Building a Philippine House – Index

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Building a house in the Philippines. We  built a house on Panay Island in the Philippines.  We’ve documented our project with photos, text and building cost reports.  This page is an index to our posts. Keep in mind that we are not architects or engineers so don’t take our opinions as gospel.  We been very open about things that went wrong and why.  That may give the impression that we are unsatisfied with the house we built.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We love our house and our life here.  Yes, some things could have been done differently if we knew then what we know now.  Isn’t that always the case? We are open about our missteps because we’d like to give our readers a chance to learn from our experiences.

We continue to update these posts  to reflect our year to year experiences with the products, materials and designs we used in building the house almost four years ago.  For example, our CAE faucet failed quickly, so we suggest getting another brand.  Our Hunter ceiling fans are an unexpected disappointment. Our Pedrollo water pump has worked flawlessly so can recommend that brand.  Our very expensive P7,200 Hwaco “stainless steel” sink gets rusty, but our P1,200 laundry sink is fine.

Finally, in this narrative we sometimes express frustration with our construction crew.  If they had a blog, we’re sure that they’d return the favor!  These things are inevitable when managing any big projects.  Nonetheless, we feel real affection for our crew, and deeply appreciate their tolerance, honesty and hard work, work which has given us a wonderful place to live out our years.

House in 2013

House in 2013


Comments (60) Write a comment

  1. Many thanks to Bob and Carol for the info that I learned, this would help us a lot when we do ours.


  2. Hi Bob and Carol,

    My name is Craig. I just found this website today and only wish I would have found it sooner. So far I’ve read the first few articles, but I intend on reading all of them ASAP as I’m on a relatively tight time schedule and have already gleaned valuable information from what little I’ve read so far.

    Please forgive me, but I hope you’re up for a lengthy initial read and can provide answers and insights into the multitude of questions that I’m sure to come up with over the next several months.

    I’m an American (retired from the US Army) expat who has been living and working in Dubai for over 11 years. Last July my girlfriend and I purchased a beach house on 440 square meters of beachfront property in Bataan. The property is already partially fenced in, is 20 meters wide (beachfront) x 22 meters deep and sits just 20 meters off the South China Sea. The property currently has a house on it, which we intend to demolish to build our vacation house starting on 1 December. There is also a 4×5 meter nipa a hut for storing bags of cement and other supplies which must remain high and dry.

    The soil on the property is composed mostly of naturally compacted sand, so I hope we don’t run into the same soil problems you encountered when building your fence. We are already, however, encountering much more significant logistics issues as the property is only accessible by boat when the only road leading in and out of the village is wet and muddy. So far, we haven’t been able to send one piece of building materials to the site via land and the bangka boats cannot carry too many heavy supplies. We are hopeful that when it dies up, we will be able to bring in a few truck loads of material to ease the transportation costs.

    Fortunately hollow blocks are made in the village at an astoundingly good rate, and gravel and sand have been free so far (the sand comes from the beach, but we pay for the transportation of the free gravel @ Php 1000 per boat load {.5 cu meter/load} – I’m not sure if that’s a good deal or not, but it’s our only option given the location of the property and the weather conditions).

    Ground breaking is scheduled to begin on 1 December when we will start off by closing out the old septic tank and building a new one in another location on the property (the hole for which has already been dug). The reason behind this is because the old septic tank is located in the spot where we plan on building a small (but permanent) guesthouse, which will house my girlfriends’ sister, who is acting as our agent during this project. She is highly dependable and has already undergone construction challenges when she had her house built near Manila a few years ago.

    We also are enlisting the help of a cousin who is a construction engineer. She has been helping us out with material lists and architechural drawings.

    The local construction manager, Tony, is said to be the best one around and has a crew of 3 to help him finish the guesthouse which measures 3.5 x 5 meters and contains a bedroom and a bathroom. Tony claims he can have the guesthouse done by our visit on 20 December, but I am skeptical. If he can handle the guesthouse to an acceptable level, then I intend to keep him on for the bigger construction project to come.

    We will be in the Philippines for the holidays and after we return to Dubai, my GF’s sister will go back to the beach property and occupy the guesthouse while demolition of the old house and construction of the new one are underway – the plan is to have her stay there to supervise the whole project, act as our purchasing agent and provide updates until completed. We are hoping to have the main house mostly completed (minus finishing touches) before the beginning of the next rainy season (May), when we plan to vacation there for the first time.

