Since the island we live on is inclined by nature to be a tropical rainforest, teeming with life, it has considerable powers that war against the ephemeral structures which humans erect against the elements. Buildings are eroded by rain and humidity, despite being constructed almost invariably of concrete. A North American stick frame house wouldn’t last long very long here. If the moisture didn’t destroy the wood, the insects would. They are nature’s army, dedicated to the relentless return of wood to the rich soil of what ought to be the forest floor.

Since we moved into our apartment in January, we have fought a ceaseless battle against wood-boring beetles, which produce detritus known as bok-bok. It looks like this:


(Bok-bok on the stairs of our apartment.)

More aggravating is when it falls from the crown molding at the wall-to-ceiling seam, landing in a layer of little beetle pellets on the counters of the kitchen; or when the beetles eat away so much of the back door of the house that a little shower of bok-bok coats the arm of anyone who shuts it too hard; or when one of the stairs becomes so rotten that it isnt really safe anymore. We finally persuaded our landlord to send the carpenter (Cebuano: “panday”) to replace the bad wood.

The panday – I called him the Kung Fu Panday – arrived to do what most American carpenters could never do: install a new door, a new stair step, and new crown molding with nothing but hand tools. Here he is using a plane on the edges of the door:


The new door ready to install:


We are told that this is a fairly good door, not made out of low-grade coco lumber like so much of the wood in this city. So our door should last probably…5 years!

Cabinets have been repainted in the kitchen and we haven’t seen any more bok-bok on the counters. It just makes life a little bit nicer.