PHILIPPINES - As their two sons were growing up, Joel and Eloisa Buse felt it was time to move out of their rented townhouse. While driving the boys to school, the parents took a shortcut through one of San Juan's streets. They spotted an old house with a "For Sale" sign.
The Buses later learned from the house owner that the house was built in 1955. Back then, the lot-all of 280 sq m-cost only P17,000 (S$1,600) since it was a mud hole for water buffalos. In fact, San Juan was still considered a suburb.
Typical of mid-century architecture, it had a split-level layout with a low ceiling. Deserted for years, the house had been covered by bougainvillea vines.
Upon inspection, the eldest son exclaimed, "It looks like the house in 'Jumanji!" He was referring to the abandoned New Hampshire residence filled with creepers in the Hollywood fantasy movie.
For the Buses, the challenge was how to let their income match the rising costs of real estate and construction. Joel is an entrepreneur, while Eloisa is the managing physician of Belo Medical Group.
When her boss, Dr. Vicki Belo, learned the Buses had plans to build their home, she offered Eloisa a loan. "Vicki pushed me to get started. She's Ms Help-Everybody," says Eloisa.
The project became a complete makeover. The former split-level bungalow was transformed into a 600-sq m, three-level house with a double-height living room and a roof deck for entertaining.
At first, the Buses thought they could build a house by themselves. Joel bought a pirated programme of home layouts to designate the space flow and determine the room dimensions. But when the contractor told them he needed specifications for windows, door openings and other technicalities, they finally hired architect Vince Lozano.
"If we didn't have the courage then, we wouldn't have been able to build our house," says Joel. Upon its construction in 2005, a bag of cement cost P90. Now the price has nearly tripled.
Then, there was the matter of deciding the look of the house. Lozano's style was contemporary, while the Buses favoured antiques and tradition. "We collaborated so that the old and new could coexist," says Joel.