    We are planning to use the rubble from the old house to help fill in the foundation and slab of the new house, which will top out at 60cm above grade. The new house will be single story and measure 13.5 x 15.5 meters. The house will effectively be a 5 bedroom (one will actually be used as a pantry and another as an office), 3 bathroom home with a large, open, living area with dining and kitchen.

    Before I sign off and go back to reading the rest of your articles, I’ll tell you that this is the first part of a three-phase plan for my retirement. My girlfriend also owns 3,330 square meters of land in Cavite, where we intend to build our permanent home and also a business to keep funds rolling in for the rest of our days. So I really do appreciate your effort to explain (in full detail) all of the challenges, failures and victories you have experienced while settling in paradise!

    I look forward to your response and will likely write more to you as questions arise.


  3. hi guys,
    thanks very much for posting all this. I am an expat, going through the same process now, building a beach house in the province (Quezon).
    As this is the first time building a house, I encounter many cases where locals tell me i’m being “screwed over” by paying too much for stuff. the most severe is the payment I made to Manila Architects for architectural blueprints.
    I have seen houses built by locals and with half made plans and they dont look that good to me. in short, I paid 100k PHP for architectural blueprints, internal design and 4 visits to the province (it is 4 hours drive away from Manila). structural/sanitary/electrical blueprints are not included.
    My wife’s mother (Filipinas) has a house in the same province and she and her contacts say I completely over paid, even for Manila rates, and got turned over.
    my opinion in the matter is that you dont mess with architectural designs and they should be done by professionals and that 100k isnt that much.
    What do you think?
    sorry for long post and much appreciated…


    • Omri,

      We paid P25,000 for a basic set of plans with no supervision of the work. We had to pay extra for help obtaining the certificate of occupancy. Other architects proposed P50,000, with no construction supervision. Of course the talent and experience of the architect and the level of detail of the plans and specs is very important. As noted in our reports, lack of detail in our plans and specs caused lots of problems.



  4. My wife and I embarked on building a house in Bacoor in 2010, completing it in 2011 and I can completely relate to many of your experiences. We started by having a rough sketch I made developed into full blueprints and construction began in ernest only to reach a point about midway through where the contractor ran out of money (he actually mis-spent to money I was sending him in increments). I was fortunate becasue I didn’t “over obligate” the funds and my in-laws were aware of the developing problem and we were able to secure all fixtures, tile, doors, bathroom fixtures for outfitting of the interior etc… all but the windows from the contractor before releasing him and continuing on our own. That ultimately cost us about $2000.00 but overall I feel lucky since it could have been much worse. The house turned out great, we have high 12 ft first floor ceilings and 9 ft second floor ceilings. 5 bedrooms and a dirty kitchen. We had the electrical system broken down with over 20 sepearate circuits and that has been a great asset to us. My wife and I are planning to settle in the PI in a few years (once I reach retirement eligibilty) and would once again like to build. We will be in country next month to visit and look at some more land. I have read much about the pitfalls of ownership and building but am still wanting to build. One reason is for the experience and another is that it will keep me gainfully employed for what I suspect will be years to come. I found your website, and the enormuos amount of information, very insightful and certainly useful for any future building endeavors we may embark upon and I just wanted to thank you for providing it.


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  6. Dear Bob and Carol,
    I am so thankful to come across your blog. just like the others, I am also very anxious on being part of building my first house. As much as I want to trust and rely my house construction to people in the construction business, I just want to be hands on just like you but I don’t have the knowledge and skill. Please continue sharing. More power and god bless.



  7. Hi Bob, how bad was typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in your area? I know that Panay island was hit. How strong do you think the winds were where you are? I am still waiting on word about damage in northern Cebu from people I know there. I own a lot (actually my fiance does) near Tobogan in northern Cebu but have not built a house there yet. But my fiance is renting a small house nearby and I am waiting to hear whether the roof was blown off. Regards, Pat.


    • Pat, it was not so bad here but further north on Panay Island it was really bad. The storm track was north of us so we got wind and rain but nothing extreme. Thanks for asking.


  8. Hello,
    I came across your webpage while surfing for a portable cement mixer I am planning to purchase. Thank you so much for the chronicle of how you built your wonderful paradise in Tigbauan, Iloilo. Just a town away from where I am building my own Arcadia. I am looking forward to hear from you and perhaps you can help me with constructive tips on how to improve my approach on building constructions.


