Our upstairs apartment had an inside dimension of 18’ × 24’, divided into three rooms. It simply wasn’t big enough. We made an agreement with the owner, who lived in the States and was a US citizen, that the cost of any improvements could be applied toward future rent. We had no plans, no architect and no contractor, so Chuck drew a sketch of the room size and arrangement, which the owner and I accepted. That was our blueprint for building.
For two months, May and June, 1977, virtually the only activity Chuck was engaged in was house-building. We ordered a block press, which makes building blocks out of cement and a particular kind of ordinary dirt. When it arrived, Chuck and our neighbors started to work. Our next door neighbor, Rufino Luna, was a carpenter, and the young man downstairs, Felipe Abbariao, was a mason.
Eduardo, Rufino’s son, helped Felipe make the earthcrete blocks. And they worked well together. In the Philippines, a work day is ten hours, 7 AM to 6 PM, with an hour for lunch. Chuck was usually up and out, lining out the day’s work, by about 6:15. After the men started to work, he came in for breakfast, and then went right back out to work. After work in the evening, he spent up to an hour cleaning paint brushes or putting things in sheltered places so they wouldn’t be soaked by the rains. It made for long days, but the job was completed more quickly that way.
Together they built the house. Chuck told them what he wanted, and they did it. Occasionally they would say it couldn’t be done, so they had to figure out something else. Sometimes they had a discussion to work out the best way to accomplish the task.
Because it was done that way, Chuck couldn’t be away from the job any more often or longer than necessary. He frequently checked to see that things were going as planned, but only rarely did he actually stop what he was doing and watch for a few minutes. Most of the time, he was busy doing some part of the work himself.
While Chuck was involved with all of that, I was able to spend my time on translation work. I was in the process of formulating and asking questions by which I checked the accuracy, clarity and naturalness of my translation. Neighbor ladies helped me with that. Another of my main jobs was to check the work of a typist whom we hired for one month to catch up on back typing.
For a while, it seemed like things were going slowly, then they picked up the pace. They put up all the walls and the siding. Eduardo and his father, Rufino, put on galvanized iron for our roof. Chuck took electrical training when in high school and worked part time in an electrical business, so he did the wiring for the downstairs part. He was kept busy going to Tuguegarao, sometimes twice a day, to get materials the men needed. They put an overhang on the extension, which was much nicer than the one on the main house, so we would not have such a problem with the heat of the sun. It also made the house look larger from outside, but actually, it didn’t make it that way inside. On the porch upstairs, Felipe laid the decorative block wall, which looked quite impressive.
Another of Rufino’s sons, Domingo, helped do the painting with Eduardo. The trim was painted yellow, and the main wood part was painted yellow-green. The block section of the house was painted brick red, which was a dark red, and these colors worked well together with the surrounding greenery.
Downstairs in our new addition, we had an office where we kept our mimeograph, desks, and metal filing cabinet beside a book case and a few chairs. We had a rattan bookcase, too, and a table for a general work space. The men painted the office a pale shade of yellow to make it bright so we could have plenty of light. I made pale green filmy curtains that made it cheery and bright, too. The men also put in a smaller room for our household helpers downstairs. Their room was painted the same color as the office, but I made darker, heavier curtains for the girls’ bedroom so no one could see through them, especially at night. All windows on the house had louvers and were screened. We had bars put around all the downstairs windows to discourage intruders. To make the household helpers’ room more secure, we had a special lock put on the door, and in addition, we let the girls put a bar across the door to make sure no one could force the door open.
The furnishings in the girls’ room consisted of a table and chair, a set of bunk beds and a cabinet that had shelves on one side and a closet on the other side. At first, we only had one helper, but she got too lonely and needed a companion, so we got another girl to join her so she would be content. The two worked well together most of the time, and we were happy to have a harmonious household.
It was about this time I had my experience with the fire ants, and Chuck had to make the new plumbing and toilet arrangements. In the upstairs room was where we eventually put our Whirlpool washing machine, which made life a lot easier for the household helpers or for me if I was the one who had that job.
Upstairs, at the front of the house, we now had a large living room or “sala” with windows on three sides. We had one large bookcase at one end of the room, and on one side, as you entered from the dining room, there was a table for our typewriter. Later, when we got a computer, this is where we put the computer. On the same side of that wall, we had two large rattan chairs made particularly to our individual dimensions with 6 inch foam rubber cushions. We also had a 6 foot rattan sofa with foam rubber cushions, placed on the other side of the room. The back of the sofa could be let down to become a bed. We made it longer than normal because we had guests who would use it who were very tall. In the center of the room, was a 6 foot long rattan table which could either be used as a table or a bed. If used for a bed, we would put a mattress on it so it would be comfortable, and at appropriate times, it came in handy in that capacity. In one of the corners, we had a small cabinet on which we put our record player. Chuck installed stereo speakers in both the sala and dining room so we could enjoy music wherever we were. I made curtains for the sala windows and draperies made of heavier material so we could block the light from outside if we wanted to do that.
After quite a few years in the Philippines, we got a TV, but after we got it, we found that they had removed the TV station on top of the mountain from which the signal came, so if we wanted to use it, we would have to connect it to the local cable. We never did connect to cable, so we never got to watch TV programs. We did have a video player connected to it, though, so we could watch videos that we had. We put the TV on the outside porch which was part of the addition, and when we wanted to watch a video, we would take a card table out to the porch and set up our dinner on that, and watch the video as we ate. We also used the porch to hang our washed clothes when it rained, so we put up several ropes for the clothes lines out there.
At times, we used that porch to house people who needed a bedroom. For instance, when missionary friends Rodger and Dixie Shewmaker and their daughters, Andrea and Beth, came to Cagayan to work with us, they used the sala and porch for their sleeping quarters. We put up two cots on the porch for the girls, and the parents used the sala rattan sofa and the rattan table for the other bed. They stayed with us for a few months until they were able to find a house to rent in Tuguegarao. Our house was too small for two families, but we were happy, making it work out quite well.
At the time of our New Testament dedication, we bedded down several more people than that and we had a ball, using the living room downstairs and the household girls’ room, as well.