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History of Architecture in the Philippines

I have been asked to write about the history of the Philippines, Mindanao and/or Davao. All I could do is the same as you since you are reading this on the internet and can search and read just as I can.

One thing, because of my background, that interests me is the Architecture of the Philippines.

The original peoples used native resources to build their homes. These were made from bamboo and wood and long grasses for thatching of their roofs. These homes are known as Nipa Huts probably from the use of the Nipa Palm for a building material.

These homes would be placed above the ground on stilts to keep wild animals from easy entrance and ventilation from air passing below the house. The Moro’s on Mindanao would build a similar home but the posts would be places on a rock base used as a type of roller incase of earthquakes. I feel this also helped keeping the termite problem to a minimum.

These homes would usually be a one or two room configuration used for multipurpose. It was a meeting, eating and sleeping room. The roofs were grass thatching and would have a long overhang to help with shade and protection to the areas below.  The floors were usually made of split bamboo which would enable to allow dirt and food scraps to fall through to the ground below.

After the arrival and colonization by the Spanish stone or block wall construction was introduced and the homes hanipa-hutd a more Spanish appearance or style and would be larger mansion style. Over time the Chinese style came onto the scene too.

After the Spanish American war the architecture developed into a more functional style with straight lines. Then there was World War II where a lot of the older buildings were destroyed and some others just fell to decay.

These days a lot of structures have a modern look, but with a lot of old style of thoughts.

In America homes have a more spacious look with larger rooms. Many here have smaller rooms in the private areas. The bedrooms are sized to contain the required items, but not extra room for comfort. There are usually no closets or areas for storage. CR’s are narrow and some do not even have a lavatory (sink). There is a shower head but no curb or shower enclosure.

A lot of the upper scale homes, especially the multi-story homes have large glass windows spanning the whole height of the structure. This is beautiful but without operable panels, it lets in light and heat without ventilation.

Homes and many commercial buildings are painted in bright colors. I was asked once “What do you think of Philippine Architecture?” My reply was “Bright, Bold and in your Face.” What I mean with this is the bright colors, larger gutter and cornice trims. I am not one in favor of the “minimalistic” style of architecture, but also not a fan of architecture that screams “Look at me.” But that is only my opinion.

As I have stated in other articles, I am also a fan of using natural ways to protect and ventilate the homes.

One thing I think is wonderful here, with the carpenters and craftsman, you can have beautiful panel doors made in any design or style you like. There are painters that can paint metal to look like fine grained woods.

As anywhere, if you plan to build, you need to look at different styles, understand what can be done with available materials and the wants verses budget constraints.

8 Responses to “History of Architecture in the Philippines”

  1. Ray says:

    Can you tell me why they use tin for roofing? I know it can look beautiful with all the fancy trim but it seems to me it would just suck the heat in and I have not seen any insulation. Most houses I have seen do not even have a ceiling. You can just look up and see the tin while laying in bed.

    • Bruce says:

      Actually, tin would be better. Here they use steel. Tin does not rust, steel does. The best metal would be copper or aluminum but these both are expensive and not easily accessible here.
      They use corrugated steel or stamped steel that looks like tile. It is available here, easy to use. All you need is framing and pay the sheets down. If upper scale you put fancy gutters around the edge. One of the bad parts is the edges are not sealed in so there is easy access for bugs and small rodents with access to the attic.
      With steel, about every 2 years you need to re-pain/seal the roof so it does not rust out.
      There are other products but too expensive for the common home. There is concrete tile and a UV protected, impact resistant acrylic sheets and they can come with an insulation backing too.

  2. Philippine roof says:

    Steel roof in the Philippines or galvanized corrugated roof heats up very fast but cools down also very fast in the night,
    it is realy the best solution.
    Low thermal mass, the same reason why you should not build with hollow blocks but with

    • Bruce says:

      PH Roof,
      I did not think of the cooling, but it does increase the heat in the attic during the day giving less room for the heat in the house to rise.
      I agree with not using hollow block, but that is the main and cheaper way to build here.

  3. patrick808 says:

    I’m in the middle of constructing a traditional hollow block house for the in laws, from afar.

    Puyat is our roofing contractor. I was assured that they would install a ridge vent. Anyone have any insights?

    Also, I plan to ask about insulation… and, after reading above, sealing the edges of the roof. Any advice?


    • Bruce says:

      I do not know about your contractor, but I can ask around if you like. Ridge vents are avaliable and useful. Insulation slows down heat infiltration, but after a while, once the insulation has absorbed the heat, it will slow down the cooling process.

  4. Suk Hyun, KIM says:

    Thanks for your good information. I will visit the Philippines in December. So I want to visit Nipa hut(bahay-kubo). Can you recommend to the area that can visit Nipa hut(bahay-kubo)? I’ll arrive in Manila.

  5. Andy says:

    I would have thought any form of metal roof would create huge temperature differences inside the building unless you had an insulated zone to help control the internal environment. I would imagine the heat would ‘pour’through the metal roof during hot weather and ‘pour’ back out again as soon the the temp outside became less than inside.

    I may be wrong, having never been in the Philippines, but surely the best way to control heat loss and gain is with insulation. I imagine the roofs built with thatch would not only help control heat inside building, but just as important, minise interstitial condensation due to the breathable properties of built up thatch roofing. All ‘warm’ roofs need some form of ventilation. Cold roofs do not require it, having said that, it is always better to vent your roof at the eaves and ridge (hot or cold roof) to allow cross ventilation. Does this help?

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