WisedUp Mama


Have you or any friend of yours gone through extraordinary challenges during the construction of your dream home? Has that dream home you’ve been obsessing over brought you some unforgettable nightmares? Here’s some news: You are not alone.

My  experience with having my house constructed was one for the books. My thoughts were, ‘Oh, I have a contractor, he will take care of all the headaches and I will just have to tell him what I want, right?” Uhmmm…not quite. I couldn’t be more wrong. You see, the whole build-my-dream-home thingamajig can be very tricky. Of course it’s a given that we had to make sure that we already had the necessary budget to complete the whole project, but there were so many things factors to consider and construction economics is only one of those.

Let me run you through some of the major concerns that should be considered from Day 1:

1. The right choice of architect and contractor is key.

Do a lot of research before making a decision.

Read up or ask friends for referrals. Make a shortlist of the architects who you feel you would be most comfortable to work with, including ensuring that you and the architect are on the same page when it comes to the type of house you want to build. For starters, it does not make good sense to work with one who is known for building ornate structures when you are visualizing a modern and minimalist home for your family. There is a huge possibility that you may not achieve the look that you want.

An architect usually  has a default contractor partner. This can be an advantage because the last thing you want is friction and conflict between the two people who will actively collaborate on your dream home.

If you have an architect and contractor, and this is the first time they will be working together, try to feel the working chemistry between the two. At the very least, there should be mutual respect and professionalism between them, because believe me, conflicts between your architect and contractor will arise during the construction phase, and you don’t want the stress of having one just drop out of your project because he can’t stand working with his partner anymore.

2. Have a contract notarized.

Drawing up a contract is imperative.

In my case, I allowed my contractor to draft the contract, but I made sure to thoroughly read the provisions stated. While our contractor was an amiable guy, the completion of the house was delayed for months because of various laborers’ issues from the contractor’s end and he ended up penalizing us for the delay. We had to revisit our contract which stipulated that the contractor cannot charge for delay caused by his team, and I readily pointed out to my contractor that this provision in the contract originated from him. This saved us a serious amount of moollah. We could not be compelled to pay for something that was not our doing.

3. Push for a structured payment process.

I personally call this the 4Ps – project’s periodic progress payment. How does this work? For sure, a contractor cannot be expected to bank roll the full construction cost of your home. But do make sure that for both your mutual benefit, release your payments only based on the progress of the construction done. It is expected of you as the client to give an initial down payment to cover for the initial stage of construction, e.g.. buying materials, processing permits, etc. Expect to fish out several installment payments during the construction which may also be covered by larger, lump sum payments on the progress of milestones, depending on your initial agreement with your contractor/architect. This agreement on payment terms is crucial to the success of your collaboration.

My mistake was that I was too trusting and shelled out a substantial amount upfront. This resulted to a quick-paced, enthusiastic work in the initial phase which was not sustained. Suffice it to say that the initial energy started to sag halfway through construction. It turns out that my contractor had other projects which needed financing and he used part of our initial down payment for his other projects. This led to materials not being delivered promptly and laborers not being paid on time. And what does non-payment to workers mean? You got it, work stops.

4. As much as possible, deal with the contractor directly.

It reached a point nearing my home’s completion that it was getting more difficult to get hold of the contractor, and things were at a standstill. So I took matters in my own hands, and started giving direct orders to the workers. Wrong move.

One thing led to another, and I found myself saddled with issues like ‘Mam, pabale (salary advances), attitude and personal problems (drinking, unprofessionalism), and even petty thievery (I experienced during one site visit being greeted by the sight of one worker hauling an extra door (yes, an actual door!) onto his padyak or side-car, giggling like a kid with his jackpot loot (ok, so how I reacted to this unfortunate incident is another story). I’m just too thankful that this was an isolated case, and the other workers were being true to their job.

I realized belatedly that I was not equipped to handle the detailed dealings in a construction set-up. Eventually, we were able to iron the kinks with the contractor and I was just too happy to turn over the minute details back to him.

