Philippine Cultural Icon: Bahay Kubo
Bahay kubo or nipa hut in English is a Filipino traditional dwelling place made of genuine green materials like nipa leaves for the roof and split bamboos for the wall and floor. There is even a popular song about it. Though lightweight, these materials are sturdy, flexible, and multifunctional.
While the process of building bahay kubo is very simple, this small abode is a sufficient shelter for its inhabitants, enough to protect themselves from wild animals and against various weather conditions. If damaged, it can just easily be repaired since its materials can be found practically everywhere.
Why Bahay Kubo Is Considered a Cultural Icon
Bahay kubo is considered as a cultural heritage, a symbol of togetherness. If you look inside, a typical nipa hut has no partitions for rooms in order to accommodate the entire family. The whole space is the dining, sleeping, and living area in one. Filipino families are known to be closed-knit families. While in other countries, 18-year-olds are free, sometimes forced to move out of the family house and live independently, in the Philippines, it’s the opposite. Typical Filipino parents have difficulty letting go of their children. Even if their kids are already married and have children of their own, they still prefer their kids to live with them.
The advantage of using lightweight materials in building bahay kubo is that it can easily be moved to another place. If a family decides to transfer to another area within the village, usually their neighbors will help them move the house. It is called Bayanihan, an old Filipino tradition of helping each other without the need to ask for it in the name of friendship and camaraderie.
Bahay kubo nowadays can only be found in the province, and most of them are modernized already. Bamboo and nipa are still the main materials, but the floor or walls are reinforced with concrete. If you find one in the cities, it is only used as an extension of the main house where the family can gather and bond. It also serves as a living room where the owner can entertain friends and neighbors and talk about almost anything—even local gossip.