Exclusive peek into ar­chi­tect Tessie Javier’s moun­tain­top es­cape

How ar­chi­tect Tessie Javier built her pri­vate re­treat from re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als

Cebu Living - - Contents | Editor’s Note - By OLIVER EMOCLING Images by ER­WIN LIM

Al­though just 20 min­utes away from the foot of the city, ar­chi­tect Tessie Javier’s home on Busay Hills can be ac­cessed only through a long, wind­ing road, which starts out wide then grows nar­rower un­til it reaches a mod­est house with a fence made of old win­dow rail­ings. In­side, there is a tow­er­ing street lamp. “I own the prop­erty all the way up. The front yard used to be the road, but I slowly pushed [it back],” Javier says.

Her home boasts a clean de­sign that doesn’t re­sist na­ture. As it is perched on a cliff that’s at 2,194 ft. above sea level, it’s al­most too easy to ex­pect flora tak­ing over con­crete, Grey Gar­dens style. The front yard doesn’t boast a well-main­tained lawn, but rather, show­cases plants nat­u­rally found on a for­est floor. “I hardly cut any tree down since I don’t want a man­i­cured lawn. I’d rather keep it like a jun­gle, like a real bukid,” Javier says. “I just had to go with the slope.”

Javier leads us to a huge wooden door. “Eighty per­cent of the house is re­cy­cled,” she an­nounces as soon as we en­ter her home. At al­most ev­ery cor­ner, she can point out some­thing re­cy­cled: Re­cy­cled

tu­gas were used for the stairs, old glass pan­els were re­pur­posed as win­dows, and old win­dows were turned into closet doors. Javier culled most of the wood from old houses and the old Vic­tor theater. “I wouldn’t be proud of this [ home] if [ most of its parts weren’t] re­cy­cled.”

Her liv­ing room is de­void of tele­vi­sion and other in­or­ganic sources of en­ter­tain­ment, but it doesn’t scrimp on scenery. With the house’s el­e­vated lo­ca­tion, she gets a panoramic view of the whole city. In her room, in­stead of a mir­ror in front of the sink, there’s a big win­dow. In fact, she can watch ants march­ing up the nearby tree when­ever she brushes her teeth. “I feel like if you don’t have [too much] walls, you’ll have a big­ger breath­ing space and you’ll be more ori­ented with where you are,” she ex­plains.

Javier only spends one day at her moun­tain home ev­ery week. When­ever she’s here, she spends most of her time in the gar­den. “I like to work there, touch the soil,” she says. While there are plenty of fruit trees and soil dwellers to look af­ter, it is the epi­phytic or­chids that she fa­vors most. “I grew up with or­chids since my grand­mother is a col­lec­tor,” Javier says. She calls her or­chids the “loves of her life,” and the tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity in her gar­den is ideal for their growth—the rea­son why she chose to build her home in the moun­tains in­stead of at the beach. “I still want to be by the sea, but the big­gest con­so­la­tion in liv­ing in my bukid is that the or­chids thrive here nat­u­rally,” she says.

The path­way in her gar­den is re­cy­cled asphalt, laid out like pieces of a jig­saw puz­zle. In fact, put­ting a puz­zle to­gether is an apt metaphor for how Javier’s abode rose from the ground—slowly but with cer­tainty. “I wouldn’t even know how much I’ve spent be­cause I only bought what I could af­ford at a time,” she says. And though her home seems com­plete al­ready, she ad­mits, “It will never be done, since build­ing is a dy­namic process and there’s no stop­ping.”

It’s al­ready noon, but the nat­u­rally cool air con­stantly finds its way into Javier’s home. As the moun­tains re­main still, the birds chirp, and we gather at her din­ing area, it seems her vi­sion for her place has been re­al­ized al­ready. “Dolce far niente— [sweet­ness in] do­ing noth­ing. That should be our aim.”

THIS PAGE: A LOVER OF BLOOMS, JAVIER, NICK­NAMED “TIKAY” BY FRIENDS, TENDS TO HER ORNAMENTALS LIKE CHIL­DREN. OP­PO­SITE PAGE (CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP): THE SIN­GLE AIRY BED­ROOM IS MADE FROM SAL­VAGED MA­TE­RI­ALS FROM HER BUILD­ING PROJECTS, AND BUILT AGAINST AN IN­CLINE; THE STAIR­WELL IS ALSO MADE FROM RE­CY­CLED WOOD, AND FEA­TURES A PHO­TO­GRAPH OF JAVIER’S STO­RIED PAST AS A DANCER; HER LIV­ING ROOM OF­FERS A VIEW

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