 

There were other memories of my daughter’s parties with their barkada, and countless family gatherings with yummy food prepared by Bobet, my legendary and now-late cook. I loved the place but we had to go.

The house in San Juan was charming if a bit inconvenient. It was built along a curve on the road which made parking difficult for visitors.  When, after a year, our landlady wanted to increase the rent drastically, we looked for a better deal elsewhere. 

The townhouse in Hagdang Bato was big enough for two households. My older daughter‘s family of three fit in a separate apartment on the ground floor, and my extended family occupied the third and fourth floors.  We have been happily ensconced here for 19 years, but last February, my landlord told me that he needs the place, and in a great hurry.  So, under severe stress and growing panic,  a-house hunting we’ve been going for over a month now.

The last time we moved, we used the classified ads of the Sunday Bulletin to find new house. Over many moves since I was a child, it’s been the Bulletin that gave the most reliable listing of properties for rent, sale or lease.  This time, my daughter used property listings on line to direct us to possibilities.  We have also combed the streets and by-roads of places where we hoped to find a decent dwelling.  What we’ve seen are rows and rows of brand new townhouses for sale where beautiful family homes once stood. Childhood memories of climbing fruit trees, swimming, or just lolling in the shade on warm summer afternoons in my old neighborhood come to mind as I mourn the loss of an era of gracious living.

We found online a classy compound of townhouses in San Juan where we could imagine ourselves living. The owner was warm and friendly; in fact, she told me the story of her life. But the unit we could afford only had two livable rooms, and the smaller one had no windows! And she would only accept one small dog.  We have two. 

Another place also in San Juan would have been perfect: three big rooms with lots of closet space and top-of-the-line toilets and bath, a large sala and dining room, a smallish kitchen but a large dirty kitchen cum laundry area at the back. But the owner stipulated, strictly no dogs.  

Rental agents are calling to show us a townhouse here, an apartment there, but mostly, they are too small, little bird houses fit for very small people.  My queen-sized bed won’t fit in those rooms, and with stairs so narrow, I cannot imagine how our ref could be brought to the kitchen on the second floor.  Scratch that. 

I visited a big old townhouse that had an old world feel to it, complete with loose tiles, peeling paint, thinning carpeting, and probably ghosts.  Another unit recommended by a friend is located in a once-stately compound with an old decrepit mansion in the middle and two run-down apartment buildings that could do with a lot of work.  

A month away from deadline, the search goes on.  Meanwhile, in my head, I am tying up my old books in bundles to be donated to libraries, emptying the attic and my room of useless files I’ve kept for ages, figuring out which furniture I can live without, and weeding my closet of clothes  and shoes I haven’t worn for years.  If only for this necessary exercise in cobweb-clearing and downsizing, I am starting to warm up to the idea of moving.

If I can only find a suitable house…

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