2018
Barangay Lumingon, Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines

he White House at Pulang Lupa is my "arTchitectural" opus, an art work that houses a lifetime of my artwork. To call it "arTchitecture" may seem presumptuous or vain, for i am neither an architect nor a schooled artist, but an artist, nonetheless, with art a lifetime avocation subjugated to practice of medicine until my return to my birthplace, Tiaong.

Located at the peak of a burol in barangay Lumingon, the White House at Pulang Lupa is an on-going 20-year long construction project. What started in April 1998 with a dream of a one-room school house and library has burgeoned into a complex of buildings with five guest rooms, a pavilion, a library, a chapel, an outdoor theatre that sits over 200, an art gallery and scattering of outdoor sculptures, spacious courtyards, and view decks galore. It towers over the town of Tiaong, feasting on the wonders and whims of nature: the grand vistas of the verdant countryside and circle of mountains, the capricious peaks of Cristobal and Banahaw that awakens suffused with the colors of sunrise breaking through the morning mists, and the Ayusan mountains sometimes awash with the palette of sunset colors, the rainbows, the celestial night skies.

Visits never fail to elicit a "wow" — often, the occasion for me to delight with the narrative that Pulang Lupa was built without the benefit of formal architectural or engineering plans. My brother did excel drawings for the initial building that was to be the main-house, supervised the clearing and early foundation works. Otherwise, it was a pure winging it effort, a testament to third-world make-do and ingenuity, with Vic, the maestro-karpentero from Lalig, schooled only by hand-me-down skills from his father, taking on the challenge of putting into fruition whatever unfamiliar designs and ideas I could come up with. (The Pulang Lupa Construction Story provides details of this amusing third-world endeavor.)

Ideas were drawn on scraps of cardboard boxes, plywood, calendar pages, loose sheets of paper—disappearing too soon, becoming kindling or finding secondary construction use.

  What's in a name?
  It has been called many names. Pinagbanderahan, for the old timers, a place where the Japanese held camp during the World War II occupation. For some, Pulang Lupa, for the color of the volcanic earth on which it stands. For the family, 2.7, for the number of alloted hectares on the peak. And, The White House, despite my efforts and preference for Pulang Lupa, the name that has won over all others.
   

Water availability was unpredictable, dictated by the whims of nature—delivered by trucks when the roads were passable, hauled up by horses, or shoveled or scooped from rain puddles provided by downpours.

There were early attempts to incorporate native elements: wooden doors, capiz- and glass paned-windows, Vigan tiles, a bahay kubo—they all succumbed to the elements, the nature gods that ruled the peak: the lumot that plagued the tiles, the unconquerable termites, the vicious habagat and amihan winds, the monsoons, and typhoons that always felled a tree or two.

I thought it was a done a decade ago. The original building was already cause of delight and wonderment for visitors. Alas, to me, it refused to finish. It stood like an unfinished painting in a too-large canvas.

"Enough!" friends and family amusedly advised. . . to deaf ears. Construction continued to mushroom, a collage of concrete elements were added—a small columbarium, a cobblestoned circular driveway, landscaping, walkways, lanais, patios, and room extensions. There were times when when we had to tear down what was just built, because it didn't look quite right. When typhoon Glenda felled the giant acacia tree that took the kubo rest house with it, the pavilion soon rose in its place. In its wake, lots of spaces and walls, and nooks and crannies at every turn that begged for artwork.

The Artwork
Friedrich Nietzsche said: Art is the proper task of life. I have reveled in that task for past two decades, and more so, the past five years.

It is difficult to separate the the White House from the artwork: It is a continuity of one with the other, a connection of design and art, each accentuating the other.

I created all the artwork, a few from way back, some from Baltimore, many done in the last ten years. Having a mason and a welder at hand has greatly facilitated putting creative ideas and sudden flashes of inspirations into fruition. Many of the artwork material are rescued junk: thrashed wood and scrapped metal. A defunct generator, old metal grill fence works from the ancestral house, and countless junkyard foraging have provided for much of the metal sculpture.

For me, the White House and the art have become a reason, a purpose; perhaps, a culmination of creation and design. I can't really put it in words. Often, from atop, I look down at the expanse of what I have done, wonder how it all happened. . . and allow myself moments of exhilaration.

Perhaps, it is more than the White House and the art. It is that unexpected vista that unfolds for visitors, the inexplicable wonder and measures of joy. To borrow a paragraph from something I wrote more than ten years ago. . .

. . . Atop, the peak provides a panorama of a vista found nowhere else in Tiaong, perhaps, even in the province of Quezon. For the weary traveler in search of respite, it is a place for solitude. To contemplate, to while away . . . . To be engulfed by the sounds of birds. To indulge on a vista of an unending circumference of mountains and the verdant rural countrysides. . . the morning sunrises wrapped by wisps of awakening low lying clouds. . . . the capricious colors of the sunsets. To be swept by the fierce and moaning amihan winds of the early months. And at nights, there is the dome ablaze with a starry spectacle of constellations and planets, and the recurrent moon traversing the celestial arc. . . and the layers of sounds that hide in the dark.

The project has refused to finish. Indeed, it continues as massive canvas for creative possibilities and challenges—to fix, change, add, renovate, tear down and rebuild.
Sept 2018 • Work in progress. . . More photos to be added