`The best life - home and family'. So says a ceramist wife and mother, who lives and works happily in a far northern district of Luzon Island. A CREATIVE FILIPINO-AMERICAN FAMILY

THE de Guzman family abode doesn't look like much from the outside. A narrow dirt path leads from the road to a small unpainted, weathered, wooden house held aloft by cement posts.

A few chickens scratch around the outhouse, and two of the seven de Guzman children are busy stacking wood beside an outdoor kiln. But at 200 pesos (about $10) a month for rent, it's a steal.

Inside, Anne de Guzman glows with pride over her huge, wood-burning, 60-year-old cast-iron stove - it's an eye-catcher.

Otherwise, the kitchen is rather ordinary. Except - where one might expect to find a cookie jar - five pig skulls grin down from above the kitchen window.

``They were sacrificed by the owners when the house was built, sometime back in the '30s,'' her husband, Jamie de Guzman, offers, as he slices a cucumber. ``That's typical here. We were told not to disturb them.''

``Men cook where Jamie comes from,'' says Mrs. de Guzman, giving him an encouraging pat on the back.

Mr. de Guzman, a native Filipino, and his wife, daughter of a California doctor, met in Mexico while he was on a grant studying painting. She was a student of anthropology and ceramics.

They settled for a time in Bolinas, Calif., a community Mrs. de Guzman describes as ``counter-culture.'' But a few years later - after some to-and-fro between their homelands - they decided to move permanently from the States to the Philippines to pursue mutual artistic careers.

``With five children, we were already considered `freaks,''' Mrs. de Guzman says, as David, one of five sons, politely handed out cups of tea.

But Bolinas was no place they wanted to bring up children. ``It was terrible - '' she continues, ``able-bodied people collecting welfare! And children swore and had no respect for elders.

``We finally went back and moved beside Jamie's parents. It was wonderful. The weight of having a family just dropped off our shoulders.''

Mr. de Guzman put aside his paint brushes as interest in ceramics grew.

For the next eight years they progressively turned their artistic hands to clay. The de Guzmans, along with another couple, set up a large ceramic studio and started a business.

As their reputation grew, so did the business. They began exhibiting in Manila and winning awards for their work. Before long, a staff of 12 was necessary to keep the factory kiln turning out pot after pot.

So with recognition came success - so much success that the de Guzmans found less and less time for their growing family.

When Mrs. de Guzman got word that her oldest daughter, from an earlier marriage, had committed suicide in the States, she was radically jolted.

``I stepped back and re-evaluated my life,'' she says softly. ```Where am I going?' I asked. `What am I doing?' We had fallen into a feudalistic culture. I had delegated my work - and worst, I had delegated my motherhood! The message came that my first job was that of a mother.

``It was a big decision to leave a home, Jamie's family, and a successful business, but we had to do it.''

So five years ago, the family moved lock, stock, and pot here to the mountain town of Sagada in northern Luzon. The tiny, one-road village, 5,000 feet above sea level, is about as far as one can get from Manila.

``One thing we found here,'' shouts Mr. de Guzman from the kitchen, ``was plentiful, good-quality clay resources.''

By Western standards, one would expect the de Guzmans to live in a more ``civilized'' society. ``But did we really want our children sitting in front of a TV all day?'' asks Mrs. de Guzman. ``As a creative couple, we just couldn't accept that. We want to bring our kids up to be whole human beings - qualified for life - with real values.''

The family wakes up the rooster by 5:30 a.m. Everyone helps clean the 3-room house. When there's pottery to be fired, they stoke the wood-burning kiln in shifts, sometimes for up to 30 hours.

``The children make the beds, sweep the yard, polish the floors, and wash clothes. Every day. That's compulsory,'' says Mrs. de Guzman.

While the children washed the dishes, Mrs. de Guzman became philosophical:

``Life style is a Western concept. It's all focused around ambition. You're taught to want something you don't have. And you've got to have it to be happy.

``Career women [in the West] are giving up the best life in the world - home and family. I try to point out the spiritual things that are here - families looking out for each other.''

Today marks the final publication of a Home & Family section in the Monitor. The H&F page editors warmly thank both staffers and free-lancers who through the years have generously written, photographed, and designed for it.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.