To learn is to grow: our everyday at the construction site

Dormitory on the making

After 8 months of a construction site, we are finally starting to build our biggest bamboo building: the dormitory and common area! We cannot be more excited about it.

The foundations were already prepared 6 months ago. Seeing now our bamboos coming on these foundations means for us all our concept and dreams becoming true, although we have been already seeing how everything shapes slowly over the past months. We have learnt so much during these months due to all the things we had to go through and some mistakes we made…. If you want to know more about how we have come so far, just keep on reading! 


This is how the structure of the main buildings look like 🙂

Mistake number 1# We thought we could build ourselves!

As travellers used to the concept “workaway”, we thought we could build things ourselves with our workawayers. Nothing further from reality: even making a little chair out of bamboo was a failure, but we never gave up! After several trials, some hammers crashing on fingers, and hours practising sawing, we even made a bed out of bamboo, although took us almost a month to make it. It was during quarantine time, so there was not so much else to do!

Yeah, we still have two hands

Yeah, we still have two hands…

We learnt then that we really need the experience and the skills of the local bamboo workers. They are our angels and without them, nothing would have been possible! We were a bit afraid at the beginning because they cannot speak English, but with the time we both learnt the important words in Bisaya and English, we use a lot of signs, and actually it’s working! Not that it was easy… but right now the communication flows. We must also say, being women didn’t make it easier for us, it took them a while to get used to having girls as captains, hehe.

Now, we can even say that they are our friends!

Mistake number 2# It is extremely important to treat the bamboo

Otherwise, in 2-3 years, the borer beetles and termites will have consumed all our buildings. It is unbelievable how many termites nests we found when digging to place our foundations, and how many borer beetle (called bokbok in the Philippines) there are around. We tried with many different ways of treatment until we finally realized that the very best and most effective way was also very expensive and difficult to perform. Nevertheless, we went for it as we really want our bamboo to have a long life. We are still fighting with some of our first bamboos when sometimes discover some dust on the bamboo due to the boring from the bokbok. Lesson learnt!

Our bamboo has to be treated for two weeks before we can use it

As always, having fun while doing the treatment

Mistake number 3# Working with small scale mockup

for the locals was the best idea ever

When we showed the plans of the buildings to the workers, we didn’t take into account that they wouldn’t be able to read them… That means the project management and the making of mockups were essential. Every day a new measurement has to be said, there is often “backjob” (we call it when they have to redo something, always with all of us laughing a lot about this word) when we are not one day at the site. That makes it harder but at the same time funnier, and a way of learning a lot since at the end, somehow you are one more of them. It tights us closer together and brings us all to a common layer, fact that we love since in this country there is the tendency of creating hierarchies. They are easier to break when working with them so near. We made the mockups with barbeque sticks, and the workers are continuously looking at them. It is a success when they cannot read plans and they are still able to build everything successfully! Good job! (the opposite concept of “backjob”, also a word we use constantly to celebrate every cute building they are finishing).

We made a mockup for every building

For the little huts, it was quite easy 

And for the big hut, we made an extra mockup with more details

One picture is worth a thousand words

Mistake number 4# You cannot imagine how hardworking you have to be to make eco-bricks

Did you know how many steps you have to follow in order to have an eco-brick? First of all, we will collect the soft plastic, then we have to clean it, to make sure that there isn’t any organic food. The cleaning is definitely the hardest part, and we already vomited doing it… After cleaning, we will let the plastic drying. Once it is dry, we cut it into small strings, and we fill all this plastic into 1.5 litres Coca-cola bottles. The reason why we cut the plastic is to be sure that in the eco-brick there is as little air and empty spaces as possible, and there is as much plastic as possible. In the beginning, one single eco-brick can take you one whole day, because in every one of them there is more than half a kilo plastic!!! With a lot of practice, you become a senior eco-brick maker and you can do up to 5 a day!

Luckily the school of Canlaon and Dauin donated already a lot of eco-bricks to us, so we have some time to organize the rest of the things related to the construction site!

