For the past few years, my wife and I have been living in a decent enough apartment here in Los Baños. It has two bedrooms on the second floor and is quite spacious for a couple without kids. We pay around five thousand pesos every month to live in this modest level of luxury, which is quite cheap compared to apartment rates in Metro Manila.
We know every nook and cranny of this apartment. We remember every major battlefield in our epic war against ants. We can navigate through it in pitch darkness by sheer memory alone. In the advent of a zombie apocalypse, we know what weapons to pick up, what windows and doors to barricade, and (should things take a turn for the worse) how to make our escape.
And that is how a house turns into a home.
When my father-in-law-- a serial OFW who’d lived in other countries far longer than he’d lived in the Philippines-- announced that he’ll be leaving for Africa soon, one of the problems that came up was the house. Specifically: who’ll take care of it? My mother-in-law works in the States while my brother-in-law lives in Bulacan with his wife and kids. That leaves my wife and I, naturally.
It was a hard decision on our part. Okay, I’m lying. Consider:
OPTION 1: Pay five thousand pesos every month to continue living in a two-bedroom apartment along a noisy highway. With ants.
OPTION 2: Pay nothing and live in a quiet subdivision-- in a house with two-bedrooms, DSL connection, air conditioning in the master bedroom, a big lawn, a cozy nipa hut in the garden, an extra bathroom near said hut, a scooter, and cute chickens.
My father-in-law would’ve thrown his car into the deal but he knows neither his daughter nor I drive so I think he sold it. Or maybe he gave it away to one of his siblings, I don’t really know. Or care. It’s the chickens that sealed the deed for me. I like animals. I suspect I like animals more than I like people.
And so, some days ago, the missus and I started packing our things up in boxes. A strange thing, this ritual of moving out of an apartment one has gotten used to thinking of as home. For one thing, it continues to surprise me how much we’ve acquired in the past few years. Most of them aren’t really treasures but bits of junk with memories attached to them. We really should sell or give away a lot of these things.
Anyway, I was scrounging around in my office when I discovered a ginormous pile of scipts. This pile is the result of about three years’ worth of writing for Nginiiig! and Nginiiig! The Hidden Files. Deciding to sell it for scrap, I lugged everything in a big garbage bag and took it to the junkyard across the street. After the weighing was done, I went home with around seventy pesos in my hand. Seventy pesos. Three years and that is the actual, physical worth of my writing: merely the weight of the paper upon which my words were printed. That worked wonders on my pretensions as a writer.
I suppose I can argue that I’ve earned more than a million pesos from those scripts. Or that art is worth more than its monetary value. But really, who am I kidding? I’m a television writer. TV did to my art what Rohypnol did to the act of love. And I can barely see evidence of that million pesos.
Look, I’d love to stay and chat about this but I’ve got to unplug my computer now…