  9. Hello!
    I will start building a small house on Malapascua island now, and I have a hard time finding concrete vibrator and other things with the English language on the Internet.
    Do you have any good website / hardware store to recommend?


    / Lars Eriksson


    • Lars,

      Wish I could help but, in our experience, you really will not be able to do your shopping on-line. Probably you will have to buy the equipment in person in Cebu City and arrange delivery to Malapascua. When we bought ours, we paid about P50,000 for the mixer and P20,000 for the vibrator. See I assume that prices in Cebu City will be similar. You can probably negotiate with the seller to provide delivery. If your crew is not familiar with how to use the vibrator, you may want to forget about using one. Used improperly, they can do more harm than good. Also, you may be able to rent a mixer in Malapascua or on the mainland nearby. In our area, the daily rental is P500 to P1,000.

      Good luck with your project and best wishes for the holidays.

      Bob and Carol


  10. Hi Andy!

    Hope everything is going well with you, your wife and children. Have been researching your blog and can’t find anything in writing or photos about your swimming pool that you had built (or so I believe you had built). Can you either direct me to where I am supposed to go or can you send me photos to my email address. Jerry and Nick are finalizing everything for the building of our home that will be started in December 2012. We had to go through a couple of revisions, but nothing out of par. Makes it hard to contact them via email and am thinking about getting a phone card to talk to them directly.

    So, any and all help will greatly be appreciated.

    Warm Regards,
    Ester & Paul


  11. I love this website thank you… Just wondering. You have some black link sections in the index here (some of the first ones like buying a lot etc…) have they been lost or just not completed?


    • Sean,

      I have fixed the text color in the index section. I think all the links work but if not let me know.



  12. Hi Bob & Carol,

    In 2009, I built a “tribal style” bahay kubo for my retirement in the Philippines.
    It is still in good shape but slowly and surely being consumed by “bukboks” and “anay” (bugs & termites)
    I intend to build a “real” retirement house (read that as concrete) near Vigan, Ilocos Sur. My launch date is November 2012.
    One question if I may : why did you choose hollow blocks instead of poured concrete for the walls?
    Thank you so much. I learned a lot from your blog.

    Vancouver, BC, Canada


    • For us, building a house in the Philippines was a bit of a adventurous undertaking what with language and cultural complexities and considering all the horror stories we had read. Hollow block construction is the norm in the Philippines. Workers know how to build with hollow blocks. If we had decided to do something different such as poured concrete, it would have much more difficult and would have required a lot more ability than we had.


  13. I have just retired at the first of the year. My wife has a small home in Dolores, Mabalacat, Pampanga. I have been designing a remodel on the house for the pass two years now. We will be adding 30 feet to the back of the house and adding a small bath, master bedroom with master bath, and remodeled kitchen. I will spend most of next year in the Philippines doing the rough in of the addition. Then I will return the following year to do the finish work. As my wife will not retire for another four years we have time. Plus we have family members living across the street from us to watch over our home. I have found your website is loaded with answers to many of the questions that I already had and many I had not even thought of. Thank you for taking the time to cover all this in such an informative matter. Who set up and hosts your website as I would like to chronicle my project also.
    Thank you again.


    • George, thanks for your kind comments. If you’d like to chronicle your project you can use one of the free blogging services. Google has one at and WordPress at The downside of these is that you can’t have ads to help support your blogging. My experience is that the ads bring in very little revenue. If you want to be able to have ads and generally more control over your blog you will have to buy a domain name ($12 per year). Of course ours is “”. Then you will have to host your site. We use the very popular We paid for three years in advance for about $150. No problems at all and pretty good tech support.




  14. Hi Bob and carol – love your project thanks so much for your efforts. realy would like to see the section on landscaping but its down just now – carol wonderful dishes i will show them to my filipina wife – we live in Bogo – stumbled on your site yesterday.


    • David,

      I had forgotten that we had not yet finished the landscaping section. That’s why you can’t access it yet. Sorry about that. We will have to get to work!

      Bob and Carol


  15. enjoying your experience. we are from alabama however we are in Legennes, Iloilo
    this month visiting family. we have purchased a nice lot in Roxas City to build on in the next 2 years. Are you close to Legennes?


    • Leganes is maybe 40 or 50 km from Tigbauan. Tigbauan is WSW of Iloilo City and Leganes is ESE of Iloilo City. Sometime we go that way to the Joy Joy seafood restaurant on shore road.


