The Construction Next Door

I think I’ve mentioned that they are building a house next to ours, and when I say next to, I mean the two walls are conjoined. The other house is at least two stories and ours is only one, so there will be no daylight here when it’s finished. In this picture, I’m standing about three feet from my house,
looking up at the back of the other house:

Those chicken wire sort of squares are our fence.  We have a concrete wall and then this wire stuff on top of that. I can’t reach the top of it- they build fences high around houses here, often topping them with barbed wire, and I’ve seen a couple with broken glass embedded in the concrete. Theft is a major problem in Davao. We’ve never experienced it personally, but I can’t count how many people we know have. Just recently a young couple we know awoke and found that cash, a laptop, and some jewelry had been stolen from their living room while they slept- and all their doors and windows were locked.  In their same apartment building another family, on a different occasion, found that somebody had tried to steal their air conditioning unit from the window one night- while they were home.

We have a loud and ferocious sounding dog, and most people tell us that should do. Another family tells us they have lived here over ten years and in all that time they were robbed once- and it was during a four day period while they didn’t have their dog at home.

Right now the problem that we are frustrated with is how much broken chunks of concrete, dust, concrete splatter, bits of wire and chips of wood end up on our side of the fence- and more. Currently there’s an area between our house and the wall that looks like they just upended a trashcan of construction debris over it, and they have poured wet concrete down our side of the wall several times.


And the thing is just so darn close!  I took this picture from a bedroom window, no magnification:

We had an earthquake recently and that worried me a bit. If these walls come down, they are taking out the side of my house.  Does this look earthquake resistant to you?


This step ladder worries me a bit, too.  Another friend says one time their helper was in their fenced in yard and set her phone down on a counter to carry dishes inside, and she came back out to see a pair of bare feet disappearing up a tree on the other side of the fence, and her phone was gone.

Incidentally, I see construction workers nimbly climbing up these things hands free. Their hands have to be free because they are usually carrying bags of cement or other construction supplies on their shoulders.  They are incredibly balanced, coordinated, graceful, and nimble.


The earthquake was a 6.0 at its center, but a 3.0 here.  It lasted longer than they usually do.  They were working on this brick wall that day so I was a little concerned and listened to hear any noises of rumbling or other indications something here was falling,  but it was quiet.


It’s not normally quiet- the construction workers are singing loudly, hammering, mixing, sawing, laughing, and generally making a huge ruckus, but it was lunch time, which they keep to pretty strictly.So a couple of hours later when I saw that one of my daughters had texted and asked if we’d felt the earthquake, I said yes, and it was longer than usual, but nothing had even fallen.  And at that moment, I heard this enormous clatter of metal falling.

I went out and looked and couldn’t see anything except four or five guys up on the second story grinning cheekily at me. I magnified this pic to get it because it’s so bright out, otherwise I just get sillhouettes, but that dilutes the impression of how high above they really were- scroll up and note that they were standing around on the top rafters/railings.

“Everybody.. er… sige lang?” I asked.  Sige sounds a bit like siggy and means okay, and lang sounds like lahng or long and sometimes means ‘just’ or ‘only’ or ‘right’ as in just here, however it seems to be required in places none of those words would be used and every Filipino has a slightly different translation when I ask what lang means.  The majority opinion is, “English meaning? Ehrm, I do not know.”

They grinned and said they were sige lang.

And then we spent a few minutes trying to communicate. I could understand about every third word in Cebuano/Bisaya/Visaya , but couldn’t quite fill in the blanks.  So what I got was roughly, ” Ma’am, you cannot… (something) because (something).”


I scratched my head and asked in probably rough and ungrammatical Cebuano, “Dili pwede ako unsa? (I cannot what?).   They told me I could not something because something.

Dili ko kasabot- I don’t understand, I said. They laughed.  I asked if I could take their pictures and they started posing.  I had to take more than one because they wanted their poses just right.


They tried again with the Ma’am, dili pwede something ka, perro something something.   Hulat na, I think they said.  At any rate, I understood they were asking me to wait a minute.   Then they had a conference together, up there in their so very not OSHA approved work clothes, standing on about 4 inches of railing over a 20 foot drop.

After a minute or two they got excited and were agreeing with each other, they’d figured out what to say.  They they had to have another conference to vote on or persuade the one who would be spokesperson:

“Ma’am, you cannot standing there because…. (triumphantly) falling down!”  They waved their hands at their work, where they were sawing off ends of wood, snipping wires, wacking uneven bits of concrete with the hammers.
The spokes person turned to me again and asked doubtfully, “Falling down?  Kasabot ba ka (do you understand) falling down?”  They were delighted with me for agreeing that I understood falling down, and indicated I’d move out of the way of the falling down falling down.

And then- I kid you not, they started singing ‘falling down, falling down…” and doing a little dance up there in the sky, nimbly tripping the light fantastic on 4 inch wide rails and rafters. The tune was catchy and hauntingly familiar but I couldn’t place it. I had the feeling they were not quite singing it the same way I had heard t before, but that I definitely had heard it. But then I had to move the towels to the drying racks, and the Cherub got into the bananas, and I had some writing projects to finish and I got sidetracked.

We have a lot more woodchips and bits and pieces of stuff in the yard around the clothesline now.  So the implications of what they were telling me is that I couldn’t hang up my clothes anywhere those clothes  will actually dry.  I have some portable drying racks in our screened in, covered patio area, but it gets no sun and not a great deal of breeze so when I hang things there to dry I don’t expect them to be dry for at least 24 hours.  Sometimes during rainy season when I go to check on them and flip the towels over to help them air better, I’ve shaken off a small cloud of mosquitoes.

That night our Cebuano language teacher came to our house for our lesson and she’d read my written description. She loved it, and said she could picture exactly how it all happened. She said that probably when the spokesman started singing and they did their little jig, what they were singing was London Bridge. She said that is one of the songs they typically learn in school as children, so when they conferred with each other to figure out how to communicate with me, that I couldn’t stand out there in the area because of the falling debris, that is what they came up with.

Folk songs are really, really useful!



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  1. Posted April 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I love this story. I love that they sing while they work, and that they were able to communicate with you because they’d learned a folk song in another language.

    I’m awfully sorry you’re losing your sunlight though.

  2. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    What a fun and informative interaction. 🙂

    Losing your sunlight–will that keep your house cooler?

    • Headmistress
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 5:09 am | Permalink

      I am not sure. We also lose any chance for a breeze. But maybe it won’t matter.

    • Headmistress
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      Oooh, I think it might make for quieter nights. Noises seem a bit more muffled tonight.

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