5. Check and ensure timely delivery of standard-level materials.

It would work to your advantage if your contractor knows that you are aware about the schedule of delivery of materials. This will also push him to be prompt in ordering. Make sure also that the materials being delivered are of the acceptable standard. I experienced ordering from a hardware and specifying a certain size of steel round bars, to which I was asked this question, “Mam, yung standard po ba o yung hindi? Magkaiba po kasi ang presyo nun. (“Mam, is it the standard or non-standard. They are priced differently.”) I was dumbfounded. Apparently, this was “the norm”. There was also this time that I had to insist and push for the use of Boysen paint. Don’t hesitate on the quality of the materials you want, as long as it’s within reason. It is after all, your home.

I always say that my experiences with having my home constructed could scare off any future homebuilder. There will be episodes of frustration, worries, trauma, which may even bring you to the brink of exhaustion and breakdown.

But once you see your dream home up, built, and completed, aaaaahhh, that is definitely the biggest pay-off. As for me, I wouldn’t mind going through all of it again, and this time, I’ll make sure to keep a close eye on my doors.

Read more about this topic, this time about a contractor’s point of view when building your first home.



On days when I feel uninspired, read: l-a-z-y, I sit on my bed, look at the ceiling and allow myself to stare into nothingness. Before I know it, a germ of an idea starts creeping into my restless, sometimes overactive and often overacting imagination, I get excited and relish the thought of starting a new project. These are moments I call ‘productive unproductivity’.

So it was during one such moment, when I was contemplating on how to dispose of the excess paints from my gate repainting project, that it came to me…wait a sec, I DON’T need to dispose of the paints. Instead of disposing, I should just keep on using them. Yes, it took me at least an hour to reach that moment of epiphany. I should be proud of myself. Lol.

So out of bed I jumped, and checked out some knick-knacks that were just waiting for me to reconnect with them. Things that I have forgotten, or maybe have stopped looking at because really, they have become eyesores. Which items in the house am I actually talking about? These are things we use everyday, things that we’ve taken for granted, those that we’ve overlooked and neglected, because they’ve seen better days and are now screaming for some tender loving attention.

What am I exactly  talking about here? What else but breathing new life into old things through repainting. It’s not always about walls, right?

Here are some everyday items whose use mileage can be significantly extended with just a fresh coat of that excess paint that you may otherwise be throwing away.

Excess paint + everyday stuff that needs painting =
Rocket science of an idea.

1.  Stand-alone clothes racks

Lucky you if you have those stainless racks that need no further maintenance, but a lot of us are Divi aficionados. Yep, I meant those painted metal bars that are customized into clothes rack and are usually sourced in Divisoria. After years of carrying tons and tons of heavy clothes on your body, wouldn’t you start looking tired and shabby too? A fresh coat of paint will surely make them good for another round of clothes hanging festival.

2.  Weight lifting or home gym equipment

Got this idea from the hubby when I saw him painting with black paint his dumbbells and other body-building paraphernalia  — ok, my fitness vocabulary is for now limited to dumbbells– and I must say the outcome surprised me. The whole body-building thingies started looking new again! Wow! That WOW goes out to the freshly painted dumbbells and the better-buffed hubby. 😉

3.  Box planters or pots

Tired of the usual terracotta-colored box planters or ‘paso’, infuse new colors by painting them with the excess colors of your walls! Yellow, green, light blue, purple even? Why not? Your plants might end up happier and more kikay with their OOTD evolution. Try it and paint away. Experiment and be bold.

4.  Bed and cabinet

It may be a little trickier to go DIY repainting for a whole bed or cabinet, but if you have old furniture with small nicks and dings, it may be a good idea to do DIY spot repainting. I once had a queen-size bed I wanted to sell but was hesitant to do so because of a visible nick at the bed’s footboard. Even with the bed’s sturdiness, it couldn’t fetch a good price because of the flaw in the coat finish. I did spot painting on it, and lo and behold, there appeared quite a number of interested buyers. Do make sure though to point out to the buyer any repair or recoat job done on the furniture.

There are more things, more household stuff that can benefit from a session of a fresh coat of paint. Spend a few moments going around your house and eye the items that you can schedule for repainting. The possibilities are endless. Not only are you able to extend an item’s shelf life and usage, even better is that you’re using paint that may otherwise have been put to waste. Now I call that being smart.

