Thursday, July 23, 2009

The House That Loneliness Built

Sunday, I was happily trading online messages with a former housemate in Quezon City when out of our scattered conversation I learned a very disturbing and saddening old news: the boarding house where we used to live had been burned down to ashes last year due to faulty electrical wiring. Shock restrained me from typing a word when I heard what happened. The boarding house where I have lived for more than two years back when I was still working in Manila has surrendered its walls and floors to a tragic and unwanted demise. I couldn’t believe that such misfortune had happened and I didn’t even know. Suddenly I was silenced by shame and denunciation. I was clothed with immeasurable guilt and disconcern for an old house that I have come to call home.

Our boarding house was a unit of a typical up and down apartment building that was located along Bansalangin Street in Veterans Village, approximately a hundred meters away from Edsa. It was an old apartment building and our boarding house unit, I'd say, looked older as it wasn’t well maintained. For its dark interiors, busted lights, clogged drains, waterless faucets, swaying staircase, cracked walls, rusted windows grills, crawling insects and all other stuff reminiscent of those haunted houses featured in creepy Korean horror movies, it was definitely a miserable place, good enough as shelter, you might think, for miserable people.

But not so long ago, I was there in that same building. I have lived there since our office was transferred to Valenzuela. If it weren’t for its proximity and convenience, I wouldn’t have lived there. There was nothing special in that house, except for an old woman who had been keeping that boarding house operational and inhabited, so that she too could survive, she was our landlady. In two years that I have lived in that house, I have witnessed boarders come and go. I was there when the house was fully occupied with bedspacers and I had to act like a caretaker overseeing the others. I have witnessed how at one time the house was almost empty of any occupants, just me and Nanay Mimi, yet still we survived. I was there when someone have tried to sneak into the house and rob but didn’t succeed. I was there in many occasions that though all might not necessarily be happy, for all the lessons learned and trust earned, I'd say that it's all worth it.

I could still remember when I've found that boarding house, it was advertised in BuynSell. That was in 2004. When I came into the house, It was full of male boarders, it was more like a jail, only the prisoners were free. Time passed and everyone had to go but not me. I have chosen to stay in that house despite prolonged waterless day, despite the cockroaches, despite the creepy settings. I didn’t know. Maybe I was a miserable guy destined to live in a miserable place. Maybe because the rent was cheap and the location was very accessible. Maybe because I have already developed a sense of family inside the house. Maybe because I didn’t want to leave her alone. Maybe I was afraid to see her in tears. Maybe I was afraid to just see the house stand in its solitary and desolate state.

When I came to Dubai in 2007, I had to say goodbye to my landlady and to the house for good. It was after spending my nights there for more than two years. It was a sad moment indeed as I emptied my improvised dusty wooden cupboard, it was like leaving a huge vacuum in the house and heading forth with a hollow space in my heart. It wasn’t that easy. Working abroad was a tall order but leaving something that has come to be part of your life was rather heavy. The so many nights where she shared her unforgettable and sometimes incredible life story were incomparable. The many mornings where she'd cooked breakfast for me were genuinely appreciated. I knew when I left, she'd also felt sad. She has no family. Well, actually she has, but she's living on her own, with her pride, her silence, her solitude. This old boarding house was what kept her surviving all these years and it pained me to see her left behind and not see her at time when she simply needed someone to talk to.

The last time that I've seen her was the time when I left the house with all my belongings. I have never heard anything from her since then, not until this shocking old news that sent my thoughts to nostalgia and melancholy. I am still gald to know that no life was wasted in the accident. I felt sorry for her. I wonder where she is right now; it's been almost a year since the boarding house caught fire. The house was gone, so I hope her loneliness. Pray that she's fine and doing good, wherever she maybe.


  1. Ang dami mo namang ikinuwento tungkol sa boarding house mo, Chico. Talagang binasa ko lahat, pero may inaasahan akong hindi ko nabasa.

    Ipinasyal mo rin ba du'n sa boarding house mo ang iyong girlfriend, bro? o",)

    Wala bang mobile phone si Nanay Mimi? Kung meron sana, pwede mo pa rin siyang ma-kontak tulad ng ginagawa ko sa tinirhan ko dati sa Dasmarinas.

    Sana ay masaya si Nanay Mimi ngayon.