Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Defining Philippine style

By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

"Fusion" seems to be the best word to describe the look of Filipino buildings and home interiors.

Filipino Style, a 1997 de luxe book put out by the Department of Tourism in time for the country's

national centennial in '98 and preceding the current soft-cover Philippine Style: Design and

Architecture (Anvil Publishing Inc.), used that word long before it became the vogue adjective for

food that takes in a variety of cultural influences.

"Three hundred years in the convent, 50 in Hollywood and a brief interlude with the Japanese"--that

was how eminent writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil described the country's colonial history and its

three former masters (Spain, the US and Japan). The last didn't quite seep in, except maybe in the

sleek lines of modern architecture.

Today, hard-earned dollars from overseas Filipino workers have made possible the rise of a hodge-

podge of architecture flecking the countryside with houses derivative of Mediterranean villas or

Mexican landlords' haciendas and assorted misadvised kitsch coming from new money. There seems

to be no acknowledgment of the wisdom inherent in the humble bahay kubo (native hut) or the

gentry's bahay na bato (house of stone), especially their factoring in of climate (harsh sun, torrential

rains) and site.

Architect Dominic Galicia points out in the introduction to Philippine Style that the kubo has a

"geometric simplicity: a pyramidal roof hovering like a parasol over a bamboo box of stilts. Rain slid

off the steeply pitched cogon roof, while fresh air, flowing in through the slatted floor and the wide

windows, cooled the interior before exiting through the permeable roof thatch." Even the Spanish-

influenced bahay na bato considered the kubo an elegant and "simple solution to climate control."

Today's discerning architect refers to these structures from the past to build buildings and houses.

The book is full of examples of how parts of old houses that are increasingly being demolished to

make way for townhouses and multi-purpose condominiums (combining malls with floors of living

and office spaces) can still be saved, reclaimed and recycled. Besides, "retro" and "shabby chic" are

quite in with new home owners who are enlightened enough by the high-profile environmental

cause to nod respectfully towards Nature in building their houses.

Philippine Style, with contributed articles by Galicia, Ateneo Prof. Rene Javellana, Elizabeth V.

Reyes, Joan Pasagui and Luca Tettoni, is both a scholarly and handy guide. It acknowledges the

works of great Filipino architects (Juan Arellano, Andres Luna de San Pedro, Fernando Ocampo, Juan

Nakpil, Pablo Antonio, Leandro Locsin, Gabriel Formoso, the brothers Mañosa).

It gives generous visual space to the inroads made by such innovative designers and aesthetes like

Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug, Milo Naval, Ino Manalo, Tina Periquet, Anna Sy, Benji Reyes who

have drawn from Filipino materials and idioms in design in their works or cultural projects.

Cobonpue is a fine example of one who blends modern sensibility with Filipino fibers (rattan, buri,

abaca, bamboo), helping him attain his stature as a "celebrity designer" for the likes of Brad Pitt and

Angelina Jolie.

viewArchitect Rosario "Ning" Encarnacion Tan has almost waged a heroic one-woman battle in behalf

of "bamboo's possibilities." She is quoted as saying, "Bamboo was seen as a poor man's material, not

strong and sturdy. Actually, bamboo is the ideal generic medium to express what is vernacular,

authentic, sustainable, culture, reflective, and spiritual."

Her bamboo houses are unique for they are "portable and dismantleable," i.e., they can be assembled

in one space and moved to another, just like the bahay kubo of old portrayed in paintings as a form

of bayanihan, with the town's menfolk carrying the hut on poles on their shoulders.

At a time when the progressive green movement is calling for a moratorium on large-scale logging

to maintain the country's forest cover, the book includes towards the end a "Glossary of Natural

Materials." The lay reader can get acquainted with the many uses, including medicinal ones, of

precious Philippine hardwoods (tindalo, lanite, dao) and learn to appreciate the beauty as well as

usefulness of the capiz, cogon grass, piña, nipa, rattan, adobe.

Philippine Style also has a section devoted to designers' portfolios that again show how a

contemporary look can be achieved with traditional materials. A Yoda easy chair is made of natural

rattan vines woven onto a steel frame. A Lulu easy chair has strands of abaca rope wrapped over a

light steel frame.

As for accessorizing the home, the book is big on patronizing our very own, the stoneware makers

among them. Highlighted are the "whimsical stoneware" of Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, Lanelle Abueva

Fernando, Ugu Bigyan, the last earning a reputation for shaping pottery from forms drawn from nature

and manmade creations like crochet lace. Their works have, in a manner of speaking, fired up the

ceramic industry.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for


#from Yahoo#

1 comment:

  1. I like the design of the 2-story house (3rd photo) - is there an architect and engineer who could build one like this in Lipa City, Batangas?