THE WIND takes me to places. The home of this farmer was reached after hours of walking. In wet, miserable weather, it seemed the house was on the fringes of the world. At some point, one came to doubt one’s sanity. It was insane to come so far; it was insane to turn back. Only by this reasoning did it make sense to continue.
When I entered the house for the first time, it had a floor made entirely of old, thick dark wood. The planks were worn smooth, looked cold but felt warm. Not only feet but bodies rolling around made the floor of the farmer’s home. Without being bidden, I lay down and stretched out sodden, half-frozen legs molded in boots of mud.
No other welcome rivals the boon that awaited sojourners in that farmer’s home on the fringes of the world. Yet, with the nearest neighbor a mountain range or two away and strangers unlikely to drop by in its forbidding remoteness, how did the farmer know how to be such a gracious host?
“Mi casa, su casa” does not come to mind when you prowl today’s home depots. In the age of do-it-yourself (DIY), it’s all about the self: self-improvement, self-reliance, self-protection. These days, they pipe in Christmas songs for background music. But it might as well be the evening news or lifestyle channel features played as ambient sound to keep up with the aspirational messages being shouted from the shelves and counters for the DIY home.
Certain fixtures were common in the homes of my elders. A turntable and a piano were not just displayed; these were used to entertain at a time when entertainment was communal, not a solitary pursuit. Aunts and cousins who played a repertoire of a song or two put in many hours for piano lessons and practice.
Then, I hardly appreciated why playtime had to be sacrificed to perfect a song that player and audience pretended to enjoy. Now, when I see families plugged to their individual gadgets during outings, I can hear echoes of the tinkling of family recitals. How can anything so amateurish be missed?
Homemakers of the past did not deserve the tag if they were without a sewing machine. As a child, my siesta was punctuated with the whirring that came from a sewing machine pedaled by the foot of aunts whose life calling was to keep the family stocked with pajamas, layettes, pillow cases and dust covers.
Just the other day, a shop selling “modern antiques” had a display of side tables decorated with a sewing machine minus the foot pedal. In a future I will never get to see, will they also sell closed-circuit television (CCTV) as wall décor or conversation pieces about the self-exterminating lifespans of gadgetry?
I watched myself on a shop CCTV. A salesman asked me if I wanted to see “other models”. Is there a CCTV that also offers makeovers?
There is one feature, though, that I appreciate about modern homes: their diminishing dimensions.
A tiny home is not just easier to clean. When friends visited, our dining table with just two benches started a conversation. We didn’t opt for chairs to save space, said the husband. Sit beside me, our friend told her husband. Missing me so soon, joked her husband. I remember my grandmother having the same long table, the same benches, commented our friend. In rural areas, mealtimes are still communal affairs, I said. Benches sit more, said the husband. Chairs demarcate: space as private property, he added. Anything to keep the wife close by, joked our friend’s husband.
And if you happen to eat alone, a bench can be converted into a couch, said the husband. Share your plate? coaxed our friend’s husband. Home is what you make it to be.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s December 7, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”