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Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The Bolo

Many of the tools used here in the Philippines are improvised. This improvised bolo was used to clear our lot.

This article is part of a series on how we built our concrete hollow block fence or wall in the Philippines.
More information can be found here: Perimeter Fence Philippines: Index

So far in this series on building our concrete fence in the Philippines, I’ve written about buying our lot, finding a fence designer, working on the design, signing a contract to build, and some of the costs of materials required.

In this post, I’ll talk a little about clearing the lot, receiving the first loads of materials.

Moving In

One of the first things that happened after we signed the contract to have our fence design built was the crew setting up living quarters on the property. If that sounds bizarre to you, rest assured that it sounded bizarre to me, too! The work crew…is going to live on our lot?!

Transportation can be very cheap here in the Philippines – 7 pesos for short tricycle rides, just a few pesos more for jeepneys and an average of about $4 or $5 (around ₱100 or so) for a a one-way taxi run to the mall from our place. The laborers, however, make ₱250 a day. That’s ₱1500 a week. With transportation costs rising with distance, you can see how they add up.

Then there’s the time it takes to travel. The workday starts at 8 AM and ends at 5 PM. Some of the guys would have to roll out of bed at 4 AM and then make a couple of jeepney transfers to arrive at our lot. Toss in the heavy rush hour traffic and, again, you can see that the time required adds up.

Bahay Kubo

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The KuboOur property came with a small house and a pig sty on it. We knew that they would ultimately be demolished, so we bought a bamboo “gazebo” known here as a kubo. The bahay kubo is a traditional Filipino house made from bamboo, woven material and with a thatch roof. While plenty of people here still live in this type of inexpensive house, the modern kubo is more of a shelter used for eating and entertaining outside.

In the beginning, the laborer crew used the kubo to sleep in.  Three of the laborers slept  on the hard bamboo benches and three more slept on the floor. Later, as the skilled workmen arrived from another project, they set up in the small house a part of which was also used to store the bags of cement and other things.

Comforts Of Home?

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The House and Pig StyI have to admit that I don’t know how the laborers lived the way that they did. As I said above, they slept in the kubo on hard benches and on the floor. For a bathroom, they used the outhouse that was also present on the property. (When the time came to demolish the outhouse because it sat on the fence line, they simply dug another hole, fixed the toilet on top of it and used some corrugated steel roof panels to make walls and a roof.)

For six days a week they worked eight hours a day in the tropical heat, cooked their food in their own pots, slept on bamboo, bathed from buckets, used an old outhouse and did their own laundry. On Sunday, a few of them who lived nearby took weekly turns to go home to be with their families.

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The crew's cook potsThey lived this way in order to earn $5 a day.

I hope I’ve made it clear how much respect and appreciation I have for these men. That is my intention.

Yes, they were sometimes lazy. Yes, sometimes the guys who went home on Saturday night didn’t come in on Monday. A couple of them stopped showing up at all with no warning. But, the way they lived!

The amount of sheer toil these guys performed was overwhelming to me. We’ll see in another post here what they were doing those first few days and weeks.

Tree Work And Supplies

Our lot had quite a few trees on it when we bought it. Most of them were rambutan, the weird, red, hairy, delicious cousin of the lychee. Most of the trees would have to be cut down but the crew only cut when they had to. They kept some for the shade they provided. They kept others and nailed boards to them to make workbenches.

Tree Man

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The Tree MasterOur crew’s main “tree master” was Argen. He was one of the best climbers that I’ve ever seen and he was fearless. That’s him in the photo at left, in a rambutan tree, about three meters off of the ground. Yup, he’s barefoot.

He used the bolo that’s in the header photo above and just hacked and hacked at limbs until they fell. Then he sorted the limbs by size and burned the smaller ones. The larger ones that needed to dry some before they’d burn he piled up at the rear of the lot.

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The Tree Master's Burn PIleBurning is something people who visit or retire to the Philippines from Western countries will have to get used to. It’s the preferred method here for disposing of vegetative matter and paper (and sometimes plastic, bleahh!).

We now have a pit for burning leaves and paper and we use it for composting as well. Most people aren’t as “fancy” as we are and just make a pile of stuff and set it alight. It’s not unusual at all to see an a pile of stuff burning unattended.


Concrete Block And Rebar Arrives

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The first load of concrete blockAs I wrote in a previous post on materials cost, we used 4-inch hollow concrete block (HCB) for our perimeter fence. Most of the block cost us ₱14.5 each (about 30-cents each, U.S.).

We could have used 6-in HCB, but it would have increased our costs a bit both for the block itself and the extra cement and sand for the mix to fill the voids. It would have also cost us time because the larger blocks not only take longer to make, they’re also sometimes hard to find. They’re used mostly for exterior house walls (which is how we used them) although that’s not a requirement. So since the 4-inch blocks are the local favorite for all construction, they’re much more readily available.

The block comes on a truck and a couple of guys unload it. One guy stays in the truck bed and the other stands on the ground. The top guy slides two blocks at a time down a board to the fellow below who grabs them and stacks them up.

Our Concrete Fence: Setup and Materials - The first load of rebarOur deformed bar was 10mm that was really 9mm (and sometimes 8mm because it’s “substandard” and “everybody uses it”) and 12mm.

I covered their cost and their purpose in an earlier post as well.

It’s usually just laid out on the ground as it is in the photo at right. Eventually we started covering the delivered bar with tarps because seeing rusty steel reinforcing bars being put into my concrete walls makes me cringe.

I hope you liked this installment on building our concrete fence here in Davao. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

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