Two of the most prominent houses in the Philippines which are built long time ago, these are the “Bahay Kubo” and the “Bahay na Bato”, and these two were used by Filipinos as their dwelling places, a shelter, and a home.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the main form of dwelling for a family in the Philippines was the nipa hut, a single room house composed of wood, bamboo or other native materials. Though the styles of the nipa hut varied throughout the country, most all of them shared similar characteristics including having it raised slightly above ground on stilts and a steep roof. Aside from nipple huts, other small houses were built on top of trees to prevent animal as well as enemy attacks
The Bahay Kubo is the native house of the Philippines and is also considered as its national shelter. Made of indigenous building materials like bamboo and nipa, this pre-Hispanic architecture was constructed to perfectly adapt to the tropical climate of the Philippines and to be easily repaired or rebuilt once damaged by typhoon, flood or earthquake which frequented the country. Its name is said to have originated from the Spanish word, cubo, which means “cube,” because of the bahay kubo ‘s rectangular/cubic shape.
Also known as Nipa Hut, this architecture can still be found along the countryside. It is constructed of indigenous materials that can easily be found in their local surroundings – wood, planks, grass, bamboo and large logs. Normally cubic in shape, this shelter is raised on stilts or posts of one to two meters depending on the area where the said shelter is constructed – it may be on solid ground, on a hillside or mountainside, or in shallow water. Raising the interior from the ground safeguards the shelter’s inhabitants from flood, and from snakes and other wild animals.
A typical bahay kubo only has one, large, open, multi-purpose room for dwelling, called bulwagan. It has a cellar, called silong where most household chores are done. This area serves as the area for livestock pens, storage space, workspace and granary. The walls are made of nipa and cogon leaves or sawali or woven bamboo, and there are large windows on all sides, which keep the interior well-ventilated. The windows have tukod or “legs” that hold the swinging shades open during the day, and secure it back in place at night. Another feature of the the bahay kubo is ladder or hagdan which can easily be removed at night or when the owners are out. Likewise, some huts have an open back porch or batalan where household chores are done and where the jars of water are placed.
Bahay na Bato
Spanish colonization introduced European architecture into the country, in this era, the nipa hut or bahay kubo gave way to the Bahay na bato or Stone house and became the typical house of noble Filipinos. The Bahay na bato, the colonial Filipino house, followed the nipa hut’s arrangements such as open ventilation and elevated apartments. The most obvious difference between the two houses would be the materials that were used to build them. The bahay na bato was constructed out of brick and stone rather than the traditional bamboo materials. It is a mixture of native Filipino, Spanish and Chinese influences. Excellent preserved examples of these houses of the illustrious Filipinos can be admired in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. In Taal, Batangas, the main street is also lined with examples of the traditional Filipino homes.
Several house forms contributed to the emergence of the bahay na bato. One of its ancestors is the nipa hut or bahay kubo, which in itself might not have been a worthy dwelling for the illustrado, but whose principles of design were too practical to be ignored. The steep hip roof, elevated quarters, post-and-lintel construction, and maximized ventilation are features of the bahay kubo that appear in grand style in the bahay na bato. A second ancestor may have been the native chieftain’s house described by Antonio Morga in the 17th century, which was elevated, sturdily built of timber, well-furnished, and spacious, having many rooms. A third influence may have also been the houses of the Spanish residents of Intramuros, which combined native and the foreign styles of building in their two-storey houses with wooden posts and beams, stone walls around the ground floor, and timber construction above. Finally, another model for the bahay na bato may have been the convento, rectory or monastery, built adjacent to the mission church, an authoritative presence in the center of the town which must have antedated the bahay na bato. Extravagantly spacious and solidly built, it could have become the local standard for grandeur.
In comparison with these two, when people say bahay kubo, people will think of the rural areas such as provinces, because most of the time bahay kubo were built there, and they will think of the past were there is no colonization yet, and how ancient Filipinos live. Meanwhile, when people bahay na bato, they will think of the urban places such as cities, in the sense that many bahay na bato were commonly built there, they will also think of the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, and how do Filipinos live in that era.
Well, I must say that both houses were representing the past and present lives of the Filipinos before and during the Spanish colonization, although bahay kubo represents the commoners, and bahay na bato represents the middle class and the elite people in the Philippines, but they have something in common, they are part of the history and heritage that our country has.