From Kubo to Townhomes: The Evolution of Filipino Homes Over the Last 100 Years
The late artist Leandro Locsin once said, “Philippine architecture is an elusive thing.” And true enough, “elusive” just might be the most fitting word to describe it. Four centuries of Spanish and American colonization created quite the impact on Philippine history and culture. Spanish culture, in particular, is one of the most prominent influences found in Philippine architecture. From the grand churches and cathedrals scattered around the Philippine islands to the stone houses that combine Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese style elements, there is just no shortage of awe-inspiring structures around the country. It is certainly a designer’s dream come true!
To celebrate the diverse architecture in the country and to better understand the evolution of Filipino homes, take a trip down history lane and get a glimpse of the different houses in the Philippines erected in the past hundred years.
Evolution of Filipino Homes Over the Past Century
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When we talk about evolution of Filipino homes, bahay kubo should always be the first subject we talk about.
The bahay kubo has long been regarded as a cultural icon of the Philippines. It can be found around the country and varies in terms of design. For example, Ifugao houses were visually similar in terms of architecture, but they differ in decorative details depending on the tribes. These indigenous dwellings can be found within the contour of the rice terraces.
Other bahay kubo designs in the Philippines include the torogan and the rakuh.
The simple design of the bahay kubo coupled with its use of native materials makes it such a popular choice for Filipinos. It can be seen just about anywhere including provinces and tropical resorts. Modern versions of the bahay kubo are now structured to be more livable. They come with lighting and other electrical fixtures to ensure comfort and security. Though most kubos are still elevated with the use of stilts, you won’t find many homes designed to be carried from one place to another like they were before.
Bahay na Bato
Ever traveled to Vigan? Well, you might have noticed the iconic bahay na bato popularly known as the Quema House. It is the ancestral home of the Quema family and was built sometime in the 1820s. The house is one of the oldest structures in the Philippines that is amazingly still used as a residential space to this day.
Other preserved examples of the bahay na bato around the country can be found in Batangas, Dapitan, and the province of Cebu.
Stone and masonry construction was introduced during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines. It is evident in ports, roads, lighthouses, and of course, the bahay na bato, all of which still stand tall until today.
The bahay na bato became the typical house for noble Filipino families. The design follows the traditional nipa hut’s arrangement, particularly the open ventilation and elevated rooms. The main difference obviously lies in its choice of building material. The bahay na bato is constructed from the ground up with a solid stone foundation and brick walls. It is usually fashioned with capiz shell sliding windows and a tiled roof.
Unlike the bahay kubo, which continues to be constructed in provincial areas, the bahay na bato is no longer part of modern Filipino architecture.
A discussion on the evolution of Filipino homes won’t be complete without mentioning tsalet. The tsalet homes in Baguio are reflective of the American influences in the country. Derived from the word chalet, the tsalet is made of wood with a gently sloping rood and a wide, well-supported eaves fastened at the right angles of the structure.
The colonial shift from the Spanish to the American rule happened in 1898. It marked a drastic change in different sectors in the country, including architecture, making it an important part of the evolution of Filipino homes. This shift resulted in the construction of government building in cities and municipalities. A majority of these structures were modeled after Greek or Roman architecture.
This time in history was known as the revival period. There was no other city in the country that felt the progress of the revival period more than Manila. The American government employed world-renowned urban planner Daniel Burnham to redevelop the nation’s capital who in turn formulated the Burnham plan. Most of the principles included in this plan still prevail even after the turn of the century.
The urban advancement eventually led to Sanitary Barrios and of course, the tsalet. Sanitation is a big part of the tsalet’s design with the concept of the modern toilet and kitchen introduced through them. Private garages were also established with the tsalet.
Bungalows in the Philippines go a long way back, with its early models introduced by South Asians. More modern units have a more minimalist design, similar to the ones found in America.
As you might have guessed, bungalows were introduced by the American regime. Today, it continues to be one of the most common types of house in the Philippines. Bungalows are one-story homes with a low-pitched roof and a horizontal shape. Roofs are typically made of galvanized iron, although a combination of clay and iron are common as well. Due to the constricted interior, bungalows make up for the lack of space with a yard, garden, and covered carport.
In a study conducted by Trans-Phil Land Corporation, there is a growing number of Filipinos viewing townhomes as a better investment for their growing families. Around 80 percent of the respondents interested in investing in townhouses were 35 to 45 years old. This sudden rise marked yet another big chapter in the evolution of Filipino homes.
Townhouses are a great alternative for Filipinos who are looking for something more spacious than a condo unit. Because of its small size, it makes for a more economical option than purchasing a typical house. A majority of those who can benefit from the cost and convenience of townhomes are OFWs and middle-income families.
Townhomes are often viewed as “starter homes.” They’re typically common in urban and densely populated areas, making them a popular choice among individuals and families based in the big city. Property owners have made a living out of them too by putting up some space up for rent.
One major misconception about townhomes is that they are “apartments.” Townhomes provide more privacy than apartments or condo for that matter. Some residential developments even include a small yard area, ensuring that you get more space for half the price of an actual home. Overall, the low cost of building and maintenance makes the townhome a perfect option for the always-practical Filipino.
Today, residential communities around the country boast everything from Mediterranean-inspired homes to environment-conscious living paces. The evolution of Filipino homes just proves that there has been a great change in the way we construct our houses and our choice of abode over the years, but with this comes the realization that Philippine architecture has remained true to its humble beginnings. Even with the advancements in home building technology and design concepts, you can still see bahay kubo–inspired homes just about everywhere. Hopefully, this continues onward to the future, as it is very important that the country preserves its rich cultural heritage.