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By David Haldane

Jan. 2, 2020


It was the electrical outlets that finally did it.

For a long time we waited for the air conditioning, then the bed, then the mattress. In the end, though, it was the re-positioning of those outlets near the place where we would lay our heads that made the difference. One obvious benefit, of course, was enhanced nighttime cell phone charging. The other; a chance to finally move into the top-floor master bedroom of what we like to call our newly constructed mansionette by the sea.

In a slight variation of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in other words, we are (with apologies to the master) “home at last, home at last, Thank God almighty we are home at last.”

I should probably tell you how we got here.

After purchasing this lot with a spectacular view overlooking Surigao Strait – the historic gateway to northern Mindanao – in 2013, it took us a while to get all our ducks lined up for construction. The build finally commenced in 2015, overseen by a wonderful civil engineer, Andot Perlas, who happens to be married to my wife’s cousin.

For a time we watched from afar. Then – believing, it now seems clear, that the project was much farther along than it actually was – we moved into what, at the time, amounted to a glorified construction site.

That was in August of 2018. For the first four months, we lived in a small basement bedroom otherwise known as the maid’s quarters. Then, just over a year ago, relocated to one of the guest rooms on the second floor while a construction crew worked at completing the master bedroom upstairs. Last night we slept in that bedroom for the very first time. And now, in the immortal words of, well, whoever said it, I am firmly convinced that “there’s no place like home.”

It’s hard to describe the ebullience of finally feeling at one in your own domain. The evening was spent, innocently enough, watching TV from the bed in which we expect to spend much of the rest of our lives. Precisely on schedule came the requisite brownout with its hour of darkness and silence. And when that was over, well, there was just lots of sleep lovely sleep.

This morning I awoke with the smell of the sea in my nostrils and a deep green jungle at my back. Stepping out onto the upstairs balcony in a robe, I shielded my eyes to silently survey the motionless ocean stretching out before me all the way to Leyte. And that’s when it occurred to me that I had finally arrived.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again; I don’t know how these things happen. I don’t know why one person ends up starving to death while another, no more deserving, spends his later years living in a big house overlooking Surigao Strait. Perhaps such things are not for us to understand, but simply enjoy. Perhaps the only thing to do in such circumstances is be grateful and, whenever possible, share.

All I know is that, bolted to that balcony this morning, I felt the presence of something larger than myself. To that entity, whatever it be called, I say thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for the New Year. Thank you for the blessing of this house. And thank you for the glorious hill on which it stands.


David Haldane is the author of an award-winning memoir called “Nazis & Nudists.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an American journalist, essayist and radio broadcaster whose 2018 story of the California desert garnered a Golden Mike award in feature reporting. He recently moved to Mindanao with his Filipino wife and their nine-year-old son. This column tells the unfolding story of that great adventure. http:///


Originally published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily

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