      • Tigbauan Proper is about 20 km WSW of Iloilo City, while Leganes Proper is 11 km NE of Iloilo City. When the circumferential road C1 is completed, you could bypass Molo and Jaro by turning left at Dulonan and the C1 will usher you out at Buhang, Jaro on to Leganes. Or you could also use the newly finished R4 Bypass Road from Buhang to Leganes. R4 Bypass is parallel to MacArthur Drive or the Jaro-Leganes Road (R4). R4 Bypass starts from Buhang and ends just outside Zarraga.


  16. Pingback: Our Tigbauan, Iloilo Apartment | My Philippine Life

  17. nice blog, very informative. i hope that someday ill be able to write a blog of my own about building my own house. i became interested about building a house when i read a book years ago by tracy kidder titled “house.” i never thought that it could be such a beautiful subject for a book. i live in the the national capital region where i think building a house is a different challenge and experience than your own. my province, however, is pampanga, so im also dreaming of having a future house there. good luck in all your endeavours and have a wonderful stay in the philippines. its not a perfect place but there’s so much hidden beauty in it.


    • In a way, I envy you building in the NCR. The choice of every type of building material is so very much better than in Iloilo. One of the things I do if I was building again would be to spend a week or two scoping out the materials suppliers in Manila so that I could arrange shipping to the province. I’d buy an old container to store the stuff in while I was building. Regards, Bob


  18. I have already said in other places on your blog how much I admire your work and especially this very interesting tale documenting the whole process.

    Now, young man, I’m going to wear my Iloilo tourism hat on here !!!! Excellent blog about you building your lovely home in Iloilo and then you go advertising Boracay with your main photo!!!! (Lovely photo by the way!!) Are there no lovely beaches in Iloilo that you could feature ???

    All the best


    • Young man? Are you sure you have the right blog? Haha. OK, will look to see what I have for images. It needs to be an image which suits itself to a very horizontal cropping.


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  21. Hi bob & carol,

    I’ve seen the pictures of the plumbing work for your house. Can we use this pictures to post in our Plumbing Journal?
    Our journal will soon be published this November.We need pictures to support one of our article (How To Construct, Operate and Maintain A Good Plumbing System).

    Hope for you favorable approval.

    Thank you.
    Joy Abaja
    Plumbing Journal


  22. Pingback: Building our Philippine House – Index | Philippines or Bust

  23. You have a great deal of info here. I don’t see any information about the plumbing though. I would also like some more info on a septic drain field. I know lots are small in the PI but do they use a drain field like we do in the US ?



  24. John,

    We only considered it in passing. Our approach was more or less completely conventional, just using stronger mixes and 6″ rather than 4″ block.



  25. Hello again

    Thanks for the quick answer, as well as all the info on here – I am sure there are many people following your build with interest.
    One other question for you: did you ever consider the “cast solid wall” version of construction?

    Thanks and good wishes to you and your wife



  26. Hello Bob and Carol,
    I am following your house-building reports with some interest because I shall be embarking on a similar “exciting challenge” soon in San Carlos City.
    You reported your roof as being about 300 sq meters but could you tell me the size of the overall floor area please?

    Regard and thanks in advance



    • John, the floor area is 150sm. The is a 1.2M roof overhang. The rise in the roof is 3m.


  27. hi Bob and Carol,

    thanks so much for your blog. We are also planning to have a bungalow built in Pampanga. The experience you shared with us will definitely help us when we start construction next week. please keep us posted on your progress. great looking house you got there!

    best regards



  28. Hi Bob & Carol,
    Thanks for the blog, these are good insights. I just returned from a trip in Guimbal to visit my wife’s relatives. It is a nice coastal town, probably very similar to Tigbauan. Lots of good fishing sites. Definitely will swap golf clubs for some fishing rods next time. Sad to say for golfers, there is only one golf course in the entire province of Iloilo… but it’s well worth it, the course is very challenging.


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  48. Hi Bob & Carol,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I am an American married to a Filipina and am currently living in Dumaguete (where I am a good friend of Bobby-Ray). My wife has a piece of land just outside Carmen, in the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, that we intend to build a modest house on, starting later this year. I have never done a project like this in my life and to say I am nervous about it would be a massive understatement. Being able to read about your ongoing experiences and finding a source of comparative costs, how to, etc., has made me a little more confident. I will be a keen follower of your progress and will undoubtedly ask many questions (hopefully not too many stupid ones).

    Gary & Irein Davis


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