Traditional Filipino Houses

Bahay-kubo is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear traditional Filipino houses, but there are other traditional houses that protected our ancestors from harsh elements. The Agta had the very basic lean-to while the Maranao had the bigger and more detail-oriented torogan. The Ifugao of northern Philippines still use their traditional house in Banaue and the mobile Badjao houseboats continue to ply the waters of the south.

In the fourth floor of CCP Main Building, between the lifesize tableaux that depict traditional Philippine dances and rituals and a roomful of Asian musical instruments sit idly, almost inconspicuously, the miniature versions of traditional Filipino houses. 

Agta Lean – To

The lean-to reflects the Agta hunting and gathering ways of life. Constructed along the principle of a tripod using strong, light branches and palm fronds, this portable and disposable shelter is brought to wherever the Agta wishes to gather or is simply left behind.

Agta Lean-To

Agta lean-to

Top view of Agta lean-to

Top view of Agta lean-to 

Badjao Houseboat

The houseboats of Badjao, sea gypsies of the Philippines, cruise along the islands in the Sulu archipelago. These range from 12-60 feet long but not more than 6 feet wide. Their unique ecological setting and fishing economy compel the Badjao to adjust to the limited space of their floating homes where the prows are carved with okkil design. Strong platforms are made on both ends of the boat for the fish, kitchen utensils and fishing gadgets with the kitchen area usually found at the back.

Badjao houseboat

Badjao houseboat

Top view of Badjao houseboat

Top view of Badjao houseboat

Higaonon Tree House

 In the hinterlands of Agusan and Misamis Oriental, the Higaonon build their tree houses of lashed sapling, nipa or cogon grass, split bamboo, rattan and bark of trees. The low roof, at times, also serve as walls. Wobbling catwalks connect the smaller houses of about 6 feet by 8 feet wide to a central communal room where a square box of earth serves as a fireplace and a kitchen. Such breezy and swaying complex structures sufficient for 60 people are held together by split rattan and were traditionally built as defenses against enemy attacks.

Higaonon tree house

Higaonon tree house

A closer look at a Higaonon tree house

A closer look at a Higaonon tree house

Ivatan House

The Ivatan of Batanes Islands build houses whose primary function is to protect them against typhoons. These limestone edifices have triple-thatched roofs, two-foot thick walls, elevated living quarters and an adjoining low storeroom for implements and supplies. Low stone fences are constructed to complete their defensive structures.

Ivatan house

Ivatan house

Top view of Ivatan house

Top view of Ivatan house

Mandaya House

The Mandaya house is wholly made of carefully selected bamboo flattened into slats and held together by horizontal bamboo strips or a rattan. Ascent to this single room with a small kitchen area is through a removable single-notched trunk of a tree. Traditionally, its elevated floor line served as one of the safety measures against attacks of other ethnic groups in the periphery of Davao Oriental. These warring conditions made the bagani or warrior class a high and most coveted social ranking.

Mandaya house

Mandaya house

Top view of Mandaya house

Top view of Mandaya house

Ifugao House

The Ifugao live in clusters of 20-30 houses constructed strategically among the steep-walled rice terraces of Banaue, Ifugao province. The houses, square in floor plan and windowless, are made of heavy hand-sewn timber with reed and grass roofing. They are elevated to a height of about 4 feet by four posts around which are found cylindrical wooden rat-guards. There are removable ladders on either side of the houses.

Ifugao house

Ifugao house

Maranao Torogan

Among the cluster of houses along Lake Lanao, the torogan, the ancestral home of the Maranao datu class stands out as the repository of every known Maranao okir motif. The concentration of carving is in front of the house where usually five panolong, protruding beams are found. Important events like big celebrations and conflict resolutions are held in the torogan. Its construction is only possible through community efforts as a gesture of support for the ruling class.

Maranao house

Maranao house

Where: Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture), 4th Floor, CCP Main Building, Pedro Bukaneg Street, CCP Complex, Manila

When: Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture) is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 6pm.

How: From Vito Cruz Station of LRT Line 1, walk to Pablo Ocampo Street. Turn right on Pablo Ocampo Street and walk straight. In 2-5 minutes, you will arrive at the jeepney station of orange jeepneys that will take you to the CCP Complex.

How much: Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture) entrance fee: Students, P20 (US $ 0.44) and non-students, P30 (US $0.66).

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