Architecture in the Philippines
By: Nicole and Zach


     Architecture in the Philippines today is the result of a natural growth enriched with the absorption of varied influences. It developed from the pre colonial influences of their neighboring Malay brothers, continuing on to the contemporary times. As a result, the Philippines has become an architectural melting pot uniquely Filipino with a tinge of the occidental.


    The Philippine's architectural landscape is a contrast among small traditional huts built of various native woods, bamboo (kawayan), nipa palms, cane, and cogon, a long grass used for thatching. Stone and clay were also sometimes used. The design of each house may vary by region, however, common features may include a steep roof over one to two room living areas raised on posts or stilts one to two meter above the ground or over shallow water. Depending on the hut, some may have balconies. The floor may be split bamboo to allow dirt and food scraps to fall through to pigs and poultry. The space beneath the hut may also be used for storage or as a workshop; it also allows air to circulate through the hut and provides a safeguard against flooding, snakes, and insects. As families became more affluent, they frequently replaced the thatch roof with galvanized iron, which lasts longer but makes the house hotter and aesthetically more mundane. While typical Filipino huts may look flimsy to many eyes, these native houses can last up to 50 years! Modern urban dwellings, on the other hand, are typically two-story structures with a concrete floor, brick sides, concrete blocks or wooden slats, and an iron roof. Filipinos can construct a hut in just a few hours. The houses had a light structure on to, and heavier materials on the bottom, which helped in resisting earthquakes. The light structure was also beneficial if earthquakes or typhoon toppled the house because the lightweight of the structure would leave only little injuries. The frame of the house was tied together with rattan or other materials, and the walls were made of bamboo and nipa, dried grass, wood, or sliding made from split and pounded green bamboo leaves.

Nipa Hut

    The bahay or nipa hut is a typical traditional house found in most lowlands all over the Philippines. Originally built as a one room dwelling, the nipa hut changed as family needs became more adverse. Today, the nipa hut is high pitched and usually open gabled to allow for ventilation, protection from the wind and rain in the typhoon season, and consists of wide overhanging eaves to provide shade from the hot sun. The space underneath the house, called the silong, serves as a workspace, a storage space, a granary, a pen for livestock, and was supposedly served as a place to bury dead relatives. A ladder, also known as a hagdon, is used to enter the main structure, which could be drawn up at night or when the owners went out. The structure is usually four walled with tukod windows, which had swinging shades that could be propped open during the day. There was usually one simple multi-use space inside the interior which provided ventilation, but also gave the simple dwelling a spacious feel. This space could also be used for cooking, eating, and sleeping. The cooking was done over an open fire built on the heap of the earth in one corner or off in a space in front of the ladder. Sometimes an open front porch (pantaw or batalon) was used to store jars of water, which would be kept to wash dishes. There also was a gallery, which serves as an anteroom or lounging area.

    In addition  to the native nipa hut, there were many houses built in trees, which were another form of architecture in the Philippines. These houses are known as Bagobos and Kalingas in which  people used for protection from enemies and wild animals on the ground.

    In the southern islands of the Philippines archipelago, the Moros of Mindanao had distinct architecture of their own. It was brought with them along with the Muslim religion. The chief lives in a torgan and is a symbol of power for the Moro people. Because the torgan was built off the ground on four posts that sat on top of rocks which served as rollers to prevent damage in an earthquake. The roof symbolized the Javanese and Balinese Mt. Meru and the temple building representing the cosmic mountain in the Muslim religion. The brightly painted woodcarvings under the gable of the torogan emphasized the religious and hierarchical significance of the architecture as well. Today, architecture in the Philippine continues to be vibrant, and with the country opening up to the world, more first rate architecture is pouring in.

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