So many hours of work…

Mistake number 5# Making a clay wall with the eco-bricks is not so easy as it looks like

It took us some time to get the right exact quantity of clay, sand, straw and water to make the clay wall where our eco-bricks are placed. Also, the technic of building the wall was quite challenging. We had a lot of friends volunteering and we made some initial mistakes as not compacting enough the mix, where later appeared some cracks and new ants’ nests. Now we have learnt that we need to make sure the mix is very compacted on the wall and that we use a mix of approx. 75% sand and 25% clay, so when it gets dry there will be no cracks. We also make sure that the eco-bricks are sealed on the wall, so no insects cannot come inside through.

We tried also with glass bottles on the way wall

Our friends helping to build the wall

We need to have a substructure for the clay, made out of bamboo

Can you see the right corner of the wall? It was full of mushroom due to an improper compacting of the clay

Mistake number 6# You really need a plan and education for the workers not to throw all their trash around the construction site

For the locals here, throwing their trash on nature is the most normal thing. They think we are very crazy when we pick up the trash from the ground and wash it. In the beginning, we surprised one of our workers cleaning up the land from plastic and preparing a mountain of trash which he wanted to burn after. We could not believe it and got quite angry, but now he knows it is very bad to burn plastic, and he promised he is also not doing it at home. We gave our workers some Tupperware and build a trash bean with 4 different kinds of trash, explained to them how to separate and actually they are recycling!!! Mission accomplished.

In this mistake section, we will show you some cute pictures from our workers, looking at them you would never think they were burning plastic, right? Hopefully, they are learning it, so did we from some of their skills, as you can see in the pictures 🙂

Climbing to get new bamboo

Climbing to fix the roof

          One of us trying to climb also

Tightening some bamboo

    Making the flooring

On top of the roof, up to 8 meters

And at the bottom making bamboo tiles!

So, after all these lessons we learnt, and the ones to come, we can affirm something. The results from all the hard work and the knowledge we acquired bring us to the most grateful gift: our hostel is already quite advanced and slowly we are starting to take care of landscaping, furniture, decoration, etc. while our workers are finishing all the buildings. We are still quite low on budget, so if you feel like giving us a hand, we will be forever grateful! Donations can be done here 

Please note that we are currently in the Philippines, so if you want to make it very sustainable abstain from donating with perks in exchange.

Thanks a lot! And see you at Mango Tree Eco Hostel

2 thoughts on “To learn is to grow: our everyday at the construction site

  1. Good job guys.

    I am amazed by the wonderful job u did all. The lesson are hight quality and would be hard to listen. But u keep control and the lesson is kept in your mind.
    It is different to work for you a little home and to build an hostel to host different people. The mistake is made of the understanding process. I found the same conclusion after long brainstorming.

    Hope I can visit soon when borders will reopen.

    It is really good written and easy to read.

    Selamat kaayo

  2. Its crazy how little knowledge most of the people have and lack regarding the smart use of plastics and trash in general. But on the bright side, some people like the Amazing Mango tree girls are making a very big difference and an impact to the local community in Dauin. They have come up with an effective, smart and fun way to raise the awareness. Like teaching the locals how to Scuba dive gives them an idea how is the sea floor affected with the trash and plastics. And more disturbing reality sets in. A fog of microplastic materials permeates our oceans today. They are made of trillions of almost invisible to small plastic shards making their way to the marine food chain. That may lead fatal to marine life and we can see how dependent the locals are to the sea and nature. To spreading the word to local schools where children,the hope of our future is understood everyones role in maintaining the life of the nature and even helped willingly to make the “eco-bricks”.

    The fact that some of the workers that are also local from Dauin didnt even thought about it themselves and now, they understand the problem and who should be responsible for it. And thats also what the girls are addresing. Making a beautiful place where travelers with a common purpose can find a home and is very eco friendly at its roots. And hopefully this creates a ripple wave among the locals how people not from here has spent so much effort, energy and money for this concept. What an amazing project.

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