Dianong’s Store circa 1940’s @Samuel Vytiaco, @Hennie Vytiaco, @Lino Vytiaco, @Lucia [walang] Klass: This is the ancestral home that you have abandoned, forsaken, and left to rot. Don’t you hear the voices from the past, their faces staring back at you, whispering their wish to not be forgotten? Are you proud of yourselves now? So who’s stealing what from whom? How will you be remembered? What will you be remembered for? If at all.
This house is special because my grandfather and my father built the entire house themselves with their own hands and the sweat off their brows — with each dovetail joint meticulously crafted to exacting tolerances; each nut that is fastened to its bolt repurposed from salvaged wartime parts from tanks, planes, trucks, jeeps, cannons, artillery… all quality steel and iron components from the spoils of the war.
Every beam, every post, every lintel, has a story to tell — from whence the huge beams came from, — gigantic, massive, hulking wooden girders and struts impossible to find these days; how they travelled from places unknown, to their eventual location fulfilling, in their finality, their purpose: to hold up a structure that would shelter its occupants, eventually transforming what started its existence as a humble shelter, lodging, residence, dwelling… into what would be a family’s home for the next 75 years: our ancestral home.
The fact that the foundations are holding up the entire house, and everything that grew and evolved around it as expansions and extensions usually sprout either from necessity or the need for additional spaces for a growing family, and as is usually the case, for a growing extended family — this is testament to the engineering prowess of my father and my father’s father; both of whom are neither engineering degree holders and at best graduated from a trade school (vocational in current parlance), but both are undoubtedly engineers in the true sense of the word.
This house was completed in 1946 or 1947 — all my grandfather’s and my father’s work has the completion date inconspicuously visible from the main entryway — the first thing one sees as one steps in — if one knows where to look. It’s usually sculpted into the concrete during pouring and before it sets. They even designed their own tools to accomplish this commemorative tradition using wire bent in different shapes affixed to a handle — akin to a sculptor’s carving chisels, putty knives and spatulas — ensuring each character in the date was typographically consistent, clean and flawless. Even back then they understood the value of creating a good, first impression. Again, if one knows where to look.
However, climate change has buried that date set in inlaid pebbles (they too get bored with monotony and predictability and decided on a different approach for the treatment of the date for this house) on the very first step of the stairway into the house which was always first to greet the guests and this time, it was also the first to greet the oncoming floodwaters as it becomes submerged under the first vestiges of an approaching flood — a “new normal” when the term was not yet fashionable as every typhoon brought with it its corresponding flood. From Toyang to Rosing to Goring to Sisang to Oyang to Saling and all the typhoons in between.
The raising of the entirety of Bautista St. to an elevation of three feet from before, took several years and was designed to address the aforementioned floods, but has made the ground level of all properties along this road three feet below street level — essentially half-underground or a half-basement, neither of which is never a good thing. This probably took place after 1975 when Makati was separated from Rizal province along with Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Quezon City, Marikina, San Juan Taguig, Pasay City, Parañaque, Las Pinas, and Muntinlupa.
So the only casualty — as far as this house is concerned, from all those floods and the inevitable passage of time, as well as the worst scourge ever to afflict any home: termites — the only casualty were the first two steps up the stairs as these were filled with concrete and inadvertently covered the ubiquitous commemorative date. This recalibration of where the new street-level baseline is now located was intended to bring the properties lining Bautista Street, to the same level as Bautista Street. The effectivity of these so-called flood-control projects is an entirely separate discussion fit for conversation on another day.
Heading back into the house discussion, this structure has seen the unrelenting passage of time and along with, the equally unrelenting parade of lives comings and goings, leavings and returnings, welcomings and departings — a veritable litany of genealogical ancestry data merely waiting to be documented. And might you venture a guess as to who in my family has elected themselves as custodian of this family tree? But of course, who else, was there any doubt, perhaps because nobody else was up to the task, or perhaps nobody else could, but yours truly.