Our Bunker in the Philippines

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Here’s a few random conversations that Janet and I have recently had:

Now that my retirement is, while not around the corner, at least within view, we talk more and more about the type of home where we would like to ultimately live. The other day Janet told me she would like “an underground place” in our future home.

“You mean a basement?” I asked, confused.

“No, of course not,” she replied. In fact there are few basements built in homes in the Philippines. If you find one, good chance it was built by an expat. Not sure of the reason for the lack of basements – perhaps the risk of typhoons. “A place dug under the ground,” she added.

After I quizzed her a bit I realized that what she was asking for was – a bunker. My mind wandered humorously to thoughts and images of Hitler and Eva’s last days and of the bomb shelters paranoid Americans built in the 50s and 60s.

“If you’re worried about storms, I would think a basement would be better,” I told Janet.

“Of course it’s not about storms. We’d drown underground in a typhoon.”

“Then why do you want an underground place?”

“War,” she stated matter of factly. I suppressed a giggle.

“If the Chinese attack the Philippines, I don’t think Alcoy or Valencia (two of the places we are thinking about moving to) would be at the top of their attack list,” I said.

“If the Chinese attack the Philippines, I don’t think Alcoy or Valencia would be at the top of their attack list.”

I tried to reason with her stating that war in the Philippines was highly unlikely. She reminded me of the Japanese in WW2. I told her that even if there was a war, Alcoy would be an unlikely battle front. She reminded me again of the Japanese in WW2 and told me that the very neighborhood in which she grew up had been much larger before the war and had in fact been renamed after the war.

I found it strange that a person born generations after the end of WW2 could still be so impacted by it; but that terrible memory is a huge holdover in the Philippines.

There was no sense in arguing further and I finally promised her that if war came, we would have the resources and the car to escape.

“What about my family?” she asked. I should have known that response was coming.

“I don’t think they’ll all fit in the bunker,” was all I could add.


Janet works very hard at her job and comes home almost daily with stories of bumps and scrapes and cuts she got at work. In the culture I grew up in we would call her a bit of a klutz. But she’s an awfully cute klutz, so I think I’ll keep that word to myself.

Yesterday she told me that she banged her knee hard enough that she yelled out “Oh shit,” at the top of her lungs. Her co-workers laughed and chastised her.

I know that she not only curses when an accident happens but she has been known to curse at her employees, although they all still like her. I imagine they think her outbursts are cute.

I remarked, “You seem to curse a lot more than you used to.” She agreed. “Did you curse in the Philippines?”

“My mother would scold me if I did,” she replied. But I knew that she had not lived at home the last five years before she arrived in the US, working and studying in Leyte.

“I didn’t curse there either,” she said. “Remember, I went to church daily when I was there.”

I felt a twinge of guilt that while I have supported her religious beliefs and activities and would drive her to church on Sundays when she first arrived in the US, I knew that she hadn’t attended in a very long time. I suspect that the church experience here just isn’t the same as in the Philippines.

“So you just curse more because it’s more standard vocabulary in the US?”

“Yes, that’s true. And because I learned it from you,” she laughed.



 A couple days ago completely out of the blue Janet asked me, “What do you think about kids with electronic gadgets?” I told her what she already knew; that my teens have iphones and Macbooks, seemingly like most kids around here.

“I don’t like kids with all these gadgets to play on. Now, two year olds have phones.” I agreed but know that in the US it’s hard to get around it. All kids have them and what is the alternative? “Going outside? Where there are bugs? Don’t be silly.”

“I want our child to play outside. How old were your kids when they first got phones?”

It was long enough ago that I couldn’t remember. And before the kids had iphones they had ipods and Gameboys.

“Well, I don’t want our child to become a gadget addict.” After some back and forth we agreed that 12 was a reasonable age to get one of these new fangled electronic gadgets.

“Of course,” I reminded Janet. “By the time a kid of ours could hit 12, that phone and those gadgets will be built into your brainstem.” I then looked over at her, holding her iphone 6 and chatting on Facebook Messenger. “And you might have a tough time telling a kid he/she can’t have a gadget when you’re on your phone all day,” I added smiling.

“I’ll tell him I’m working.”

2 thoughts on “Our Bunker in the Philippines”

  1. Reasons for basements…it’s simple. Basements were designed years ago when it was learned that for structural stability, especially in the northern climes, footings and foundations had to be exteded below the freeze line to prevent upheaval. Since the freeze depth in many northern states is over 48 inches, it was realized soon there after that with just a little bit more material, (4 more feet of concrete) you chould double your living space. Hence, the basement was born. Here in the Philippines near sea level at least it would be too wet at that depth, unless you needed an underground pool. Oh and Filipina logic, it’s just totally cute in itself.

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