The Bahay Kubo: A Changing Tradition

By: Kirsten Jelinek

Within the small village of Maquinit you will find a new way of living, as the local housing undergoes a transformation. 

The traditional housing structures commonly known as ‘bahay kubo’, are evolving into the new construction of ‘hollow houses’. 

“Now a hybrid of the bahay kubo house, is being made.”

Calamaianes Conservation and Cultural Networks volunteer Garry Fuentebella, says that the structure of houses is undergoing a major change. 

“The houses are made so the harmful environment cannot destroy it.”

“The bahay kubo house is made from wood and bamboo, but is now used with cement hollow blocks that can mix with the bahay kubo house.” 

Traditionally made from a combination of wood, bamboo and the native plants of boho and nipa, the new hybrid houses integrate a mixture of cement, sand and grit to lay the hollow cement blocks, providing greater structural integrity. 

Their house will be crushed by the strong winds and typhoons so they build the house to make it more safe and stable

Garry Fuentebella, Calamaines Conservation and Cultural Networks volunteer

The 2013 Typhoon Yolanda devastated the local infrastructures of the community, resulting in the local people rushing to rebuild their homes. 

Makinit local Francisco Gesalan, says his home was blown away by the Typhon Yolanda. 

76 year old Makinit local Francisco Gesalan in front of his renovated house after Typhoon Yolanda.

“When the typhoon hit, we were doing reconstruction of the house at the time because the house is not a good place to stay in.”

Mr Gesalan walks into his wooden kitchen and points to the roof, now rebuilt from the devastation. 

“On the time the typhoon hit, all of the roofing is blown away and the rainwater was in the house and all of the belongings were blown away and the property was blown away.”

After the typhoon hit, Aida Gesalan, the wife of Francisco, says that they rebuilt original bahay kubo home to integrate the hollow house structure. 

“The more safety and the materials, they can stand for the strong winds.”

“Because he [Francisco] is older, the build must be strong enough for the family.”

Mr Fuentebella says that Francisco’s and Aida’s house is an example of a half bodied bahay kubo house, as the lower structure is made of cement. 

“This house was built, they changed because of the weather conditions right now, they will adapt for the forces of nature.”

“For example, Coron was hit by the highest typhoon ever, Yolanda.”

“Their house will be crushed by the strong winds and typhoons so they build the house to make it more safe and stable, so they use the hollow blocks and steel roofs.”

Buenafe Bolgado, standing proud with the new home he built for his family of 3. 

The conservation volunteer begins to walk over to the neighbouring house, the exterior walls embroidered with a yellow criss crossed pattern of bamboo.

“If they were made by a wood or light materials like the bahay kubo house, it will be smashed by the strong winds.”

Yet an issue with the new hollow housing, is the price tag. 

“It’s big price difference.”

“For a bahay kubo, you can build a small house in this period for 25,000 peso, but the hollow block ones will be 40,600 peso plus”, says Garry.

Local couple Francisco and Aida agree, saying that their renovations cost up to 1 million pesos. 

Garry says that despite the cost, more of the locals are choosing to build the hollow houses. 

‘Based on their experience [of Typhoon Yolanda], they would rather have this house because it’s safer.”

“If I have the money to save, better to have the house as you do not know the weather.”

Including the village of Maquinit, 11 million people were affected by Typhoon Yolanda.