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Arquitectura Mestiza

Ancestral houses scattered across the Philippine archipelago reflect the hybrid styles of the Bahay na Bato, essentially Austronesian-Spanish-Chinese-designed houses. For a house to be considered as an ancestral home, according to Collins dictionary, it has be in the family for a long time both the property or the land. It has to be at least fifty years old by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ standards and has a significant importance, to qualify as a Heritage House.

When people exclaim that we have a lovely ancestral house, I did not really pay much attention to it, until I realize I would soon reach my fifties. There are now fourth-generation-members of the extended family! Whoa! And, the estate has been with the family for over fifty years. Time flies so fast…

I examined the similarities of our house with that of much-older-ancestral-houses, and interestingly, our house still has vestiges of the old-world-charm of Hispanic Era Houses. Our house is a modern bahay na bato.

From the lists of elements and parts of a bahay na bato it has the following; a balcony, a banyo, barandillas, baul, ventilation in upper part of walls (sadly, gone to comform to air-conditioning units), cocina and auxiliary kitchen, comedor, comun or toilet, cornice, cuartos, dapugan- a platform for the stove, despacho or oficina, dispensa or pantry, escalera de ida y vuelta, escritorio- a large chest of drawers, estante- dining room cabinet where chinaware and silverware are displayed, facade, mirador or a look-out tower (we call it- the attic), oratorio (prayer corner), platera- cabinet for kitchenware, portico or porch, puerta- main doors, solihiya- typical wicker weave pattern in furniture, a trompe-l’oeil which is a painting that makes subjects look like real objects, tumba-tumba or rocking chairs, a ventanilla- small sliding panels between the floor and windows to allow more air and light and protected by wooden balustrades or wrought iron grills. Out of the 94 items listed from the source, our house has at least 26 elements. Understandably, because the much-older-ancestral-houses are conducive to horses and their carriages.

In stark contrast, the ancestral houses built in American Architectural styles are the Italianate, Victorian, Mission Revival, Neoclassic, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Deco, Streamlined Deco and Bauhaus. The houses are, certainly, more ornate and intricate in design. To cite an example, the Art Deco, a style from Western Europe and the United States. It was inspired from L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris, France in 1925. It is a revival and combination of historical and avant-garde elements. The Rodriguez-Arguelles House found in Sariaya, Quezon is an Art-Deco-ancestral-home. (Source: Diksiyonaryong Biswal ng Arkitekturang Filipino/ A Visual Dictionary on Filipino Architecture by Rino D.A. Fernandez)

Did you know that the box-like skyscrapers in New York were actually inspired by the Bahay Kubo? Yes, bahay is a Malay word which means house and kubo is from the Spanish word, cubo, which means cube or box.

Why? Because they found that the design of the houses in the Philippines as earthquake-proof than pure Western Architecture. In Intramuros, during Spanish Colonial times, a regulation was encouraged to make buildings all made from bricks but an earthquake leveled them down. Taking into consideration, the tropical and geologic conditions of the Philippines, adjustments were made to include Native or Indigenous design paradigms. Thus, Arquitectura Mestiza was conceptualized.

In the final analysis, humans adapt to their surroundings or to the environment otherwise they will not survive. That is why in countries with winter they have steep roofs so that the snow will slide off instead of accumulating on its top and crashing down when it would be too heavy for the structure to carry the load. And architecturally, to drive the point home, how about the tepee for the Native Indians and the igloo for the Inuits? Enough said.


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