Read more here about repurposing things.

Editor’s Note: For the proper preparation of the different surfaces of the items mentioned above, please watch Painting 101 before picking up your paint brush.

Feature Image: Boysen® Countless Colors



So you were walking inside this ultra-chic store, and your eyes settle on this awesome piece of chair art by Philippe Starck, and you whisper to yourself, “Got to have that.” As you were pulling out your often-used checkbook, voila! … you unexpectedly wake up from your magnificent daydream! Oh well, welcome to your real world of monobloc chairs.

Such is the story of not a few of us, wanting to have that extra oomph of branded somethings to elevate our space into one that the next set of titas parading in their Birkin purses would die for. Aspiring for the high-end stuff is one thing, actually acquiring them is something that many of us mere mortals could only dream about.

Buying that branded bag, errr…that luxury purse, was something that you just had to do, which now doesn’t leave you much room for finer home decorating.  What to do, what to do? How do you make your place have more ‘elan’, to match your oh-so-discriminating tastes? Hmmm, the old saying goes if there’s a will, there’s a way. Indeed, there is a more sosyal, yet ‘i-will-stick-to-my-budget-till-kingdom-come’ way.

No worries, here are tips to cheat your way into living it big in your pseudo-alta home without necessarily breaking the bank.

1. Keep it clean, baby.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Sosyal’ Than It Really Is

What can I say?  Clean is classy. Anything becomes more beautiful when it’s clean. One BFF once noted that very rarely does she get to enter a house of her friends, and not get shookt with the toys and whathaveyous she usually finds scattered in their litter-glory in her friends’ living rooms. Her take—‘sayang ang ganda ng bahay, natabunan na ng kalat.’ She did say my living room was one of the cleanest – yas! I’m certified sosyal! Lol!  So you wanna keep it stylish? C-l-e-a-n is the way to go.

2. Keep the colors neutral. Accentuate only.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Sosyal’ Than It Really Is

“But I’m a color lover!” Ok, we get it, you love colors and by all means color away, that is if you envision your abode to be your personal clubbing spot, instead of a private restful sanctuary. Why not get the best of both worlds? Strike a balance by painting your home with neutrals and accentuate with splashes of striking colors. This should create for a more cohesive and unified look. If the urge to throw caution to the wind is too strong, and your electric personality cannot be stopped, then go ahead and party with colors. Just don’t forget to tone down on the furniture.

3. Upsize your interior elements.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Sosyal’ Than It Really Is

Good news, upsizing is not limited to your fast food orders, it’s applicable to your decors too. Whether it be wall elements, or an interior décor, the tried and tested rule is that BIG creates more immediate impact. Imagine a guest entering your home, and she makes a quick scan of your living room, noting the couch, the center table, the flooring, the plant, that small painting. Now, imagine the same guest as she enters your house, and immediately her eyes are riveted to that huge painting or interesting wall element you bought on sale, and she goes, ‘Wow! Nice living room!’ Now you get the picture?

4. Rugs communicate riches.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Sosyal’ Than It Really Is

Now I’m not really a fan of rugs or carpets, but if it can help upgrade your home’s look, then get one…pronto! Rugs and carpets can be a major focal point to complete an area’s look, or they can also be used to neutralize or tone down a room that seems to have so many things going on at the same time. Just be sure about the maintenance and care that you give it, with lots of TLC.

5. Make soft investments, I meant the throw pillows.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Sosyal’ Than It Really Is

This means literally throwing in the throw pillows to add some colors, or to unify a certain look and feel. These huggables are probably the quickest and most budget-friendly way you can upgrade your home into posh levels. You can easily spot some attention-grabbing colors and designs for less than P200, and they’re readily available in major malls.

Remember, it does take some effort and money to look expensive. But it can be done for a fraction of the steep price. If you have to choose, choose wisely. It’s not about the brand, it’s about the craftsmanship. Not the super low sale, but the long-term investment. And finally, if it does not look good with the rest (of the interiors), well, time to give it a rest.

All classy chutzpah considered, nothing beats being true to yourself. Life is, after all, a matter of good taste. Ta ta!